We Must Rely on God, Not Others

A mind enlightened by faith inclines the heart to submit to the plans of divine Providence who allows good men to cause each other suffering that they may be detached from one another. On such occasions we have only resignation and self-abandonment to God in which to find our strength. For both of these leave us unaffected by the apparent reasons we have for being perturbed. -from Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence, pg. 308-309

God wants us to rely solely on him. Not others. Not ourselves. Not this world. He is a jealous God loving us so much and desiring to give us only good things. He wants us with him so very much that he allows his children to suffer — painful as it is for him — so that at the end of this life, we may join him for all eternity in Paradise.

A Prayer When We Are Suffering

‘O God, you have allowed this to be; may your adorable desires and decrees be accomplished in all things: I make you a sacrifice of this difficulty and all its consequences; it shall take whatever form it pleases you: you are the Master; may you be blessed for all things and in all things. Fiat!

‘For love of you, with all my heart I pardon the person who is the cause of my suffering; and, to show the sincerity of my feelings towards her, I beseech you to grant her every kind of grace, blessing and happiness.’  When your heart cries out against this, say: ‘O God, you see my wretchedness; at least I long to have all these feelings, and I implore you for your grace.’  Once you have done this, think no more of it; if unworthy sentiments continue to torment you, resign yourself to endure that torment and so comply with the divine will that allows it, contenting yourself with renewing your offering in the depths of your soul. This is a noble means of sharing in the chalice of our good Master, Jesus Christ. -from Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence, pg. 310 (emphasis mine)

This is such a beautiful prayer, but how often does our impatience, fear of failure, or vexations about others who may have wronged us drive out such sentiments? If we were to remain focused on Jesus and his passion, we could more readily accept our own suffering. Prayers like this repeated again and again can help us grow to trust in God and his perfect plan to bring about our salvation.

When We Feel That We Are Abandoning Ourselves to God Poorly

You love, you say, meanly and poorly–blessed be the poor in spirit. This is but an evidence of your interior humility and holy self-hatred.–Your life, you say too, has no props; that is to say it is lived in pure spirit and pure faith.–What happier state than that, though its happiness be hidden from the soul?–You walk blindly and at hazard, you remark.–In this lies pure self-abandonment: you do not feel it; you are not even aware of it, since if you felt and were aware of it, it would be not self-abandonment but the firmest guarantee of your salvation that you could desire. For what greater assurance could you have than the knowledge that throughout time and eternity you are surrendered to God? Self-abandonment is a virtue whose full merit can be acquired only in so far as you are ignorant of the existence of the merit. Live then at peace in the midst of your fears, your difficulties and your obscurities. Let your trust, which must ask neither to see nor to feel be altogether in God, in and through Jesus Christ. I pray that he may be always with you. -from Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence, pg. 267-268 [Fr. de Caussade responding to Sr. de Bousmard ] (emphasis mine)

We don’t know exactly what Sr. de Bousmard wrote to Fr. de Caussade, but perhaps she was lamenting how she did not  feel she was advancing in the spiritual life. Fr. de Caussade notes to her that God may well be hiding any progress that she is making so that she clings to Him all the more.

God may keep us from knowing the true extent of our piety also to save us from our pride. We will know we are growing in virtue by whether we are moving toward God. Knowing our state in the spiritual life, save for sin, is not as important as seeking God and his holy will in all things.

Relinquishing Our Fears

You must not harbour the slightest doubt that God, who never abandons those who abandon themselves to him, will fail to inspire her whose duty it is to reveal God’s will to you as to what is most needful for yourself. One of three things will inevitably happen: either you will be given relief; or God will preserve and strengthen you; or he will allow you to die, taking you to himself from out this miserable life. -from Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence, pg. 266 [Fr. de Caussade is writing to Sr. Marie-Henriette de Bousmard advising her that since God has inspired her superior, she need not fear her orders.] (emphasis mine)

When we are fearful may be the most difficult time to abandon ourselves to God. When we can see no solution to an inevitable problem, it is painful to let go and be unafraid.

However, God does not want us to abandon ourselves to him only when it is easy. He wants us to trust in him even when we don’t know where the road ahead will lead. But we do have a map: as Fr. de Caussade writes, God will deliver us from our fear, strengthen us in our trials, or remove us from this miserable life. We know that God will do one of three things for those who abandon themselves to him, so we need only wait on him and his perfect timing.

Trusting in God Instead of Our Merits

The fear of death and the judgement is good, provided it does not go so far as to trouble and disturb you; if it did so it would be an illusion of the devil.  After all, why should you be troubled?  Because you have not yet done what you have not been able to do?  Does God demand the impossible?  Beware here; the point is a very delicate one, for it looks as if there were a desire to acquire merits in order to trust in them.  That is not true confidence which can only be founded on the mercy of God and the infinite merits of Jesus Christ.  Any other confidence would be vain and presumptuous, being based on our own nothingness and I know not what wretched good works that are worthless in the eyes of God.  Without counting in any way on ourselves, we must try to accomplish all that he asks of us and hope only in his goodness and the merits of Jesus Christ his Son.  -from Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence, pg. 176 (emphasis mine)

Our works are not our own, save for sin. The things that we are unable to accomplish are not about our abilities or lack of, as much as they are about God working in our lives in a unique and particular way. It is God who gives or takes away talent and ability. He does this not to make us unhappy, but rather to draw us nearer to him. The closer we are to God, the more we focus on him.  He desperately wants us to join him in Heaven, but he knows that we must first seek his kingdom.

 

The Illusion of Self-Reliance

From the time when it is God’s pleasure to impart this clear knowledge of himself in combination with the humility which his blessed grace inspires, we expect nothing further from self but everything from him. We rely no more upon our good works but upon God’s mercy and upon the infinite merits of  Jesus Christ. There you have the true Christian hope which saves our souls. Every other spiritual state, every other spiritual inclination, involves much grave risk to salvation; whereas to hope only in God, to rely only upon God, in and through Jesus Christ, is the hard rock, the firm and lasting foundation that no illusion, self-love or temptation can threaten. -from Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence, pg. 264-265 (emphasis mine)

When we rely on ourselves, we are not serving God, rather we are serving ourselves. Self-reliance causes us to focus on ourselves, hope in our own talents, and work in vain toward a goal that is self-serving. In contrast, we would do better by focusing on God, giving glory to him for our talents, and working always toward his will.

We must firmly commit to renouncing reliance on ourselves. We can do this by seeking God alone instead of pursuing our own goals. If we remain securely fixed on him, we will accomplish all that he desires. Only then shall we know true happiness in this life.

On Practicing the Habit of Peace

As for peace of heart, you must make a habit of seeking, finding and enjoying it in the upper part of the soul, in the apex of the spirit, in spite of the perturbation, rebelliousness and restlessness of the lower and less spiritual part. The latter must be held of no account, since God ignores what happens in it. In St. Teresa’s words it may be called the courtyard of the soul’s inner castle [Interior Castle by St. Teresa of Avila]. Profit from this precept which all the saints have adopted. Act like a man who, finding himself among the unclean animals and vermin of his castle yard, ascends hastily to the upper rooms with their beautiful decorations and cultured people. You also must ascend into the sanctuary of the soul, and endeavour never to leave it, since it is there God has made his permanent dwelling-place. -from Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence, pg. 273 (bold emphasis mine)

These words from Fr. de Caussade should give us pause for reflection as we set upon practicing the habit of peace. And we really must make our peaceful state a habit, for if we don’t, all too often, our emotions will overwhelm our senses and we may be inclined, because of our pride, to move away from God.

Whenever we feel the “perturbation, rebelliousness and restlessness” of which Fr. de Caussade writes, we can practice the habit of a peaceful state by praying the following prayer:

My divine king, my great sovereign, it is you who will, or do not will, this thing. For me that is enough: bless you for all things and in all things. -from Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence, pg. 194, footnote about Sister Anne-Catherine de Preudhomme, who prayed this prayer whatever befell her.

How Do We Know That We Are Doing God’s Will?

The acquiescence, submission and union of our will with that of God effect our perfection to such a degree that nothing remains for us to do except to hold steadfastly to these in all things, through all things and for all things. This accomplished, all is accomplished. Without this, prayers, austerities, works (even heroic works) and sufferings are nothing in God’s sight, since the one way of pleasing him is in all things to wish only for what he wills. The more involuntary opposition this complete resignation encounters in us, the more merit it has, because of the greater effort and more thorough sacrifice required.  -from Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence, pg. 272-273 (emphasis mine)

St. Augustine is quoted as saying, “Love God and do what you please!” When we love God, we desire to do what pleases him.  But how can we always know what is pleasing to God? After all, we may have to make a decision between two good things. But when we desire God’s will, we need not worry whether we are doing his will as long as we are peacefully accepting all that he offers us in our lives. If God is giving us the choice between two good things, then let us pick what we want, for either choice will move us toward God, which is the direction toward which our hearts should be moving.

This may be quite a foreign idea to those of us who like to do the right thing, to be in control, or to not make mistakes. But even here, we can find encouragement in that when our surrender is more difficult, it is also more meritorious.

When We Can Do Nothing Else, We Can Desire God Alone

For you must know that in God’s sight our desires are, in the words of St. Augustine, true prayer. This leads Bossuet to say that a cry confined in the depths of the heart has as much worth as a cry raised to heaven, since God perceives our most secret desires and the very inclinations of our hearts. -from Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence, pg. 272 (emphasis mine)

It is worth noting again that our feelings do not necessarily represent a peaceful state. Feelings can be deceiving; we may not be happy about a particular struggle, but happiness does not equal peace. Peace is an unshakable confidence in God knowing that he is always working toward the good of our souls and that he will never abandon us.

And so, if we find ourselves in a particular situation where we feel that we can give nothing to God, we need only desire that his will be done in our lives. Should we feel weak even in our desires, we can take hope in Fr. de Caussade’s words, “…God perceives our most secret desires and the very inclinations of our hearts.” 

Rest in God. He knows how weak we are, and he does not ask for more than his grace provides.

Accepting Our Suffering

…our life is like the wanderings of the Israelites through the desert with their countless tribulations and well-merited punishments at the hands of divine justice. Let us emulate the righteous Jews in recognizing God’s equity in the punishments he imposes upon us; let us look upon our afflictions, whether general or particular, as God’s work and not man’s injustice. God, St. Augustine said, would permit no evil that his power and his goodness could not avail to turn to the great advantage of his elect.  Let us, then, make use of present ills to avoid those that are everlasting and to deserve the rewards promised to faith and to patience. The time will come and that shortly, when we shall say with David: ‘We have rejoiced for the days in which thou has humbled us: for the years in which we have seen evils.’ -from Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence, pg 194 (emphasis mine)

As long as we are in this life, we will suffer; some of us, it may seem, suffer more than others. But God knows each of us intimately, and invites us to accept his love in different ways. Although it seems counter-intuitive, suffering is one of the ways that God brings us closer to himself. Rather than try to eradicate our suffering through extraordinary means, we would do well to accept it as a sacrifice to God.

We not only practice humility when we peacefully accept suffering, but also when we forfeit understanding of why we must suffer. For who are we to reject the hardships or joys that God offers us? Who are we to question the most high God? We must trust that God allows what will ultimately be for our good.

A well-known analogy is one of God as a tapestry weaver. On the underside of his tapestry, the threads criss-cross chaotically, the colors are unmatched, and the picture is indiscernible. However, when the right side of the tapestry is viewed, the threads are woven  into a magnificent picture that exhibits beauty and order.  Our interconnecting lives and circumstances are the underside of the tapestry. Underneath, some threads are threads of suffering; some of joy. They don’t always make sense. But God, the magnanimous weaver, uses each thread to draw us ever nearer to himself, if we would allow him to weave us as he wills.