A LIGHT BURDEN (Easier Ways to Shun Evils)
Rev. JOHN L. ODHNER
Most of the people I talk to in this church seem to realize that shunning evils plays a very important part in one’s spiritual growth. Of course, it is one of the fundamental doctrines of the church, and I guess we ministers tend to talk about it fairly often. Sometimes I hear people complain, “Why do we have to hear so much about shunning evils? Why not focus on more positive things?”
This kind of complaint makes me reflective, and a little sad. I ask myself, “How could anyone be turned off by a concept that is so inspiring, hopeful, and excitingly powerful?” I wonder whether we possibly have paid too much attention to the bare fact that we ought to shun evils, and not enough attention to the encouraging instructions on how to shun evils.
The hells make it hard
Have you ever had that horrible feeling of guilt that comes when you see yourself committing the same hellish evils again and again? Repeatedly you say to yourself. “I can’t let myself do this again!” . . . But you do it again. You worry about it, you pray about it. You beg the Lord for help . . . and you do it again. You tell Him, “I’m really trying.” Then you wonder if you really are. You see how you are gradually destroying yourself, and perhaps destroying your family and friendships as well. “I don’t want to hurt people,” you plead, but it happens again. Your mind trembles with the question, “Will it ever end?”
The only answer is silence, and echoing pieces of past conversations, saying almost mockingly,
- “. . . shun evils, that’s all . . .”
- “There’s no easy way out—you just have to compel yourself . . . .”
- “You just aren’t trying hard enough . . . .”
I suppose the hells would love to make the job of shunning evils as difficult and confusing as possible, and then sit back and taunt us and accuse us as we struggle to free ourselves from the evils that they have chained us to. I think of how people taunted the Lord when He was on the cross, “You’re Christ, aren’t You? Save Yourself!” They say the same things to us: “What’s the matter? You’re a New Church person, aren’t you? You have no excuses! Why don’t you save yourself?”
Perhaps one of the ways the hells make things more difficult is by fooling us into thinking that it is supposed to be difficult, so that we will not look for an easier way (the Lord’s way).
Remember the story of Naaman? He came to the house of Elisha to be healed of his leprosy. He was expecting the great prophet to make a dramatic entrance, wave his hand over the leprosy, and perhaps ask Naaman to do some great deed in order to recover. Naaman was angry when he did not even see the prophet, and instead a servant came to tell him simply, “Wash in the Jordan seven times and your flesh will come clean.” Merely washing was too simple for Naaman. He wanted something more exciting or challenging. Of course, washing is a symbol of repentance. We sometimes overlook a simple cleansing of the heart, thinking the way to heaven is supposed to be more difficult.
The Lord Wants It to Be Easier
The Lord has no desire to put roadblocks on the path to heaven. He wants to make regeneration as easy as possible for us. His love is so great, and His desire to be close to us is so urgent, that He will go to any length to remove the barriers to our spiritual progress.
He is constantly working against those who try to make life more difficult than it already is. When the Children of Israel were slaves in Egypt, the Lord said to them. “I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, I will rescue you from their bondage” (Ex. 6:6). Years later, when the leaders of Israel in their turn became too oppressive, the Lord admonished them through Isaiah, “Is this not the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke?” (Isa. 58:6). He rebuked the Pharisees because “they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; gut they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers” (Matt 23:4; cf. Luke 11:46). He said, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea” (Mark 10:42).
Yes, the hells are trying to make things difficult for us, but the Lord promises to make the road easier for us if we will trust His way. He says, “I will cause them to walk . . . in a straight way in which they shall not stumble” (Jer. 31:9). “Prepare the way, take the stumbling block out of the way of My people” (Isa. 57:14). “ His burden shall be taken away from your shoulder, and his yoke from your neck” (Isa. 10:27). “Cast your burden upon the Lord and He shall sustain you” (Psalm 55:22). “He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. They shall bear you up in their hands, lest you dash your foot against a stone” (Ps. 91:11, 12).
This does not mean that getting to heaven is as easy as falling off a log. Getting to heaven (like getting to hell) will never be so easy that you can get there by mistake.
You cannot get to heaven without temptation, trial, combat, struggle, pain, grief, and despair. The Lord never offers us an alternative to shunning evils. By all means prepare yourself for a difficult fight.
The purpose of this article is to dispel the feeling that “it’s too difficult. It can’t be done.” The fact is that the way to heaven is not as difficult as people often suppose (see HH 528-535). The Lord is helping you. You do not have to be superhuman. You do not have to be someone special. The Lord makes the process of shunning evils so easy that anyone can do it (see TCR 580).
Come unto Me all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart; and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.Matt. 1:27
What You Can Do About It
Overcoming evil is easier for some people than it is for others (see TCR 561-563). A philosophical discussion of this statement might lead us in a dozen directions and leave us wondering whether life is really fair, and what it really means for something to be “difficult” or “easy.” Being unable to answer those questions, I want to focus on the more practical side of the issue by pointing out that if you find the task of regeneration overwhelming, there are many positive steps you can take to make the process of shunning evils easier for you than it is now.
Suppose you have been fixing a car, and your hands are covered with black grime. You take a dry rag and wipe off your hands, but much of the grime remains. That stuff is really hard to get off. You could rub your hands raw with that rag, and they would still be dirty. Fortunately, it is easier if you use a little water. Adding some soap helps, too. Better yet, the right kind of solvent, or a good hand cleaner designed for this kind of mess, will take the grime off like magic.
Evil is hard to get rid of too. You can work at it and work at it and still feel you are failing. Fortunately, the Lord gives us principles designed for this kind of mess. Applying them to your mind and life will make the process much easier.
What Makes it Easier
There are a number of factors which can make the fight against evil easy or difficult. I will outline some of those factors, including many changes you can make or actions you can take to make shunning evils easier than it might otherwise be. I have divided those into five general articles:
- Building your relationship with the Lord
- Building up your new will
- Building up your new understanding
- Building a receptive base in the natural person
- Cutting evils down to size.
Many of these ideas are ones you have heard of again and again. Rather than explain each one in detail, I simply hope to clarify how these familiar ideas are closely tied to the process of shunning evils and can help you win your spiritual battles. You will probably find that some of the suggestions below are more helpful than others. Not all will apply to your particular stage of life. I would be interested to know which of them you find are most helpful.
An important teaching in our church is that the first part of charity is to shun evils as sins against the Lord, and the second is to do the work of one’s calling faithfully and honestly. We might paraphrase this as “You must stop doing evil before you can do what is good.” The Writings observe that this is one reason why most of the ten commandments are in a negative form: “Thou shalt not . . . !” (See TCR 329.)
Often when I am critical or negative, it is because I am cross and want to make things difficult for someone else. But the Lord gives us those negatives in order to lighten our burden, rather than to make things more difficult. I found out early in life that having a bad case of poison ivy can make life very difficult. When my parents showed me how to avoid poison ivy, it made life easier. Evil is like that: if you avoid it, life is much easier.
The trouble is, of course, that evil is much more habit-forming than poison ivy is. When my parents told me not to touch poison ivy, I was eager to comply. Evil, on the other hand, can be hard to resist because part of us sees it as delightful and good. So working on your motivation to fight evils is an important key to the whole process.
Perhaps the most important theme in this series of articles is that shunning evils becomes easier when you have a positive goal and take positive action towards that goal. Imagine a person swimming in an ocean of evil, wondering which way to swim in order to reach land. If he simply swims away from his present position he may happen to reach land, or he may swim further out. He knows that he does not want to be where he is, yet he doesn’t know where it is that he does want to be. His chances of reaching shore are much greater if he can see the land and head in that direction.
This brings us to the first (and most important) group of positive steps you can take to make the fight against evils easier:
Building Your Relationship with the Lord
1. Let the Lord Give You a Positive Motivation.
Sometimes people fail in the battle against evil because while they are trying to get away from negative behavior or state of mind, they do not know or see clearly the kind of positive behavior or state that they are striving for. Avoiding evil for negative reasons—because we are afraid of the consequences to ourselves—is basically selfish. Selfishness cannot overcome selfishness; Satan cannot cast out Satan. On the other hand, when we shun evils because the Lord wants us to, we have an unselfish motivation. When we have an understanding of the Lord’s way for us, we can move in a positive direction as we resist evil.
The Writings frequently point out that shunning evils will not get anyone to heaven unless the person also looks to the Lord and acts from a religious motive. [Emphasis has been added to some of the numbers quoted.]
The means of salvation have relation to these two points, that evils are to be shunned because they are contrary to the Divine laws of the(DP 329; cf. Life 21, 22)
Decalogue,and that it is to be acknowledged that there is a God. This can be done by anyone…. But stillno one can do the one unless at the same time he does the other.
A person cannot be purified from evils if he only looks and prays to the Lord . . . . Nor are evils removed by only shunning them; for in this way the person looks to himself, and thereby confirms the origin of evil.(Char. 204)
There are many who . . . from custom and habit learn to shun evils as detrimental to their honor and their wealth. But if they do not shun evils from a principle of religion, because they are sins and against God, then the desires for evil with their delights still remain in them, like impure waters stopped up, or stagnant.(DP 117)
Let it be known that a person must do these commandments from religion, because they are commanded by the Lord; and if he does them from any other consideration whatever, for instance, from regard merely to the civil law or the moral law, he remains natural, and does not become spiritual.(AE 902:3; cf. AE 972:2)
If he shuns them from any other motive than because they are sins, he does not shun them. but only prevents them from appearing in the sight of the world.(TCR 330)
All who do good from religion avoid actual evils.(TCR 535; cf. TCR 536, 537)
2. Know Him, Understand Him.
The first step in building any relationship is getting to know a person. The more we know about the Lord, the stronger our relationship with Him will be, and the more easily we will be able to shun evil.
Ignorance [about God] does indeed excuse, but it does not remove confirmed falsity, for this falsity coheres with evil.(DLW 351)
No one has the Lord present with him unless he knows His quality.(Inv. 41)
God flows in with every person . . . into the(TCR 457:2)
No one as a person can ever be conjoined with the Lord except by means of knowledges.(AC 1616:3)
3. Acknowledge Him.
The Writings often speak of “acknowledging” the Lord. The Latin word is
This is not the only meaning for that word, yet it serves to show that acknowledgment is more than a lip confession that God exists. Reflect, if you will, on these two translations:
They who do not acknowledge the Lord cannot but be in evils and the falsities of evil.
They who do not know the Lord well cannot but be in evils and falsities of evil.
Other meanings that might be associated with acknowledgment are recognition, thanks, and praise. When a friend gives you a needed word of encouragement, do you recognize the Lord?
When you pass by a beautiful field of flowers, do you thank the Lord? When the Lord replaces your negative thoughts with wholesome ones, do you praise Him? How might you paraphrase the word “acknowledgment” in these passages?
The acknowledgment of the Lord, and the acknowledgment that all that is good and true is from(DP 91)
Him,causes a person to be reformed and regenerated.
Acknowledgment and adoration of the Lord’s Divine Human is the life of religion.(AC 4733)
The acknowledgment of God effects the conjunction of God with a person and of a person with God . . . and the denial of Him separates. The effect of conjunction is that the Lord turns a person’s face to Himself and then leads him(DP 326)
; andthe effect of separation is that hell turns the person’s face to itself and leads him.
4. Pray to the Lord.
The Writings often point out that prayer alone will not solve all our spiritual problems. Yet prayer certainly can change the impossible into the possible, especially in the fight against evil.
In order to refrain from sins and shun and turn away from them, a person must pray to the Lord for help.(AE 803:2)
He is able if he implores the Lord’s help.(DP 278, 281:2)
When a person shuns evils as sins he fights against them because they are contrary to the Lord and against His Divine laws, and then he prays to the Lord for help and for power to resist them. When he prays for this power, it is never denied.(Char. 204)
5. Listen to the Lord.
When praying to the Lord, remember to listen to Him. The Lord speaks to us while we are reading His Word. Yet He also speaks at other times. In fact, He is always speaking to us.
The Lord speaks with every person, for whatever a person wills and thinks that is good and true is from the Lord . . . . Everything good and true inspired by the angels is of the Lord; thus the Lord is continually speaking with a person, but quite(AC 904)
differentlywith one person than with another.
The Lord’s inner speech with a person is his conscience (AC 371, 1308, 1822, 2215). The Writings tell us that the battle against evil is carried on by means of this conscience or dictate from the Lord. “The Lord is continually putting evils and falsities to flight, but He does this through conscience” (AC 1835:2).
This conscience or inner speech from the Lord is the only means which conjoins the Lord with a person.
A genuine conscience can be formed only from the Word, and so it is only through the Word that the Lord can speak to us. Obviously, it is not only when we are actually reading the Word that our conscience is active. The truths through which the Lord works in temptations are ones which have been woven into the fabric of our lives over a long period of time. Often we will not be aware of the source of the inner dictate. Although it is from the Lord, we may suppose that it is “implanted in us and flows from the connection of things” (AC 5121:3). It will not come as a detailed list of instructions, but more as a general feeling of the direction to head in.
To every falsity that the hells inject there is an answer from the Divine . . . . But the answer from the Divine flows into the internal or spiritual person. . . . It scarcely comes to the perception otherwise than as hope and the consequent consolation.(AC 8159:3)
The Lord is constantly telling us things that will make our battles easier.
6. Remember That He Is Fighting for You.
Many passages tell us to remember that the Lord is fighting our battles for us, even though we must fight as if we were on our own.
It is to be carefully remembered that the Lord alone fights . . ..(Life 96)
The time of combat is the time of the Lord’s operation.(AC 63)
During low point of temptation in the midst of despair, the inmost is held by the Lord in combat against the falsity . . . the Lord flows in from within, and fights for him; which also a person may know from this; that when he is in temptations, he inwardly resists.(AC 8567)
The point I would especially like to make here is that when we forget that the Lord has been doing the fighting and that we deserve no credit, then the battle gets harder.
Temptations do no good if a person does not believe that the Lord has fought and conquered for him.(HD 200)
I would even say that a person is not saved on account of temptations if he places anything of merit in them; for if he does this, it is from the love of self . . . the temptations in which a person overcomes are attended with a belief that all others are more worthy than himself, and that he is hellish rather than heavenly . . . therefore when after temptations he comes into thoughts contrary to these, it is an indication that he has not overcome . . . if the latter cannot be bent to the former, the person has either yielded in the temptation, or he again comes into similar ones, and sometimes into more grievous ones, until he has been reduced to such sanity that he believes he has merited nothing.(AC 2272:3)
When the Lord fights for a person, the person conquers in everything.(AC 8159:3, 5)
7. Trust Him.
Another way to lighten our burdens is with a trust in the Lord’s leading. In the New Testament the Lord often tells us that impossible things become possible if we will only believe. “All things are possible to one who believes” (Mark 9:23). The Writings tell us that the essence of this faith is trust (see AC 3868, F 36, TCR 344). A favorite passage from the Writings (AC 8478-80) indicates that a person who trusts the Lord can handle trouble more easily than one who does not.
People who do not trust the Lord:
- are always worried about the future.
- are not content.
- grieve when they do not get what they want.
- have no consolation.
- feel angry with the Lord.
- curse themselves.
- continually draw evil upon themselves.
People who trust the Lord:
- are not worried or anxious about the future.
- are unruffled, content, peaceful not dejected.
- do not grieve over losses.
- are not made sad by poverty.
- are always advancing towards a happy state.
- are in the stream of Providence.
- continually receive good from the Lord.
The Lord can help you. He has promised to help you. When you trust that He will help you, you will be in the stream of His Providence.
8. Look For Evidence of His Love, Power, and Wisdom.
You can find signs of the Lord’s love everywhere. There is no lack of evidence to prove that God is working through everything in this world. The Writings often use the word “confirm” which means “strengthen.” You can choose to confirm your belief in God, or confirm yourself against Him. Confirming oneself as an atheist makes fighting evil impossible.
People who have confirmed themselves in favor of nature to the virtual separation of Divinity from it regard nothing as sin . . . . After death, when they become spirits, they are bound to hell (DLW 351).
Looking for evidence of God at work can strengthen our relationship with the Lord, which in turn would strengthen us against evil.
Those who believe in a Divine operation in all the details of nature are able to confirm themselves in favor of the Divine by very many things which they see in nature (DLW 351).
The person who has become spiritual by the acknowledgment of God, and wise by the rejection of his proprium, sees the Divine Providence in the whole world, and in all and each of the things belonging to it. If he looks at natural things, he sees it; if he looks at civil matters, he sees it; if he looks at spiritual things, he sees it; . . . he sees it . . . in ends, in causes, in effects, in uses, in forms, in things great and small; especially in the salvation of men . . . . From spiritual light in natural light the person sees these things, and more besides, and the Divine Providence in them (DP 189).
Look for signs of His love in His Word. Look for signs of His love in nature. Look for signs of His love in your own progress. “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits!” (Psalm 103:2)
9. Obey Him.
Of course, the most important way to strengthen your relationship with the Lord is to keep His commandments. “He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me” (John 14:21). And the first step in keeping His commandments is to shun evils. Thus we have a full circle. Shunning evils strengthens your love for the Lord, and a stronger love for the Lord helps us shun evils more easily.
Other Ways to Build a Relationship
Our relationships with others are complex—the relationships have spiritual aspects, emotional aspects, mental, physical, financial, moral, and social aspects. Our relationships are affected by the words we speak, the jokes we tell, the clothes we wear, our jobs, education, houses, religion, manners, face, build, political ideas, personality, morals, skills, intelligence, hobbies, interests, recreation, and the kinds of family, friends, and associates we have.
Think about how people knew the Lord when He was on earth. The disciples lived with the Lord. He was part of their everyday lives. It was not just a spiritual relationship, but one that was affected by Jesus’ manners, morals, associates, speech, gestures, actions, clothing, eating, appearance, education, poverty, and so on.
Our relationship with the Lord is no less complex, and just as much intertwined in everyday affairs, so there are many different things that can build our relationship with Him. Any relationship will deepen as a result of
- spending time together,
All these could deepen your relationship with the Lord, as they do with other people. Next we focus on the power that love has against evil.
Building Up Your New Will
In the battle against evil, the new will fights against the old will. The stronger your new will is, the easier the battle can be.
10. Fight Evil With Love.
Any task is easy if you love to do it. Any task can be difficult when you do not want to do it. I find it easer to play the piano for an hour than to wash the dishes for 10 minutes. This principle is just as true for shunning evils. Love makes the task easier.
To begin with, the greater our love for the Lord and others is, the more we will be willing to learn about evil and examine ourselves.
Those who are in heavenly love accept instruction, and as soon as they are brought into the evils into which they were born, they see them from truths, for truths make evils manifest (HH 487, emphasis added, here and in the following quotes; see also Char 181).
In addition to helping us recognize evil in ourselves, love is what gives us the power to fight against evil. In fact, it is love in the internal person which does the fighting against the evils in the external person (Char. 181, 183). The only way to fight evil is love:
The only means of driving away the devil and his crew from the door of the mind is love for the Lord and towards the neighbor (AC 364; see also AC 5168:2).
If they who are not in charity should be tempted they would yield at once (AC 4274:2).
An example of this is the power of marriage love. One woman describes the power of marriage love over the evil of adultery as follows:
For me it is a case of not letting myself dwell on thoughts of someone else. I do that by repeating that I shun an evil as a sin against the Lord by keeping busy, and by thinking of what a good man my husband is (Theta Alpha Journal, Spring 1985, Vol. 9, no. 9, p. 22).
The Writings also describe this power of marriage love:
From true marriage love there is power and protection against the hells (AE 999:2).
At the presence of marriage love diabolical spirits become furious, insane and mentally impotent, and cast themselves into the deep (AE 1002e).
There is no love which labors . . . more intensely, or which opens the interiors of their minds more powerfully and easily than marriage love, since the soul of each intends it (CL 302).
11. Work To Overcome Your Fears.
There is a commandment which is repeated frequently in the Old and New Testaments because we need to hear it again and again: “Fear not. Do not be afraid.”
One of the 100 passages which tell us not to fear is Deuteronomy 20, where the priest was asked to tell the people, “Today you are on the verge of battle with your enemies; do not let your heart faint, do not be afraid, and do not tremble or be terrified because of them; for the Lord your God is He who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.” Then the officers were to say to the people, “What man is there who is fearful and fainthearted? Let him go and return to his house, lest the heart of his brethren faint like his heart.” You may remember the time Gideon sent home over 2/3 of his soldiers because they were afraid (Judges 7:3). The victory would come more easily with a few courageous men than with many cowards.
Spiritually, the ones who were sent home are those who cannot overcome in temptation because they “fear the evil, and also cause others to fear them” (AE 734:13). A worldly person may fear the punishment in hell, but a spiritual person should not (see AE 696:6, 24).
“When there is fear, then those who want to inflict evil are at once at hand” (SD 4744m). Fear draws evil spirits like a wounded animal draws wolves. Evil spirits cannot overcome a person who has confidence in the Lord, but they can easily manipulate people who are afraid of what others might think, or who refrain from evils simply out of fear of retaliation or punishment in hell. In fact, fear of losing money and status can actually make reformation impossible. “No one is reformed in a state of fear . . . for love opens the interiors of the mind, but fear closes them . . . and makes it impossible that a person can be reformed” (DP 139). So before the battle, eliminate the negative motivations—send home your fears.
12. Be Afraid to Hurt Those You Love
The writer in Theta Alpha Journal goes on to say:
The other thought so strong in me is that as much as I love my children I could never do anything to cause them harm. The gravest hurt I can think of for them would be the destruction of our marriage (Theta Alpha Journal, ibid).
Many fears make the battle against evil harder. However, there is another kind of fear which helps us fight evil: it is the fear that is in all good love (cf. CL 371). It is a fear for another rather than a fear of another (see SD 6110:55). It is fear that someone may be hurt. “Holy fear is not so much a fear of hell and damnation as it is of doing or thinking anything against the Lord and against the neighbor” (AC 2826; cf. AC 4274:2, AE 696:23). The Writings tell us that this fear “is a result of our wonder at and longing for what Is Divine and also a result of our love” (AC 3718).
To be compelled by love and by the fear of its loss is to compel oneself (DP 136:9).
13. Call on Your “Remains.”
For seven years Joseph kept storing up a fifth of Egypt’s grain. When famine followed, the Egyptians were able to survive on stored grain.
We can get through our lean times by drawing on a similar store. Every time we go through a good state, such as a time of trust or peace, a time of caring for others, a time of enlightenment through the Word, a memory of that state remains. These “remnants” or “remains” of earlier states are the starting point for our regeneration (AC 5335:2, 2636:2, 5899) and the source of our nourishment during spiritual famines (see AC 5297:3). The Lord and the angels draw these states from the inward reaches of our minds and use them to counter the hells’ attacks against us (see AC 737, 1050, 268, 530:2, 3335:3).
Let your mind drift back to a childhood time when you sensed complete trust in your parents’ strength. Or perhaps there was a time when you felt pity for someone who was suffering. There may have been a time when you felt a great sense of purpose in life. Maybe you can draw on memories of courtship. Or you might turn to a favorite passage from the Word. The Lord is using those memories to awaken similar states now, to stir your resolve to fight evil.
14. Develop a Sense of Inner Peace and Confidence.
The fiercest hurricane has a center of complete calm. One time Swedenborg heard a rushing noise of a great mob of spirits around him, who were complaining that everything was going to total destruction.
But in the center of it all he heard the soft music of angel choirs. He learned that this was symbolic of how “the Lord rules the fragmented and confused things which are on the outside from what is peaceful in the center, by which the surrounding disorderly things are brought back into order” (AC 5396e).
We cannot fight confusion with confusion. Inner peace is a key to withstanding the assaults of hell.
Peace has in it confidence in the Lord. A state of peace takes away all evil, especially self-confidence (AC 8455).
[During temptations] a person is inmostly in a state of peace, for unless this were with him inmostly, he would not fight . . . . Moreover, this is the reason why he overcomes (AC 3696:2; see also 1726e).
Of all hell’s horrible methods of destroying our good loves (see AC 1820), the most cruel is when they take away hope. The point of despair is inevitably the focus, the climax, the height and the depth of the battle (see AC 1787, 6144, 5369, 7147, 7166, 8567). It is the inmost or highest degree of spiritual pain (AC 8313, SD 1042).
Just as hopelessness is hell’s greatest weapon, hope is our greatest defense. The Lord answers every attack of the hells, but that answer comes to us primarily as hope (AC 8159). When a person is attacked by evil spirits, “the Lord keeps him in hope and trust, which are the forces . . . by which he resists” (AC 6097; cf. 11007, 6574:2).
A person’s hopes are directly tied to his love. Actually, the reason why the Lord does not give us certain knowledge of the future is that hope is much more powerful than knowledge. Without hope, love will die (see DP 178).
The Writings give several examples of the power of hope: “Wives are nourished by hope of friendship, confidence, happiness together” (CL 167). “Hope of becoming an angel exalts the love of use” (HH 517). “Hope of having children nurses and strengthens marriage love” (CL 254). And for a person who is sad or struggling with evil, hope can console, encourage, nourish, cheer, revive, calm (AC 7183, 7183, 8165, 3610, 4783, 6577, CL 78, 216a).
In temptations . . . good spirits and angels . . . continually keep the person in hope. . . .He who allows himself to be cheered with hope remains steadfast in an affirmative attitude (AC 2338).
When you are desperate, hope. Hope for the good that the Lord can bring from evil. Hope that the Lord can change you. Hang on to hope.
16. Keep Your Goals Clearly in Sight.
A very important factor in the fight against evil is a person’s goals or ends. A person’s end or goal is his love—it is what he loves above all else (see AC 3066e, 1317). It is by means of a person’s ends that he is either in heaven or in hell (AC 3670). Consequently, the fight against evil is a fight between ends. The hells especially attack a person’s ends and try to put them in doubt (see AC 1820, 1787).
One of the ways the hells can attack a person’s ends is by giving priority to the means. The whole effort of hell is to make ends into means and make means into ends. They want us to love things and use people, rather than to use things and love people.
They would also like to distract us from our good goals by discouraging us with our imperfect results. We may not be very successful in many things we do, and it may look as if we are not getting very far with fighting our evils. The angels on the other hand “especially avert evil ends and inspire good ones”(AC 5354); and they excuse a person’s evil if his goal has been good (AC 7122:2, 3796:4, 6559, 1079, 1088). It is primarily through our ends that the Lord works with us and leads us (see AC 3570:2, 3565). He pays little attention to whether we are “successful” at shunning evils, or whether our love is perfectly pure. He mostly cares whether our goal or intention is shunning evils and loving others (see CL 71).
One of the ways we can strengthen ourselves against the attacks of hell is to visualize our goals, to “keep our eyes on good as the end” (see AC 5949). “An intelligent person is one who keeps goals in view” (AC 5094:4; cf. 3796:3).
The more clearly we can see in our minds the outcome we are seeking, the more hope we will have, and the more our reason and love will be stirred to strive for the goal:
It is reason’s greatest delight mentally to envision the effect from love, not after it is attained, but before it is, not in the present but as future. So a person has hope, which rises and declines in the reason as he sees or anticipates the outcome (DP 178).
17. Enjoy the Love in Your Life.
One of the subtlest ways that evil spirits make life more difficult for us is by baiting us with selfish delights and destroying our good delights. “They fire up selfish desires by means of delights which they snatch from the person’s delight in something else” (AC 1820). The greatest delight of evil spirits is to take away the heavenly delights of others (see HH 400).
It is much harder to live well when we don’t enjoy it. Perhaps if they can’t stop us from attending church, they might just get us to stop enjoying it.
If they can’t prevent us from working hard, they still might get us to enjoy the paycheck instead of our use to others. If you are the kind of person who would never have an affair, they might still get you to enjoy the TV soap affairs. Or even if you would never deliberately hurt another, they might still give you a sense of satisfaction when someone who has been rude to you is in some kind of trouble.
The angels are also especially interested in our delights. They “observe where a person’s delights turn themselves, and so far as they can from a person’s freedom, moderate and bend them to good” (AC 5992; cf. AC 4063:4).
Whether you are in a good or bad state is often less significant than whether you are enjoying the state you are in. The battle between good and evil is a battle of delights. “While the person is in temptations, there is a combat between these two kinds of delight” (AC 3928; cf. AC 8352, 8452, HH 384, 396, DP 145).
One example of this battle of delights is in marriage. For many people, the immediate spiritual issue is not whether they will stay married, but whether they will choose to enjoy marriage. Note that Swedenborg titled his book The DELIGHTS of . . . Marriage Love . . . and The PLEASURES of . . . Adulterous Love. In this book he wrote, “it is the delights of the two loves that are so opposite, since love is nothing without its delights” (CL 427).
Because of this opposition, heavenly delight has great power against evil spirits. The influence of heavenly joy makes them feel intense pain and they throw themselves back into hell (see HH 400). This means that the more we enjoy what is good, the more easily we can overcome our enjoyment of evil.
In the same degree in which a person perceives delight in this good, and pleasantness in these truths, he feels undelight in the evils of the former life, and unpleasantness in its falsities (AC 370 1:7; cf. 2657:6).
So we can see that one key to overcoming evil delight is to allow ourselves, and even compel ourselves, to enjoy the good love which the Lord has given us.
A person compels himself when he compels his outward thought . . . to receive the delights of his affections which are good (DP 145).
18. Take Responsibility for Your Life.
The Writings use the term “guilty in both negative and positive ways. On the one hand, one should believe that evil is from hell, and “not appropriate evil to himself and make himself guilty of it” (DP 320). On the other hand, during repentance one is to “acknowledge his evils, to make himself guilty, and to condemn himself on account of them” (HD 160).
Clearly, there is a difference between the depressing, hopeless feelings of guilt that immobilize us emotionally, and the healthy willingness to reject past attitudes and change for the better. I find that when the positive meaning is intended, a better translation of the Latin word for “guilty” (reus) is “responsible.” Don’t feel guilty about your evils; do accept responsibility for them.
Feelings of guilt are one of the key weapons the hells use to destroy our spiritual life. They love to burden our consciences with things that no one should feel guilty about (AC 5386, 5724; SD 1240-1242). Furthermore, by bringing to mind our past evils, they bring our good intentions into doubt and discourage us from our efforts to care about others. The angels fight these feelings by drawing out the best in us all our previous states of caring, love, and understanding that remain stored within us (see AC 737). It will be easier for the angels as well as ourselves if we can get rid of all that useless guilt.
A key concept here is freedom. Your spiritual love will not grow as a result of outside pressure, but only as a result of your own inner choices. These are choices that you can make more easily when you accept the idea that you are responsible for the way your own life turns out.
19. Make an Effort.
I have been telling you that the fight against evil will be easier if your love is greater and your new will stronger. However, there will be times when the struggle is difficult even for the best of people. The fight against evil in ourselves is a fight for our lives (see AC 8403:2). And the stronger our love is, the more fiercely the hells attack it (AC 1820). The Lord gives us all the power we need to overcome; He just asks us to be willing to use that power to our best ability (see AC 8307:2).
Love takes effort. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your mind and all your soul and all your strength” (Mark 12:30). Your will is like your muscles, which get stronger with every effort you make. Likewise, a person’s heavenly self is formed in the effort of his thought (AC 1937:2).
The first of charity is to shun evils, and the second is to do what is good (Life 22, AC 8179:2, BE 52). Love, courage, tenderness, trust, peace, purpose, delight, vision, responsibility, effort—these can give you new will power; that is, give power to your new will. Each of them can strengthen your love and make the task of spiritual growth easier, not as substitutes for shunning evil, but as helps. Next we look at still more ways to make the task easier, with a focus on the power of the new understanding.
Building up Your New Understanding
I used to retype an article at least three or four times before submitting it for publication. Now with a computer, I can correct typos, move paragraphs, rearrange sentences, print out fresh copies and even transmit it to the typesetter without ever retyping it. Writing is much easier because I have more powerful tools. Washing machines, ballpoint pens, airplanes, power drills, and can openers are all tools that have made our lives much easier. If you have ever tried to open a tin can with a fork, you know what I mean.
There are many powerful tools that can make our spiritual lives easier as well. These tools are truths.
In the last two articles we wrote of how life can be easier if we strengthen our relationship with the Lord and strengthen our love. The love that the Lord gives us is a great source of power against evil. Yet that power can be exercised only by means of truths (see AC 1661:2), just as electricity can be put to use only by means of suitable tools. This part is about the tools (truths, thoughts) that make fighting evil easier.
20. Think About the Lord.
Of course your ability to fight evil will increase if you turn your thoughts to the Lord. In fact, all the truths of the new understanding focus on the Lord, know Him, understand Him, acknowledge Him, listen to Him, remember that He fights for you. Think of His power and His love, His mercy and wisdom. (See Part II for more on this.)
21. Think About Heaven.
One of our most powerful defenses against evil is thought about eternal life. (I have added emphasis to some of the numbers quoted.)
No evils can be removed except by the true use of freedom of choice in spiritual things, and we do this by directing the mind to reflection upon the state of life after death (TCR 498; cf. DP 73:6, 7).
In order to be lifted up from sensuous spirits, we must think about eternal life (AC 6201).
Everyone fights [against evil] who believes that hell and heaven exist, and that heaven is eternal happiness and that hell is eternal unhappiness, and who believes that those who do evil come into hell, and those who do good come into heaven (Life 94).
When the internal sight or the thought is turned toward the world and rests there, the thought in consequence becomes worldly; . . . but when it is turned heavenward it becomes heavenly (HH 532).
We can think of heaven as our proper goal (see SD 2854), and also as the source of all the good we do (compare just below).
22. Think About Hell.
For many Christians, the thought of hell is attended with either disbelief or with fear; many simply do not think about it.
In contrast, the section on hell in Heaven and Hell has some hopeful and beautiful teachings in it:
The Lord rules the hells (HH 536).
In heaven there is all power, and none in hell (HH 539).
No one is cast into hell by the Lord (HH 545).
God never turns away His face from a person (HH 545).
God is good itself, love itself and mercy itself (HH 545).
One of the ways the evil spirits discourage a person is that they “make him believe that he does it of himself, . . .and yet at the moment they are infusing and compelling this belief, they accuse and condemn him (AC 761; see also AC 5036, 6097). It is comforting to know that our evil thoughts and feelings have a source outside of ourselves in hell.
If a person only believed as is really true, that all good is from the Lord and all evil from hell, he would neither make the good in him a matter of merit nor would evil be imputed to him; for he would then look to the Lord in all the good he thinks and does, and all the evil that flows in would be cast down to hell from which it comes (HH 302:2; cf. DP 320, AC 6324, 904, AE 1141:2, AR 224:10).
23. Polish up Your Ideals.
We must know evil to fight it, and we must know good to know evil:
A person merely believes that evil exists, but what its quality is he does not know, and this for the sole reason that he does not know what good is (AC 48 18e).
Who can know what is evil and false unless he knows what is good and true? Or who knows what is unchaste, dishonest, indecent, and ugly, unless he knows what is chaste, honest, decent and beautiful? Or who can discern foolishness but one who is wise? or knows what wisdom is? Or who can rightly perceive discordant sounds but one who by learning and culture has absorbed harmonious music? (CL 424, cf. 425e)
The stronger your ideals, the more clearly you can picture the kind of person you wish to become, the more easily you can identify and overcome the things which stand in your way, even if your ideals seem unattainable at the present.
He who does not affirm and acknowledge the good and truth which are of faith and charity cannot come into any combat of temptation, because there is nothing within to combat back against evil and falsity (AC 3928; cf. 8963).
24. Learn What Evil Is.
A doctor cannot cure a disease that he does not understand. A mechanic can’t fix a car until he knows what is broken. Knowledge is equally necessary for our spiritual life. “No one can be regenerated except through knowledges of faith, which are truths” (AC 2063:3, cf. 3502:2). “No one can ever fight against evils and falsities until he knows what evil and falsity are” (AC 1661:2; cf. AE 356:3).
25. Think About Shunning Evil.
Simply thinking about shunning an evil is no substitute for actually desisting, but it is a good first step.
Anyone who thinks in his heart that there is a God, that the Lord is the God of heaven and earth, that the Word is from Him, and is therefore holy, that there is a heaven and a hell, and that there is a life after death, is able to shun these evils [listed in the Decalogue] (AE 936).
Another passage makes taking the first step sound even easier:
When anything gets in the way that the person knows is dishonest and unfair, something his spirit moves toward, it is simply a matter of thinking that he should not do it because it is against the Divine precepts.
If a person gets used to thinking this way, and from so doing establishes a habit of so thinking, he is gradually conjoined to heaven . . . . Who cannot think this way because of his freedom? (HH 533).
26. Think Good Thoughts About Your Neighbor.
The Lord wants us to think well of others. “Those who have conscience are kept by the Lord in good thoughts about the neighbor, and are withheld from thinking evil” (AC 1919). “They who are in charity scarcely see the evil of another, but observe all his goods and truths, and put a good interpretation on what is evil” (AC 1079). This of course does not eliminate the need for civil and moral judgment on those who do evil. But it does mean giving peep le the benefit of the doubt, and being especially careful of imputing false motives to others. Thinking positively about other people is a key to victory over evil. “The temptations in which a person overcomes are attended with the belief that all others are more worthy than himself” (AC 2273).
27. Use the Word.
The word is like a tool chest containing many powerful concepts.
The combats are carried on by means of truths of faith that are from the Word. The person must fight against evils and falsities from these; if he fights from anything else, he does not conquer, because the Lord is not in anything else (AC 8962).
Without the Lord, by means of the Word, there is no salvation (LJ 55:3).
Use of the Word makes tremendous power available to us:
The power of the Word in the sense of the letter is the power to open heaven, . . . . and also the power to fight against falsities and evils, thus against the hells. A person who is in genuine truths from the sense of the letter of the Word can disperse and scatter the whole diabolical crew and their devices in which they place their power, which are innumerable, and this in a moment, merely by a look and by an effort of the will (AE 1086).
The key to receiving this power is in the way we read the Word. A person can see genuine truths only when he has been enlightened by the Lord. There are several factors that can help bring enlightenment. One is that the Word must be searched from a genuine affection for the truth (AC 4368:2, 5432:4, 6047:2, NJ H D 257). This means not simply reading and studying, but reading with questions in mind, seeking answers that apply to life, being willing to have your ideas changed. “Many are affected by the Word of the Lord, and devote much labor to reading it; but still there are few who have as the end to be instructed in the truth” (AC 4368:2).
Truth is much easier to learn when we enjoy it (see AC 5094, HH 321). When you discover a new truth in the Word, celebrate! Let yourself be happy with what the Lord teaches.
Comparing passages can also bring enlightenment. In difficult spots the Lord enlightens us by giving understanding from other passages (see AC 3436). Another factor is prayer: “The Word should be searched with devout prayer to the Lord for enlightenment” (AC 5432:4). It also helps to read frequently, a chapter or two each day (AE 803:2). Don’t let your mind run dry of the truth.
28. Do Not Take Credit for Your Good.
One way to make things harder on ourselves is to take credit for our efforts, or to think that we deserve special favors because of the way we have worked or suffered. This belief hides more evils than I would care to list (see TCR 439 for eleven of them; also AC 4174, 4145:2, 3956, TCR 442).
Because of the evils associated with merit, our temptations will become more frequent or more severe if we fail to realize that we deserve nothing (see AC 2273).
29. Do Not Dwell on Your Failures.
Evil spirits love to bring to mind all your past failings, and to make even your successes look like failure. They “call up a person’s evil and falsities . . . whatever he has thought and done from his infancy” (AC 751). “They excite and draw forth all things in a person that have been evilly done and evilly thought, and thereby accuse and condemn him” (AC 8159; cf. 8960).
It is essential that you be able to clearly identify your evils so that you can overcome them. But mulling them over and brooding about them is playing into the devils’ hands, and makes you vulnerable to their greatest weapon—despair.
30. Work to Overcome Your Doubts.
Doubt can make the struggle against evil more difficult. We may doubt whether it is possible to change ourselves, or doubt whether we really want to make an effort to be responsible. We may doubt whether the Lord cares about us, even doubt His existence.
When Thomas doubted the Lord’s resurrection, the Lord appeared to him and gently said, “Do not be unbelieving, but believing” (John 20:27) . . .
The Lord does not condemn us on account of our doubts, but He does ask us to overcome them.
Doubt is a limiting factor. It impedes spiritual progress. A person cannot be admitted into wisdom until he is free from doubt (see AC 2718). Doubt is a tool of hell, and overcoming it brings us closer to victory. “He who is in temptation is in doubt about the end in view. The end in view is the love, against which the evil spirits and evil genii fight, and thereby put the end in doubt. And the greater the love is the more do they put it in doubt . . . . Assurance respecting the result precedes the victory and belongs to the victory” (AC 1820). In order to ease our burdens in temptations, “good spirits and angels from the Lord in every possible way dispel this state of doubt” (AC 2338).
31. Send Away Your Worries.
When Peter stepped out of the boat into the water, he found that it held his weight. He was able to walk on water, as long as he kept his eyes on the Lord. When he began instead to worry about the strong wind and the waves, he began to sink (Matt. 14:30). Only by turning back to the Lord could he be saved.
A person in spiritual temptations worries about his evils and his lack of love and trust in the Lord. This anxiety is part of the temptation, and in fact temptation is defined as a “more inward anxiety (AC 6097, 4627:3, NJ HD 187, 188). It is induced by evil spirits who love to torment people (AC 1820); it can cause despair (AC 1787). The fact that this worry is there is a good sign: “If when a person reflects upon the evil he has done he feels any anxiety it is a sign that he will still receive influx through the angels” (AC 5470:2; cf. 7217, 8164). However, simply worrying about our spiritual life will not make things better, and is actually part of the torment from hell. It is not by anxiety but by trust in the Lord that we overcome.
“Do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink:’“ (Matt. 6:35). Much of our worry is about our belongings, reputation, health, and other worldly things. Of course it is important to carefully provide for ourselves and be concerned about our future, but worry and anxiety about these things is forbidden and even condemned. People who are not happy with what the Lord has provided for them, and who do not trust His leading, and who prefer worldly things to heavenly things, are constantly worried about their future. And since they reject the Lord, they have no consolation, and curse themselves (see AC 8478) . . . This kind of worry makes life much harder and needs to be sent away.
Once Swedenborg felt a knot in his stomach as a result of worry. He knew it must be from spirits who cause concern about the future. He writes, “I spoke to them, saying that they had better go away, because their sphere, which caused anxiety, did not agree with the spheres of the spirits who were with me” (AC 5179).
32. Keep an Open Mind.
It is better for a person who is controlled by evil spirits to have a closed mind, because he is then in less danger of getting involved in more evils than he already has. But for a person who is in faith it is better to be open-minded. “The less his ideas are determined to one thing” and the more flexible he is, “the better it is. And the less persistent and hard, the more easily he is bent by the Lord to all things which please the Lord and to good” (SD 3024:2).
Frequently people turn truths into heresies by focusing their minds on a single truth to the exclusion of others (see AC 362). Good is not confirmed by a single truth, but by many truths (AC 4197). If we keep our minds open to new truths (see AC 5804, 2272:2), we will see the truth more clearly, and it will be easier for the Lord to regenerate us.
33. Look for Confirmation of the Truth.
In an earlier article in this series I mentioned the importance of confirming or strengthening your belief in God. What was said there applies to all truths—they become stronger when they are backed up by evidence and experience.
Now we must be careful not to think that an idea is true simply because there is evidence to back it up. Falsities can be confirmed as easily as truths can (and just as confirming truths makes things easier, confirming falsities makes things harder—see AC 1109, 1295, 2385, 2538). Yet once we see from the Lord that a concept is true, we can strengthen it by evidence and experience. Without confirmation, a truth is simply a memorized fact which is soon forgotten. Confirmation gives a person a rational understanding of the truth and fixes it in his consciousness (see AC 3175:4, 3388, NJHD 257:3).
All theoretical matters are to be drawn and concluded from experiences, and are also to be confirmed by them (LJ 315).
Truth must be confirmed and illustrated by many things before it is acknowledged (AC 3175:4; cf. 8702, 8772:2).
The stronger the truths are, the more easily the battle can be won. In temptations, although many truths may be called to mind, it is only truths which have been confirmed that have the power to raise up those who are in doubt and despair, to give consolation and relief, and to “govern the interiors of the mind” (see AC 5044, AE 558:2).
No wonder in trouble we turn back to the familiar passages that are tied to our affections.
34. Put Love in the First Place.
Having the right thoughts can make things easier, but thinking is not the ultimate issue. Evil thoughts may come into your mind without your choosing them, and then the key is how you act on those thoughts. “The things which enter into a person’s thought and not through it into the will do not make him unclean; . . . a person cannot desist from thinking evil, but from doing it” (AC 8910:2).
Thoughts are good tools for making our spiritual life easier. One useful thought to keep in mind is that thinking by itself is useless. Thought saves no one” (AC 2228:2). Thoughts without a life of love are like tools without workmen. Consequently, a key to spiritual progress is the acknowledgment that love is more important than doctrine or thought. “No one can ever say he is regenerate unless he acknowledges and believes that charity is the primary of his faith” (AC 989). If Christians would make love to the Lord and charity toward the neighbor the principal of faith, then “from all the differing churches there would be made one church. And all the dissensions that come forth from doctrine alone would vanish. In fact, all hatred of one against another would be dissipated in a moment, and the Lord’s kingdom would come upon the earth” (AC 1799:4).
The next section will focus on how we can make our spiritual burdens lighter by building a receptive base in the natural person.
Build a Receptive Base in Your Natural Person.
Most of us would like to see changes in our world. Often this involves material things—new clothes, a better house, another car, or perhaps just a cleaner kitchen or a better working environment. Usually we also desire changes in our relationships with people—we might like the boss to control his temper, or that certain friend to be more dependable, or a spouse to get his act together, or the family members to have more reasonable expectations. Finally, we might want to change ourselves—to be more attractive, to acquire a better education, more skills, more confidence, better health. These changes are primarily external ones, involving our environment, other people, and the more outward, visible aspects of our person.
The most significant changes in our lives are always internal—changes in motivation, or in how we look at ourselves and the world. A real cure for our ailments must go beyond the superficial symptoms to the root of the problem, which affects us inwardly. Consequently, I have focused in previous articles on our new will and understanding and our relationship with the Lord. These inward changes are primary, yet they cannot take place in a vacuum. Our spiritual life can change in a permanent way only if it is reflected in our natural life. The life of religion is not only to have high ideals and good intentions, but also to bring one’s outward life into correspondence with those ideals. The task of bringing the natural person into correspondence with the spiritual person can be easier or more difficult, depending on how much the natural person resists. When the natural is receptive, it makes the task easier, just as a midwife eases the labor of childbirth.
When the interior person is undergoing temptations, the natural is then like a midwife; for unless the natural assists, it is impossible for any birth of interior truth to take place; for when interior truths are born, it is the natural which receives them into its bosom, because it affords the opportunity for them to work their way out. It is always the case with the things of spiritual birth that their reception must be wholly in the natural; and this is the reason why when a person is being regenerated, the natural is first prepared to receive, and insofar as this is made receptive, so far interior truths and goods can be brought forth and multiplied (see AC 4588).
Below are some ways you might make your natural person more receptive to spiritual things.
35. Fill Your Life with Order.
“The more a person goes against order the more force is required to reform him” (SD 2839). Essentially this order is a matter of keeping the Ten Commandments. It is primarily a matter of how we think and feel, but also involves our most outward conduct.
Divine order . . . is not completed except with a person in his bodily things; namely, his gestures, actions, expressions of face, speech, external sensations, and in their delights. These are the extremes of order (AC 3632).
This also involves such things as keeping order and peace in the home, without which the family is torn apart and a a person’s mental and physical health is ruined (see CL 283, 285).
Part of the order that makes it easier is the routines and habits we develop. “When a person frequently does the truth, then it not only recurs from habit, but also from affection” (AC 4884:2).
36. Fill Your Life with Beauty.
Love is beautiful. All the lovely sights in heaven, and all the true beauty in this world are reflections of God’s love for us and our love for each other. When this beauty touches us outwardly, it can be the basis for a change in our mental state, giving us a taste of heaven. Some examples:
A long face does not help you get to heaven. “There is no need for a person to walk around somberly, with a sad, mournful face and a bowed head—he can be cheerful and happy” (HH 358). In fact, evil spirits are happy to be with a person who mopes about his evils instead of fighting them.
What is easier for a person in trouble and agony than to utter sighs and groans from his lungs and lips, and also to beat his breast and make himself guilty of all sins, and still not be conscious of any sin in himself? Do the diabolical hordes that then occupy his loves depart along with his sighs? Don’t they rather hiss at those things and remain in him as before, as in their own house? (TCR 529).
Whether given or received, a smile can brighten your day. When we look at another person, the beauty we see is not so much the physical characteristics of the face as from the affection that shines from it. Seeing the face of an angel can “affect with charity the very inmost life of the mind” (AC 553).
Certain good spirits try to get people to smile, in order to inspire them with peace and joy and drive away disturbing concerns and worries about the future (see AC 8113).
b) Enjoy Music.
Songs from the Word give people who sing or listen “heavenly gladness from the holy and blessed influence” of heaven. They stir a heartfelt gladness which bursts forth from inside a person and spreads even to his fingers and toes with a joyful, holy motion (see AC 826 1). Other kinds of music can have a similar effect. For example, by hearing instrumental music, even evil people can be as if carried outside themselves and can feel a kind of heavenly sweetness (see SD 2112). When Saul was troubled by an evil spirit, David played his harp, and “Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed” (I Samuel 16:23).
c) Enjoy the Outdoors.
All of nature is a theater representing the Lord and His kingdom (see AC 3000, 3483). In most ancient times, people would look at a sunrise and think of the Lord’s coming; they would look at a mountain and think of His greatness (see AC 920, 1807, 3702). One passage suggests that we can avoid mental dullness and fatigue by going on “walks with the sight of palaces and houses, and trees and flowers, in gardens, woods and fields . . .” (Char. 189, 190).
37. Seek the Reviving Power of Worship.
Often when people have come to church or classes with faces twisted by anger or worry I have seen those faces gradually softened by feelings of peace, caring and resolve.
A person is continually in worship while he is in love and charity; external worship is merely the effect . . . . But a person in the world should be in external worship also; for internal things are excited by external worship, and by it also external things are kept in holiness so that internal things can inflow; besides the fact that the person this way acquires knowledge; and is also given states of holiness (AC 1618—emphasis added).
Also, worship brings together what was said previously about the powers of prayer, of music, of the literal sense of the Word and of remains.
38. Take Care of Yourself Physically.
Your physical condition can influence the difficulty of your spiritual life. For example:
Temptations are most grievous when they are accompanied with bodily pains; and still more so, when those pains are chronic, and no deliverance is granted, even though the Divine mercy is implored, hence results despair, which is the end (NJHD 196).
Sometimes physical suffering is beyond our control; a freak accident may cause years of pain. If you have some ailment that cannot be cured, you can be sure that the Lord is permitting it for the sake of your spiritual growth. On the other hand, we can make things more difficult for ourselves by allowing ourselves to get run-down. Most of us can control our physical condition to some extent by the way we eat, sleep, exercise, etc., and this will have an effect on our spiritual state. For example, when I am lacking sleep I become much more irritable and susceptible to hellish spirits. I sometimes fool myself into thinking that I will benefit if I “rise up early,” and “sit up late,” forgetting that sleep is a gift from the Lord (see Psalm 127:2). In sleep we are especially guarded by the Lord, and then evil spirits can have no power over us (see AC 959, 1983), and perhaps it is the only time when the Lord can work on our minds without our interference (cp. SD 427, 3391).
There are many passages that urge us to keep a healthy body for the sake of a healthy mind.
Everyone ought to be concerned for his body; . . . this must be the first thing, but for the end that there may be a healthy mind in a healthy body (AC 6936).
A person should take every care of his body, to nourish it, to clothe it, to let it enjoy the delights of the world; but all these things are not for the sake of the body, but in order that the soul in a sound body may act correspondently and rightly, and may have the body as an organ perfectly obedient to it (AC 5949:2).
When the body is sick, the mind also is sick, by removal from the world, if not otherwise . . . . It is therefore vain to think that anyone can do the work of repentance or receive any faith during sickness; for there is no action in that repentance and no charity in that faith (DP 142—emphasis added).
On this subject the Writings especially point to the importance of a good diet. “Nourishment has for its end that there be a sound mind in a sound body. If a person deprives his body of its nourishment, he also deprives himself of the state which is the end” (AC 3951:3). If a person indulges his taste without regard for the use of the food, “the body is sickly, at the least it is languid inwardly, consequently so is the mind . . . . From this comes dullness in matters of thought and judgment, and quickness in those of the body and the world” (HH 462).
While we should keep in mind that being physically healthy can make it easier for us spiritually, we obviously should not become so absorbed by matters of physical health that our spiritual health is neglected. “However people are infected physically,” the angels “rate it as nothing relatively to the soul” (AC 2380).
39. Get Help from Others.
Each person’s salvation ultimately depends on his own free choices. In this sense, religion is a private affair, between each individual and God. This wonderful truth becomes twisted, however, when we use it as an excuse not to get help when we need it. For there is another wonderful truth: we cannot get to heaven without the help of other people. We are led and taught by the Lord alone, yet He does this always through the work of angels and other people (cp. DP 154, 174).
Our fight against evil is portrayed by the fight of the sons of Israel against the Amalekites. While Joshua led the army in battle, Moses stood upon a hill and raised his arms to the Lord. As long as his hands were raised, the Israelites would prevail. When Moses could no longer hold up his hands, Aaron and Hur helped him sit upon a rock and stood on either side holding up his hands. Moses represents the truths that come directly from the Lord as enlightenment. This inner truth must be supported by truth which comes indirectly through teaching by others and study (see AC 8603, 8611, 9424).
The Writings encourage people to get help examining themselves:
It is impossible for those who are in the love of self to know what their ruling love is . . . and yet if they were willing they might know it from others who are wise, and who see what they themselves do not see (HH 487).
Another passage suggests that talking to a minister about your evils can lighten your burden, while encouraging self-examination:
It does no harm for one burdened in conscience to enumerate his sins before a minister of the church in order to lighten his burden and obtain absolution, because he is thereby initiated into a habit of examining himself, and reflecting upon each day’s evils (TCR 539).
Even in the highest heaven angels need help in questions about daily living. “About these matters the less wise consult the more wise, and these consult the Lord and receive answers” (HH 214).
40. Get into a Support Group or Social Network.
One way of getting help from others is to get into a support network.
The power of the AA group to help alcoholics is well-known. The church can provide similar support for our spiritual life. In the early Christian Church their “social interaction consisted also in giving consolation to each other under the distresses of the church,” and “the liberation of the imprisoned thoughts” (TCR 434). Even angels cannot function without the emotional support of their society (see AE 1147:2).
41. Express Your Good Feelings and Beliefs.
There is tremendous power in “ultimates” (see AC 9835:2, 10044:3, DLW 2 17, AE 726); speech and gestures are ultimates of thought and affection. Sometimes negative emotions are expressed more readily than positive ones: complaining, criticism, depression, anger, cynicism. What about joy, affirmation, caring, peace? The affections that are expressed will be strengthened.
Positive affections are not always happy. Grief is an aspect of love. Jesus wept. It is said that the Lord expresses His intense grief about the evil in the world by “crying with a loud voice, as a lion roars” (AC 471). We too need to weep, as an expression of love. One reason why the Lord asks people about their state (even though He already knows) is so that “people may have consolation from being able to express their feelings, which often proves a relief! (AC 2693).
One way to express a positive affection is to make a commitment before witnesses. An example of this is the marriage covenant, which “holds the partners’ minds within bounds” and “averts transgressions” (CL 307). In a similar way, a commitment before a spouse or friend to fight a particular evil may strengthen your resolve and elicit support.
42. Get Involved in Useful Tasks.
When Hezekiah was “sick unto death,” he was cured by laying a lump of figs over the infection (Isaiah 38). This seems like a strange remedy until we know that figs are a symbol of good works or usefulness. A simple effort to get busy and accomplish something useful can often bring us out of a spiritual low.
Shunning evil enables us to be genuinely useful, and usefulness in turn enables us to shun evil.
If a person is to accept heaven’s life, he must at all costs live in the world, involved in its functions, and dealings . . . . This is the only way a spiritual life can be formed in a person (HH 528).
While a person is in some study and business, that is, in some use, his mind is limited and circumscribed as by a circle . . . . From this as from a house he sees the various evil desires as outside himself, and from sanity of reason within, banishes them (CL 249).
No one knows the blessed delights of marriage love save he who rejects the horrid delights of adultery: and no one can reject these save he who is wise from the Lord; and no one is wise from the Lord unless he performs uses from the love of uses (CL 137).
43. Take Time Off.
Repeatedly the Word emphasizes that we will be judged by our works (see Life 2), and that charity itself is to do the work of one’s office or occupation sincerely, faithfully, and fairly (Life 114, TCR 422). Some people miss the point and think they can earn their way to heaven if they only work hard enough. After death, they make long lists of their good deeds, not realizing that it is not the quantity of works but the thought and feeling within the works that counts. They keep trying to work their way to heaven, and “when they are in their labor, and ale asked whether they are not fatigued, they reply that they have not yet done enough labor to be able to merit heaven” (AC 1110). “To bear a burden means to do works for the sake of meriting” (AC 6392:2).
A similar attitude can be with people who feel they have to prove themselves to others through their work (see SD 6075), or who, like Martha, are too busy serving to listen to the Lord (see SD 1573, 1574). Too much concern with worldly business can make it hard for a person to be enlightened (see Faith 30, SS 59e, AC 6313, 6315, 9094), and can be like weights which drag him down and make him vulnerable to evil spirits (see AC 6210, 6315).
The need for a day off is important enough to be included as one of the Ten Commandments, and although this should not be strictly applied by a Christian (see Matt. 12), even Jesus frequently took time away from His active ministry (Matt. 14:23, Mark 6:46, 1:35, Luke 5:16, etc.).
There is an affection in every employment, and it strains the mind and keeps it intent upon its work and study. This if it is not relaxed, becomes dull, and its desire flags (Char. 190).
44. Don’t Let Evil Habits Get Started.
Anyone who is addicted to drugs, alcohol or nicotine can tell you that it is much more difficult to quit than it is not to start in the first place. Evils are also addictive.
The case with evils is like that with downright thefts, which when committed of set purpose two or three times cannot be desisted from; for they continually cling to the person’s thought (AC 6203).
Evil enters into the will by being kept in the thought, by consent; and especially by act and consequent delight (AC 6204).
The difficulty…of resisting what is evil increases as a person does evil things intentionally (HH 533).
The fight is not severe except in the case of those who have given free rein to their selfish desires, and have indulged them of set purpose (Life 97).
45. Enjoy the God-given Pleasures of This World.
A person can enjoy fine food and clothing, go to the movies, become wealthy, enjoy the world’s pleasures, and this will be no barrier to his entering heaven, provided he does not center his life in those things, and worships God and cares for his neighbor (see HH 358, 359). The object of the battle between inward delights and outward delights is not to eliminate worldly pleasures, but to subordinate them and properly enjoy them.
Evil is not mastered by the renunciation of the delights of the body: sometimes another evil is thus raised up, namely, merit on account of the renunciation (AC 1947:3).
People who do this make things harder for themselves not only in this life but also after death (see HH 360).
An example of the importance of external delights is in marriage. Angels claim that if physical pleasure is lacking “the love fails and grows cold.” “Unless there were ultimate delights,” they say, “there would not be any delights of marriage love” (CL 44:8).
So far in this series we have primarily focused on ways to fight evil by building up the positive aspects of our lives. You may be able to think of more ways to do this. Next we will focus on ways to cut evils down to size.
Cutting Evils Down to Size
When the Children of Israel were on the verge of entering the land of Canaan, their scouts came back with tales of the giants in the land. “We were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight” (Numbers 13:28-33). The people were so discouraged that they did not want to even try to conquer the evil giants in the land.
Of course, this is just what the hells would like to do to us. They want to discourage us with the size, number and strength of our evils, with the complexity and ambiguity of the task, and with our own weak, ineffective efforts.
Years later Goliath challenged the Children of Israel. The whole army was afraid and helpless because they did not know how to handle such a huge enemy. But David, with the Lord on his side, cut the enemy down to size, bringing hope, then victory.
The fight against evil can be easier if we have ways of cutting the giants down to size.
46. Keep It Simple.
Once a young man came to the Lord asking, “What good deed must I do to have eternal life?”
“Keep the commandments,” He replied.
Apparently the young man felt this was too childish for someone as accomplished as himself. He said, “I have been keeping them ever since I was a child. What am I lacking?” It’s as if he were looking for some more challenging task by which he could prove how worthy he was (see matt. 19:16, Mark 10:17).
When Naaman came to Elisha seeking a miraculous cure for his leprosy, he was expecting something dramatic, unusual, amazing, but he was simply told, “Go wash in the Jordan seven times and you will be clean.” Naaman was furious at being given such an ordinary answer, until one of his servants said, “If the prophet had told you to do something great, would you not have done it? How much more than, when he says to you, ‘Wash and be clean’?” (2 Kings 5:9-14)
The Lord asks us not to do something great or complex, but simply to “wash and be clean,” to repent. “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8).
Is our religion difficult? People say that the New Church beliefs are complex, hard to explain. Some say that being a New Church person is more difficult than being a Catholic or Protestant because the New Church places more responsibility on the individual. I wonder whether these people have overlooked the simplicity of the New Church.
How does the Protestant religion compare with the New Church? “In the Protestant world . . . repentance is a very difficult task . . . chiefly because of their belief that repentance and charity contribute nothing to salvation, but faith alone” (TCR 561). Faith alone is difficult to learn and retain in the memory (see BE 58). The religion of faith alone is too hard.
Nor would it be easier to be a Catholic. “It is not difficult in the heavenly doctrine, as it was in Babylon destroyed” (SD 5793). The pious, secluded life of a monk may seem peaceful, but don’t be fooled. “The life of charity . . . is not difficult. But a life of piety separate from a life of charity is difficult, and as much as this life is believed to lead toward heaven, so much it leads away from heaven” (HH 535).
When Swedenborg was asked to explain his religion, his answers were brief (e.g., see Intercourse Between the Soul and the Body 20). Usually he mentions two essentials: 1) Acknowledge the Lord, and 2) Obey the commandments (see AR 9, 485ff, DP 326). Sometimes he put the same ideas in other words: 1) Love the Lord above all things, and 2) Love your neighbor as yourself (see AR 903, 915, AC 1121).
There may be times when life seems complex and we may wonder, what is the good thing for me to do? Should I go along with what this person wants of me’ or should I make my demands clear? Should I trust them to do what they say they will? or should I take care of things myself! Should I talk to this person about what I am feeling? or is this something I must work out on my own? Why does the Lord make life so difficult? In fact, He doesn’t. We make it difficult when we overlook the simple answers the Lord gives.
When a person shuns evils as sins he daily learns what a good work is, and the affection for doing good grows with him. . . . So stop asking yourself, “What are the good works that I must do, or what good must I do to receive eternal life?” Only cease from evils because they are sins and look to the Lord, and the Lord will teach and lead you (AE 979).
47. Keep in Mind the Steps of Repentance.
Repentance is a simple step-by-step procedure. One passage lists six steps:
- Know what evils are;
- See them in one’s self;
- Acknowledge them before God;
- Take responsibility for them;
- Pray for evils to be removed;
- Begin a new life (see NJHD 160, 161).
If you skip steps (for example, if you do not pray for help) it will be harder to resist the evil. It is easier to overcome evil with this step-by-step process than it is in a vague sort of way to suddenly make yourself good. (A fuller explanation of these steps can be found in DP 114-122, TCR 525-560, AR 224, 531.)
48. Tackle One Evil at a Time.
Trying to get rid of all our evils at once by admitting that we are hopeless and begging for the Lord’s help does not accomplish anything. “Those who confess themselves guilty of all sins, but do not search out anyone sin in themselves” lull all their sins to sleep and finally become blind to them (DP 278; cf. TCR 518ff).
Sometimes we may be overwhelmed with the number of evils we see in ourselves. Of course, the hells would like us to give up in discouragement. The Lord’s burden is light, however. He asks us to change one area of our lives at a time. If a person “abstains from any one sin” which he finds in himself, it is enough to get him on the way to heaven (TCR 530—emphasis added).
We can say that if you keep one commandment you have kept them all, “for as soon as one from purpose or confirmation abstains from any evil because it is a sin, he is held by the Lord in the purpose of abstaining from the rest.” If the person then does some evil from ignorance or in a moment of weakness, it does not count, since he did not do it deliberately (CL 529, cf. TCR 523).
49. Talk Yourself Out of It.
With self-examination, hidden evils are identified and can be overcome before they grow. For some people self-examination is frightening. These people can still fight evils by talking themselves out of doing evils as they pop into their minds.
Since actual repentance . . . is in the Reformed Christian world exceedingly difficult . . . . an easier kind of repentance is here presented, which is that when anyone is giving thought to any evil and intending it, he shall say to himself, “Although I am thinking about this and intending it. I will not do it because it is a sin.” By this means the temptation injected from hell is checked, and prevented from entering further (TCR 535; cf. HH 533, AR 531).
It is better to get to work on an active evil you can easily see than it is to delay repentance for fear of what you might find in yourself.
50. Chop Off Its Head.
David killed Goliath by hitting him directly in the head with a stone. All evil is that way—if we can destroy the head, the rest is easy. At the head of all other evils is the selfish desire to control others. This love will lead a person to think primarily of himself, to make demands and take advantage of others, to get revenge on people who cross him, to be happy only when he gets his own way (see DP 216, CL 262). This evil hides itself; it is hard to recognize (TCR 533), but the effort is worth it.
The hardest struggle of all is with the love of dominating from the love of self; he who subdues this easily subdues the other evil loves, for this is their head (DP 146).
To enter upon the way to heaven is not so difficult as many believe. The sole difficulty lies in being able to resist the love of self and the world, and to prevent their becoming dominant; for this is the source of all evils (HH 358).
It might also be said that adultery is the head of all evil (see CL 356, AE 981.2, 993:3). More specifically, each person has a different dominant love which is the head of all his other loves and controls all his thinking (see NJHD 54-64, AC 6690:2, HH 477-480, 487). The Writings ask us to focus our repentance on the more grievous evils (TCR 509), such as adultery, love of dominion, and deceit (SD 6053), and especially on our ruling love (HH 487, AC 3796:3, 1909:2).
51. Focus on Today.
Friends who have quit smoking or drinking have told me that the thought of abstaining for a month or a week is discouraging. It helps to have the goal be just to get through one day or even one minute at a time.
We can fight evil the same way. When Jesus said, “Do not worry about tomorrow . . . . Sufficient for the day is its own evil” (Matt. 6:34), He was talking not only about our natural life, but about our spiritual life (AC 9050). We cannot shun evils in the past or future. “Conjecture about what is to come, and the remembrance of the past, are what take away all life’s pleasantness and happiness” (SD 2190). The present is the only part of our life we have power to change.
He who leads a life of faith does repentance daily . . . . For from himself a person is continually falling, but is continually being raised up by the Lord (AC 8391; cf. TCR 539e).
52. Keep the Power of Evil in Perspective.
Good and truth together is everything, and evil and falsity is nothing (DP 19), just as warmth and light are something, while cold and darkness are nothing. Cold and darkness exist, but they have no energy in them. Likewise, evil exists (see CL 444), but it has no power.
Evil spirits like to think of themselves as very powerful, and they like to give us the same impression. But this is actually an illusion. Evil spirits have power over those who are in evil and falsity, “but such power may be compared to the power of a mite against a mite, or of a flea against a flea, of dust against dust, or of chaff against chaff.” They can “seem most powerful and mighty; but yet they have no power whatever against truths, and it is so completely none that it is nothing at all.” An angel or person who has power from the Lord can scatter a thousand companies of evil spirits, merely by a look and an effort of the will (AE 783:2, 4; cf. 1083e).
53. Begin Now.
I find that the easiest time to wash the dishes is right after the meal. If they are left until the next morning, the food gets crusty and hard. Eventually, the task becomes quite unpleasant, as the leftover garbage becomes slimy and stinks, and mold and grubs appear.
Evil is the same way: the sooner you face it, the easier it will be. Resisting evil later in life is much more difficult for those who as young adults “plunge into evils without restraint” (HH 533). As soon as you start, the Lord will work with you, lightening your burden.
When a person has made a beginning the Lord brings to life all that is good in him, and causes him not only to see evils to be evils, but also to refrain from willing them, and finally to turn away from them. This is meant by the Lord’s words, ‘My yoke is easy and My burden is light’ (HH 533; cf. Life 97).
The sooner you begin the easier it will be, for “evils increase daily if not removed by actual repentance” (AR 836).
54. Expect Small Improvements.
The miracle of rebirth, like the miracle of birth and growth, comes through an orderly process. Regeneration cannot take place in an instant any more than a person can spring full-grown from the womb immediately after conception (see TCR 583-586). We are regenerated “little by little” over most of a lifetime (AC 9336, AE 650:59, 60). Knowing this, we can avoid getting discouraged when progress seems slow, and on the other hand we can encourage ourselves with the thought that regular efforts soon bring changes for the better.
For most people it is not difficult; resisting evils “just once a week or twice a month” will result in a noticeable change (Life 97). “When one has shunned a sin several times” it will no longer appear (Char. 41).
55. Remember That It Will Get Easier.
One of the best ways to make the task easier is to keep at it. If you take up jogging, you may find that at first it is difficult to run a quarter of a mile. Once it becomes a habit, running five miles may be easy and enjoyable. “It is known that habit is a second nature, and that therefore what is easy for one is difficult for another; and this is true of self-examination and confession” (TCR 563). “Actual repentance is easy for those who at times practice it, but is extremely difficult for those who have not practiced it” (TCR 562).
So keep at it! Go through the process regularly, and the Lord will remove the evils down to their very roots, “and always with less resistance and combat; and therefore with less effort than in the first attempts” (AE 973).
56. Do Not Judge Yourself by How Difficult Your Struggle Is.
With all I have said about making the battle against evil easier, some people may find that it is very difficult, and wonder whether something is wrong with them. These suggestions will make the battle easier than it would otherwise be, and easy enough that you can overcome; it still requires “all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.”
If the battle is hard, do not be discouraged. The greater your love is, the more fiercely the hells will attack it. The Lord’s struggles were the most difficult of all, and He has overcome all the hells, and is now fighting for you (NJHD 200, 201).
If the battle is easy, do not take this as a sign that you have done better than others. It is the Lord who has made it easy for you. Thank Him and pray that hell does not lead you into worse temptations.
Comparing your life with others often just results in feelings of blame, resentment, or cockiness. The question is, Are you going through the process of repentance? If you are, you can know you are on the right path.
57. Remember That Anyone Can Do It.
One of the most clever lies ever devised is that since God alone has goodness and power, a person can and should make no effort to change himself for the better (see TCR 503, 630).
In its worst form, it is predestination—the belief that God has chosen (without regard to individual freedom) for some to go to heaven and others to go to hell (see TCR 487, DP 330). Although we are unlikely to accept the concept of predestination theologically, we may still feel at times that there is no hope for us personally to be saved.
With the Lord’s power, getting to heaven is easy enough that anyone can do it! It does not matter who you are or how horrible your past may have been; you can be regenerated if you choose.
Every person is made so as to be able [by the Lord’s power, if he asks for it] to shun evils as of himself (Life 31e).
A knowledge of how to be saved is not lacking to anyone, nor power if he wants to be saved. It follows that all are predestined to heaven and no one to hell (DP 329).
Since everyone in every religion knows the evils . . . that must be shunned . . . . this is provided by the Lord as the universal means of salvation with every nation that has any religion (AE 1180).
Who cannot live a civil and moral life…? Everyone, whether evil or good, lives that life . . . . The spiritual person . . . can do so as easily as the natural person can (HH 580—Emphasis has been added to the above numbers).
In the past few months we have considered a number of factors which can make fighting evils easier. Some of these factors will make a life-and-death difference. Others may help a little, and some may not apply to you at all. Then again, you may find some things that are helpful which I have not mentioned. Perhaps as you review this list you might check off the items which would make the biggest difference to your state right now, and plan to work on them.
Build Your Relationship with the Lord
- Let the Lord give you a positive motivation.
- Know Him, understand Him.
- Acknowledge Him.
- Pray to the Lord.
- Listen to the Lord.
- Remember that He is fighting for you.
- Trust Him.
- Look for evidence of His love, power, and wisdom.
- Obey Him.
Build Your New Will
- Fight evil with love.
- Work to overcome your fears.
- Be afraid to hurt those you love.
- Call on your “remains.”
- Develop a sense of inner peace and confidence.
- Keep your goals clearly in sight.
- Enjoy the love in your life.
- Take responsibility for your life.
- Make an effort.
Build Your New Understanding
- Think about the Lord.
- Think about heaven.
- Think about hell.
- Polish up your ideals.
- Learn what evil is.
- Think about shunning evil.
- Think good thoughts about your neighbor.
- Use the Word.
- Do not take credit for your good.
- Do not dwell on your failures.
- Work to overcome your doubts.
- Send away your worries.
- Keep an open mind.
- Look for confirmation of the truth.
- Put love in the first place.
Build a Receptive Base in Your Natural Person
- Fill your life with order.
- Fill your life with beauty.
- Enjoy music.
- Enjoy the outdoors.
- Seek the reviving power of worship.
- Take care of yourself physically.
- Get help from others.
- Get into a support group or social network.
- Express your good feelings and beliefs.
- Get involved in useful tasks
- Take time off.
- Don’t let evil habits get started.
- Enjoy the God-given pleasures of this world.
Cut Evils Down to Size
- Keep it simple.
- Keep in mind the steps of repentance.
- Tackle one evil at a time.
- Talk yourself out of it.
- Chop off its head.
- Focus on today.
- Keep the power of evil in perspective.
- Begin now.
- Expect small improvements.
- Remember that it will get easier.
- Do not judge yourself by how difficult your struggle is.
- Remember that anyone can do it.
There is only one way to get to heaven, and that is to shun evils as sins against the Lord (see Life 18ff, 92ff). But there are at least 57 ways to make that task of fighting evil easier than it might otherwise be. If your life is difficult, try some of these to see how well they work. And above all, keep in mind the fact that the Lord loves you and does not want your life to be difficult. He says, “Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest . . . . For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matt. 11:28, 30).
MS Word document: LIGHT BURDEN