I used to view progression as a series of steps. In my former view, once I had learned to overcome a specific weakness, I would leave it behind, not to be bothered by that sin again as I moved on to conquer new and more sophisticated temptations. But, there was a problem. When I would fall to that temptation again, whether it was immoral thoughts or pride or anger, resentment, jealousy or whatever, I would become frustrated–to the point of giving up–because I had fallen back to the bottom of the steps I had just climbed. How could I have fallen so far after having climbed so high?
My view is different now. I now see progression as more of a continuum. It is an upward sloping hill, but it’s not so much the sins that I leave behind as I ascend, as it is the light I gain. The bottom of the hill is darkness, the top is pure white light. As I go up, which requires that I willingly face the light and make efforts to move forward, I gain more light. But what has changed most about my view is the role of opposition in progression. Previously I viewed opposition associated with any specific sin as static–it was a fixed temptation associated with a specific sin to be overcome and left behind. Now I believe that as I move up the hill of light, Heavenly Father allows Lucifer to intensify his temptations in direct proportion to the light I have acquired. So rather than getting frustrated that certain temptations keep coming, sometimes with significantly increased intensity, I need to understand that such intensifications (which require significantly more faith to overcome than similar temptations related to the same sin previously) are an indication of spiritual progression, not regression.
I was frustrated yesterday when some feelings of enmity toward somebody who had hurt me kept coming into my heart and mind. I was frustrated, because I really felt like I had honestly forgiven that person, that the Savior had healed my hurt, and that His light had replaced the resentment that had initially welled up in my heart after the injury occurred. And then I realized, the thoughts and feelings weren’t originating in me. They were being sent to me from the devil to see if I would accept them. It was this experience, in part, that helped me understand the role of increased opposition as we ascend the hill of the Lord.
As we progress we must expect the intensity of temptation to increase, requiring consistent spiritual exertion and trust in the Lord. The beautiful part is that all of this occurs under the watchful eye of the Lord. He is the one that allows temptation’s intensity to increase in direct proportion to the light we acquire.