Wouldn’t it be so much easier to live a good life if it weren’t for our most troubling defects and the temptations that inevitably come? Well, our fallen nature militates against doing what is truly good (see Rom 7:15-19 and the CCC on concupiscence). What Kempis is telling us (1,11) is that when God allows enticements in our lives we are to look at these not with contempt but as an opportunity to trust in the Lord that His “grace is sufficient for you” (2 Cor 12:9). Think of it as exercise on the spiritual level: just as we lift weights to strengthen our muscles, so we encounter weighty spiritual challenges to strengthen our faith.
Today’s first reading (2 Sm 15:13-14, 30; 16:5-13) gives us just one of the consequences of David’s grievous sins surrounding the whole Bathsheba affair: his own son turns against him. So this certain character, Shimei, associated with David’s predecessor Saul, comes out with insults against David. The king is surrounded by his whole retinue, who wish to kill the man. So Shimei is either extraordinarily brave, crazy, or sent by God. David sees in this antagonist the latter: a messenger from the Lord, as we see in the headline. David views this entire embarrassing episode as punishment from God, an opportunity to do penance, and maybe even gain favor by his own humility and humiliation.
David’s approach to all of this provides an extraordinary lesson for us. How difficult is it for us to receive rebuke, in any way but particularly in a public manner, even when we are in the wrong? God works through our humble acceptance of correction and even humiliation to repair for the damage we’ve done. But accepting it well not only helps make up for our wrongdoing, it enhances our ability to avoid such bad actions in the future.
Consider what St. Teresa of Avila said about this:
I never heard anything bad said of me which I did not clearly realize fell short of the truth. If I had not sometimes – often, indeed – offended God in the ways they referred to, I had done so in many others, and I felt they had treated me far too indulgently in saying nothing about these. (Way of Perfection, 15 taken from spiritualdirection.com).
In our fallen state, this sentiment goes against every fiber of our being. But, with grace, nothing is impossible for us (see Lk 1:37).