The weaknesses of each of us

Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan: Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations, and, as you know the weaknesses of each of us, let each one find you mighty to save; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
“The weaknesses of each of us”
When I was teaching for a couple of years on a college campus, I regularly got asked a question that I wasn’t expecting: “Do you find it tempting being around all those young college women?” My answer was always no; while it could be distracting to be surrounded by a lot of attractive people, I never felt tempted… at least not in the way that the question was intended.

Truth be told, I was tempted by one of the sins that I’m most prone to committing: procrastination. With all of the interesting young men and women, each with their own lives and stories and backgrounds, I often found myself involved in a conversation at a coffee shop rather than grading papers or preparing for my next class. A student once told me when I was teaching high school that the students quickly figured out a way to derail class. Just ask him a question about something off-topic, and we could spend the rest of the period having a lively conversation about a subject that had nothing to do with what we were supposed to be studying.
As I read this week’s Collect, I’m struck by the phrase “the weaknesses of each of us.” I think back to all the people who asked me that awkward question about being tempted on college campus and wonder, was this a projection of their own weakness? Did they assume that my weaknesses were the same as theirs? I’m sure I asked plenty of people during the pandemic work-from-home era whether they found it “tempting” to just sit around until the last minute to get work done. Both questions can be boiled down to the same idea: are you tempted by the same things I am?

When Jesus was tempted three times in the wilderness by Satan, his temptations were universal: to give in to his appetites, to take unnecessary chances, and to shortcut God’s plan for immediate satisfaction. These temptations assault each of us, but they show up in different ways according to each of our weaknesses. My appetites may be different from yours, but we’re each tempted to satisfy them in ways that are sinful.

As I enter into these 40 days in the wilderness of the Lenten season, perhaps it’s a good time to take an honest inventory of my own weaknesses. It seems to me that Satan was (and is) smart enough to tempt Jesus with the things that would be most appealing to him. And if he tried it on Jesus, I’m certainly an easier target! But it also seems to me that Jesus was particularly on guard to be tempted in these specific ways and had his game plan mapped out beforehand, which would be a good tactic for me to adopt as well. I know that I’ll err, but I can rest assured that God, for each of us, is mighty to save.

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