Sacrificing Our Dearest Interests

God requires us to perform our duties, but he does not require us to be curious as to whether we are deserving or not. You give too much thought to yourself; you are too greatly concerned with yourself under the pious pretext of seeking advancement in the way of God. Forget yourself, to think only of him, and abandon yourself to the decrees of his divine Providence. For then he will himself make you progress, will purify and exalt you without a doubt, exactly as, when and in the degree, it shall please him. For what have we to do but to give him pleasure, and in all things and in all places to desire what he desires? We range far and wide in pursuit of perfection, while we have it almost at our door: namely, in our longing to do God’s will everything and never our own. Yet to reach this state of affairs we must renounce and sacrifice what, in one sense, are our dearest interests, and it is this that we are unwilling to do; for we would have God sanctify and perfect us in accordance with our own ideas and inclinations. What wretched, pitiful blindness! –from Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence, pg. 374, (emphasis mine)

Note here that Fr. de Caussade does not implore us to accomplish all that God desires, but only to desire all that God desires.   Is it not easy for us to get caught up in our checklists of life and to become discouraged when we inevitably do not finish all that we begin or complete it perfectly?  Desiring God’s will is much easier than completing the plans that we have designed for our own holiness. (Matthew 11:30). After all, it is God alone who makes us holy; our only credit to holiness is utter submission to his holy will, but even that is not done without the fantastic grace of God.

Even when we desire to surrender to God’s will, there remains attachments to our own vision of how to become as holy as we ought. But do we really know how holy we ought to become? Do we, in our blindness, really know how God intends to sanctify us? Do we let go all our “dearest interests” of what we think will be good for us, or do we allow God to lead us down a path that looks nothing like the one we had designed for ourselves?

It is no doubt difficult to let go of those things that we see as good, but surely we are not God, and we do not know the future. And so letting go of even those things that are good, requires a blind trust in the One that is all good, all-knowing, indeed Love himself.                (‎1 Corinthians 13:8-9, 13)

Spiritual Dryness

I am no more in love with the restless pursuit of alleviations of spiritual than of physical poverty and wretchedness. This arises from overmuch tenderness towards oneself. I long for strong and courageous souls able to endure the apparent absences of the heavenly Spouse–those signed to detach us from mere feelings, even from spiritual consolation. For God’s gifts are not God. He alone is all; he alone is worth all; he alone must be all for us. – from Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence, pg. 195 (emphasis mine)

Sometimes we may feel that God has abandoned us because we don’t experience joyful consolation. Sometimes we may feel like not praying because we just can’t find any words that seem to convey adequate praise toward God. (Truth be told, even on our best days of prayers, our words are most likely not adequate for our Most High Lord.)

Certainly God may remove consolation from us for various reasons. One of the reasons may be to test our faithfulness. Do we trust God even when life challenges us? Do we accept our suffering, trusting that God, in his goodness, will bring about good from it? Are we patient, waiting on God’s perfect timing to heal us? If we cannot answer yes to all of these questions, God may remove consolation so that we come to rely solely on him and not the the good feelings or circumstances that he provides for us.

God wants only the best for his children. Then why, if he himself is so much greater than his gifts, would he grace us with something less than himself? And maybe the better question to ask is why would we lower our dignity to accept something less than God offers?

God never abandons us. It is we who walk away from him. If we are feeling spiritually dry, let us yet remain with him, knowing that he has reason and that this too shall pass.

A God Who Cannot Refuse Us

Again, even if in certain circumstances you are in considerable doubt, ought that to make you despond? You must lift your heart to God who cannot refuse to give you guidance now that he has taken all other guides from you. Without hesitation you must make up your mind as to what in good faith you believe most expedient and most useful for souls, and most in accordance with God’s will. Whatever may happen afterwards, you will know that you have acted wisely, since you could not do better in the circumstances. You surely do not imagine that God asks the impossible? Our infinitely good God loves uprightness and simplicity; he is content when we do what we can, having previously and trustfully implored his divine guidance. –from Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence, pg. 311 (emphasis mine)

If we feel as though we are failing in a particular area of our lives, we should ask ourselves whether we have actually asked God for help. Often God may wait on the solution as he waits patiently for us to approach him.

However, maybe we have prayed and no answer was forthcoming — what then? Fr. de Caussade answers quite confidently that, “God…cannot refuse to give you guidance now that he has taken all other guides from you.” And so we soldier on in “good faith”, trusting that God does not ask the impossible of us.

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.

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.

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.

The Fallacy of Human Wisdom

Come what may, as St. Francis de Sales used to say, Long live Jesus!  I shall take sides with divine Providence even if human wisdom tear out her hair with rage.  When one is illuminated by heavenly light, one thinks very differently from most men, but what a source of peace, what power one finds in this way of thinking and looking at things!  How happy are the saints, how peacefully they live, and what miserable blind fools we are not to be willing to train ourselves to think as they do, preferring to be entombed in the thick darkness of this accursed human wisdom which makes us so wretched, blind, and guilty.  -from Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence, pg. 122 (emphasis mine)

Human wisdom must not be elevated above divine Providence. It is blind. When we think that our circumstances seem contrary to how a good God would work in our lives, we must realize that kind of thinking is pride making God someone who he is not. We would do well to practice the habit of distrust of ourselves, laying all of our cares at the feet of Jesus Christ on the cross.

Fr. de Caussade continues on the same page:

Let us study how to give all our care and attention to the task of conforming ourselves in all things to the holy will of God in spite of interior revolt. That revolt itself must be accepted in obedience to the will of God which permits it in order to accustom us to remain at all times and in all circumstances before him in a state of sacrifice by even an interior silence of respect, adoration, self-annihilation, submission and love, and with a self-abandonment full of confidence. (emphasis mine)

This must be a conscious effort on our part to submit to the grace of God.  The sacrifice does not go away (but may become easier as we advance in the spiritual life).  We must accept it as our new reality.  And should we grow weary, we should offer our fatigue to God, always remembering that we are happiest when we submit to the will of God.

A Prayer for Blind Self-Abandonment

My God, if this truth were once for all well known, with what blind self-abandonment should we not submit ourselves to thy divine Providence.  What peace and tranquility of heart we should enjoy in every circumstance, not only regarding external events, but also with reference to our interior states of soul.  Even in cases where the painful vicissitudes through which God makes us pass are a punishment for our infidelities, we should say to ourselves that God has willed it thus by his permissive will,  and we must humbly submit; we should detest our fault and accept its painful and humiliating consequences, as St. Francis de Sales so often advises us.

How many troubles and useless anxieties injurious to our peace of heart and spiritual advancement would not this one principle, rightly understood, dispel!  Shall I never succeed with the help of grace in instilling into your mind and still more into your heart this great principle of faith, so sweet, so consoling, so loving and so pacifying?  -from Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence, pg. 121-122 (emphasis mine)

I certainly don’t claim to be an expert or to have mastered blind self-abandonment, however, God has brought me a long way since I began. In the beginning, certain passages would resonate with me, and I would to commit to practice them. Often, though, life got in the way, and it was difficult to practice those habits.

Of course, everything — including self-abandonment — that we try fails when we attempt it on our own.

The turning point came when I began to write passages from the book on a prominent place that I would look to all day.  I’d read the passage, often a prayer, several times a day. We need to ask for the grace of self-abandonment and to be reminded that we are not in control.

Here is one such prayer from Fr. de Caussade:

My God, may all thy most holy intentions be accomplished in me and never my own; may they be accomplished because while infinitely just in themselves, they are also infinitely advantageous for me.  I know that thou canst will only the greatest good of thy creatures so long as they remain submissive to thy orders.  May my own will never be accomplished except when it is in perfect agreement with thine, because otherwise it can only be harmful to me.  If ever, my God, it should happen through ignorance or passion that I persist in desires contrary to thine, may I be disappointed and punished, not by thy justice, by thy pity and great mercy. -from Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence, pg. 122 (emphasis mine)

This prayer not only asks God to help us surrender our lives to him, but it should also instill in us a great confidence in God. For even when we walk through suffering, we must know that God only allows it for the good of our souls.

How We Bind God

Let us rely solely upon his fatherly care; let us surrender ourselves to it utterly for all our temporal and spiritual and even our eternal welfare. For such is true and complete self-abandonment, that binds God to take charge of everything in regard to those who abandon everything to him, thus paying homage to his sovereign dominion, his power, his wisdom, his goodness, his mercy and all his infinite perfections. Amen, Amen. -from Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence, pg 303 (emphasis mine)

We “bind God to take charge of everything” in our lives when we completely and utterly abandon ourselves to him.  He is so generous with his help when we surrender that we cannot help but want to give back all that and more, if he would but allow it.