"The nearer a person approaches the Lord, a greater power will be manifested by the adversary to prevent the accomplishment of His purposes." —Joseph Smith
I've observed a phenomenon in my life and those of my clients. The nearer we get to blessings, the closer we are to achieving our potential, and the more positive influence we have on our fellow beings, it is then that opposition hits us with the most force.
If you're feeling slammed by personal weakness, mistakes, temptations, or just life, recognize that the defense always hits hardest when you're near the end zone. It is when you're about to accomplish the most good that the adversary fights you the hardest.
Abraham and Moses Faced Hell's Opposition
We see this throughout the scriptures. Just after God covenanted with Abraham to give him posterity as numerous as the stars (and therefore as Abraham was preparing to receive this blessing) we read in the Bible that, "an horror of great darkness fell upon him" (Genesis 15:12).
We read in the Pearl of Great Price that, before Moses delivered the children of Israel from bondage in Egypt, he went toe-to-toe with Lucifer, who commanded Moses to worship him. When Moses refused and affirmed his loyalty to God, Satan unleashed his fury.
"And it came to pass that Moses began to fear exceedingly; and as he began to fear, he saw the bitterness of hell. Nevertheless, calling upon God, he received strength, and he commanded, saying: Depart from me, Satan, for this one God only will I worship, which is the God of glory.
"And now Satan began to tremble, and the earth shook; and Moses received strength, and called upon God, saying: In the name of the Only Begotten, depart hence, Satan" (Moses 1:20-21).
The devil left, Moses beheld God's glory, and he was endowed with power to smite the waters and deliver his people from slavery (see Moses 1:12-26). He faced strongest resistance just before he was to do the greatest good. So it is with us.
Christ's Victory Over the Forces of Darkness
As our Savior atoned for sin and death, beginning in Gethsemane, continuing on the cross, and culminating in the Resurrection, he faced off with the opposition of Satan in full force. President John Taylor taught that Jesus "had struggled against the powers of darkness that had been let loose upon him there [in Gethsemane]; placed below all things, His mind surcharged with agony and pain, lonely and apparently helpless and forsaken, in his agony the blood oozed from His pores” (The Mediation and Atonement, pp. 149–50).
Elder James E. Talmage explained that "in that hour of anguish Christ met and overcame all the horrors that Satan, ‘the prince of this world’ could inflict. The frightful struggle incident to the temptations immediately following the Lord’s baptism was surpassed and overshadowed by this supreme contest with the powers of evil" (Jesus the Christ, p. 613).
The Redeemer was opposed by Lucifer His whole life. But it was when He was nearest to accomplishing His mission and doing the most good that He faced "all the horrors" that Satan could inflict. The same is true for us. It is when we are nearest to the blessings, accomplishments, and empowerment to do good that we are the greatest threat to the forces of darkness, and they hit us with everything they've got.
Satan Attempted to Stop the Restoration
It was just before his world-changing vision of The Father and the Son that Joseph Smith was attacked by the adversary:
"I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed for a time to me as if I were doomed to sudden destruction.
"But exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction—not to an imaginary ruin but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I never before felt in any being- just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light exactly above my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me. It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound" (Joseph Smith-History 1:15-17).
You Will Win If...
C.S. Lewis shared that “a silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find the strength of the German army by fighting against it, not by giving in. You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it not by lying down… We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it” (Mere Christianity, 1952).
You are not a bad person for being tempted, for wrestling with temptation, or for getting knocked down by sin. In fact, as Lewis said, the path to victory requires taking the hits and fighting the good fight against our natural instincts in favor of “a more excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:31). God himself revealed the key to victory. In addition to calling on Him in fervent, sincere prayer, He counseled:
"For verily I say unto you, blessed is he that keepeth my commandments, whether in life or in death; and he that is faithful in tribulation, the reward of the same is greater in the kingdom of heaven. Ye cannot behold with your natural eyes, for the present time, the design of your God concerning those things which shall come hereafter, and the glory which shall follow after much tribulation. For after much tribulation come the blessings. Wherefore the day cometh that ye shall be crowned with much glory; the hour is not yet, but is nigh at hand" (Doctrine and Covenants 58:2-4).
If you're getting pummeled, it's because great things are imminent. So get up if you've been knocked down. Keep your eye on the goal line. Run the Coach's plays as found in His playbook. They work and they'll lead you to victory.
Lead imagine and other images from LDS.org
Jonathan Decker is a licensed marriage and family therapist and clinical director of Your Family Expert. He moonlights as the “Mormon Movie Guy,” reviewing Hollywood films from a Latter-day Saint perspective. He offers daily Gospel insights in his Facebook group Ask a Mormon Therapist.