Q: Pray for me, my Father, I am very much disturbed by thoughts of sexual sin, despondency, and fear; and a thought says to me that I should converse with a brother to whom I feel attracted when I see him, lest by my silence I give him occasion for suspicion. I feel likewise that the demons are somehow pressing me, and I fall into fear.
A: Brother! You are not yet instructed in warfare with the enemy, which is why there come to you thoughts of fear, despondency, and sexual sin. Stand against them with a firm heart, for combatants, unless they labor, are not crowned, and warriors, unless they show the King their skills in battles, do not become worthy of honors. Remember what David was like. Do you not also sing: Test me, O Lord, and try me, kindle my inward parts and my heart (Ps. 25:2)? And again: If a regiment arm itself against me, my heart will not fear. If warfare shall rise up against me, I will hope in him (Ps. 26:3). Likewise, concerning fear: For if I should go in the midst of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me (Ps. 22:4) And concerning despondency: If the spirit of the powerful one should come upon thee, do not leave thy place (Eccl. 10:4).
Do you not wish to be skilled? But a man who is not tested by temptations is not skilled. It is battles that make a man skilled. The work of of a monk consists of enduring battles and opposing them with manfulness of heart. But since you do not know the cunning traps of the enemy, he brings thoughts of fear and weakens your heart. You must know that God will not allow against you battles and temptations above your strength; the Apostle also teaches this, saying: Faithful is the Lord, Who will not leave you to be tempted more than you can bear (1 Cor. 10:13).
Brother! I also in my youth was many times and powerfully tempted by the demon of sexual sin, and I labored against such thoughts, contradicting them and not agreeing with them, but presenting before my very eyes the eternal tortures. For five years I acted thus every day, and God relieved me of these thoughts. This warfare is abolished by unceasing prayer with weeping.
And the fact that the demons are pressing you proceeds from their envy; if they could, they would chase you out of your cell also; but God does not allow them to take possession of you, for they do not have the authority for this. God could swiftly relieve you, but then you would not begin to oppose another passion [when it comes]. May the demons not weaken you so as turn your attention to a brother (to whom you are attracted), or to converse with him; but if you should happen unexpectedly to come together with him, against your desire, restrain your glance with fear and decency and do not listen attentively to his voice. And if this brother, out of ignorance, should himself begin to speak with you or sit next to you, then skillfully avoid him, but not suddenly, rather with decorum. Say to your thought: “Remember the terrible Judgment of God and the shame which will then overtake those who are attracted by these shameful passions.” Compel your thought, and you will receive help, by the prayers of the Saints, and God will have mercy on you. Do not be a child in mind, but a child in malice (1 Cor. 14:20); in mind, O brother, be perfect. Pay heed to yourself, as to how you will meet God. Amen. (Saints Barsanuphius and John: Guidance Toward Spiritual Life. Answers to Questions of Disciples, Question 255)