The devil goes about seeking whom he may devour. If he doesn’t get you by tempting you with evil, he will try to discourage you by making you over-scrupulous. Such wise words are the following from Father Jacques Philippe and St. Francis de Sales:
It is important also to know well how to distinguish those cases where it is necessary to take time to discern and to decide, when it is a matter of decisions, for example, that affect our entire lives and the opposite cases where it would be stupid and contrary to the will of God to take too much time and too many precautions before deciding, when there is not much difference between one choice and another.
As Saint Francis de Sales said, “If it is normal to weigh gold ingots with care, when it comes to small coins it is enough to make a quick evaluation.”
The devil, who is always seeking to disturb us, makes us ask ourselves, even in making the smallest decision, whether it is truly the will of the Lord or not to do thus and who creates unease, scruples and remorse of conscience for things that really aren’t worth the trouble.
We must have a constant and profound desire to obey God. But this desire will be truly in accord with the Holy Spirit if it is accompanied by peace, interior freedom, confidence and abandonment and not if it is a source of trouble which paralyzes the conscience and prevents one from deciding freely.
It is true that the Lord can permit moments where this desire to obey Him causes real torment. There is also the case of persons who are scrupulous by temperament; this is a very painful trial from which the Lord never totally delivers them in this life.
But, it is still true that normally we must strive to advance along our path in such a fashion, in internal freedom and peace. And to know, as we have just said, that the devil tries passionately to trouble us.
He is crafty and uses the desire we have to do God’s will to disturb us. One must not let him “take advantage” of us. When one is far from God, the adversary tempts him with evil: he attracts him to bad things.
But when one is close to God, loves Him, desires nothing but to please and obey Him, the devil, while he tempts him still with evil (this is easy to recognize), he tempts him even further by good.
This means that he makes use of our desire to do good to trouble us. He does this be making us scrupulous, or by presenting us with a certain good that we must realize but which is beyond our present strength, or which is not what God asks of us – all to discourage us or to cause us to lose our peace.
He wants to convince us that we are not doing enough or that what we are doing we are not really doing for the love of God, or that the Lord is not happy with us, etc.
He would make us believe, for instance, that the Lord is asking such and such a sacrifice of us that we are incapable of doing, and this will trouble us greatly. It creates all sorts of scruples and worries in the conscience which we should purely and simply ignore, while throwing ourselves into the arms of God like small children.
When we lose peace for reasons similar to those we just mentioned, let us tell ourselves that the devil must be involved. Let’s try to regain our calm and, if we cannot do it by ourselves, we should open up to a spiritual person. The mere fact of speaking to another person will generally be enough to make our confusion disappear completely and to bring back our peace.
Regarding this spirit of freedom that should animate us in all our actions and decisions, let us conclude by listening to Saint Francis de Sales:
“Keep your heart open and always in the hands of Divine Providence, whether for great things or small, and obtain for your heart more and more the spirit of gentleness and tranquility. (Letter to Mme. de la Fléchère, 13 May 1609)
The word that I spoke to you so often was that you should not be too particular in the exercise of virtues, rather that you should pursue them briskly, openly, naively, in an old-fashioned way, with liberty, sincerity and grosso modo. It is because I fear the spirit of constraint and melancholy. It is my wish that you should have a large and open heart on the way to our Lord. (Letter to Mme, de Chantal, 1 November 1604)
“The Holy Family lived in a plain cottage among other working people, in a village perched on a hillside. Although they did not enjoy modern conveniences, the three persons who lived there made it the happiest home that ever was. You cannot imagine any of them at any time thinking first of himself. This is the kind of home a husband likes to return to and to remain in. Mary saw to it that such was their home. She took it as her career to be a successful homemaker and mother.”
-Fr. Lawrence G. Lovasik. The Catholic Family Handbook