Violent Temptations to Despondancy

As for the terrifying temptation of which your letter gives me an account, I confess that it would be difficult to imagine one more dreadful, either in itself or in the particular circumstances. Take good care, nevertheless, not to allow yourself to despond. Realize in the first place that these, the most sorrowful of all ordeals, are those which God usually constrains those he most loves to undergo.

Your need, in truth, is to be forever afraid, yet showing neither grief nor dejection, and leaning far more towards trust. Never forget that the Almighty, who furthers his plans in his hidden ways, at such times possesses himself of the soul’s recesses and divinely uphold it, unperceived by ourselves.

Plainly your terror-inspiring conception of God’s justice and the anguish and interior bitterness that comes of it are another of God’s ordeals. It is as plain that the peace and tranquility which go with these sorrowful feelings of yours spring from the submission which God maintains in your soul’s depths. Such peace and the interior conviction that all you do in no way serves to bring you nearer heaven are less difficult to understand than you imagine…That peace is of God; it dwells in the depths of the soul, or as St. Francis de Sales says, in the apex of the spirit…

That terrifying conviction is no more than the spirited assault the demon is allowed to make upon the soul’s lower part, or, to express it differently, upon its exterior and sense-conscious part. It is the diabolical assault that constitutes the soul’s martyrdom; while it is the submission God grants it that ensures a peace that owes nothing to the senses. Say unceasingly with a firm will: “God will make of me all that it pleases him, yet in the meantime my constant wish is to love and serve him as best I may, and to put my hope in him; I would keep that hope even though I saw myself at the very gates of hell.”

It is a matter of faith that God never forsakes those who surrender themselves to him and who put their full trust in him. Repeat, therefore: “He is the God of my salvation, and never shall my salvation be more assured than when I entrust it to his hands by placing my full trust in his infinite goodness, since of myself I am capable only of coming to perdition and spoiling everything.” -from Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence, pg. 401-403 (all emphasis mine.)

Our senses, which reside in the lower part of our soul, are really quite strong. They allow us to perceive the presence of God in our lives. They can also hide the presence of God in our lives. When the latter happens, we may feel a strong temptation to despond of God’s grace. However, when God allows our senses — in the lower part of our soul — to hide his providential care, he invariably increases our faith, making it inconceivable to us that God has abandoned us.

Therefore, while we do not sensually perceive God’s presence, our faith, which God has freely given and placed in the higher part of our soul, will not allow us to believe that he is anywhere but carrying us along the path that he has chosen for our good.

We must continually return to abandoning ourselves through an act of the will, which has more merit than an act of desire catapulted alone by the consolation of God’s presence.

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