People find power intoxicating—political power, spending power, physical power, access to powerful people and things, and so on. More than a few spiritual books exist with “power” in the title. All of this is an appeal to our dislike for weakness and desire for transformation: we want to tap into strength that can change us. Valuing power and strength is clearly not wrong. But it is spiritually deadly to seek them apart from God.
The story of ongoing idolatry in the Old Testament is really a history of man’s dark desire for demonic assistance in getting power over himself, others, nature, and material things. The “graven” images of pagan gods and goddesses were nothing more than symbols of the things that fallen people covet most: power, wealth, military conquest, and sexual indulgence.
When these get a grip on the soul, the process of turning back to God makes one feel completely at the mercy of “the powers, . . . the world rulers of this present darkness, . . . the spiritual hosts of wickedness” (cf. Eph 6:12). But “by the strength which God supplies” (1 Pt 4:11) is the motto of the recovering sinner, the saint in-the-making. Or among the Psalter’s numerous invocations to God as “my strength”:
The Lord is my strength and my shield;
in him my heart trusts;
so I am helped, and my heart exults,
and with my song I give thanks to him. (Ps 28:7)
If, as St. Josemaría tells us, “Our Lord wants us to rely on him for everything,” then we ourselves need to be convinced of our need for such radical dependence. It must be “glaringly evident to us that without him we can do nothing, whereas with him we can do all things.”