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.

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.

Sin and God’s Will

Writing to Sr. Marie-Thérèse de Vioménil, Fr. de Caussade counsels her regarding sin:

You cannot, you say, report anything to me, other than your wretchedness. I can well believe you, since, as long as we are in this life, we can but find ourselves for ever most wretched and imperfect. Do you desire a remedy that will effectively cure all this wretchedness?  Here you have it: while abominating the sins which are the cause of them, cherish, or at least accept, their consequences, namely, the self-abjection and self-scorn which follow them. Yet in every case do so without vexation or grief, anxiety or discouragement. Do not forget that God, though he does not desire sin, makes a very useful instrument of it to keep us at all times in abjection and self-scorn.  But for this bitter remedy we should soon give way to the intoxication of self-love. -from Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence, pg. 357 (emphasis mine)

We must realize that we can do nothing to draw nearer to God by our own merits, other than cooperating with his grace. It is God who will give us the grace to be freed from our sins. Gods needs only our desire–the surrendering of our own will–to perfect us.  If we remain fixed on him, desiring to be perfect as he is perfect, he, who is the consummate healer, will free us from iniquity.

Psalm 51:17 A sacrifice to God is an afflicted spirit: a contrite and humbled heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

Unreserved Self-Abandonment

If God at times takes tranquillity away, let it go with all the rest.  For ever God remains, and it is enough to love him with the greater purity in that he alone remains.  At such times, therefore, by those interior deprivations which nature so abominates as its final death, its ultimate annihilation and its final loss. Let us be patient. Fiat! Fiat! Only by the ways of loss, self-abnegation, unreserved self-abandonment, do we make steady progress towards perfection. –from Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence, pg. 414

Unreserved self-abandonment implies that abandonment alone is not enough. With haste we must throw caution to the wind and look only to our Lord Jesus. Not saintly thoughts, not good deeds, but Jesus Christ alone must be our guide, our light, our center.

Jesus, who loves us without fail.

Jesus who never goes away.

Jesus, who already knows all the sin in us — past, present, and future — adores us in an intimate way.  There is no act, thought, idea or even prayer that surpasses him.

On the same page, Father de Caussade continues [he is writing to one of the sisters]:

It is precisely the lively consciousness you have of your extreme frailty which must have been one of the things which helped you most, since, in making you realize that you are liable to fall at any moment, it instills in you a thorough distrust of yourself, and enables you to put into practice a blind trust in God. It is in this sense that the Apostle said: “For when I feel most weak, then am I more powerful, because the acute sense of my weakness clothes me, through a more complete trust, with all the strength of Jesus Christ.” (emphasis mine)

It is only when we recognize and firmly acknowledge our weakness and inability to do anything apart from God that we stop relying on ourselves and develop this “blind trust in God” of which Fr. de Caussade speaks. Of course, God can work however he chooses, however, this distrust of ourselves and trust in God will more than likely be a gradual change.

Again, it is important to remember that the recognition of our sinfulness and frailty is a grace given to us by God, and by extension, the trust in God that comes about because of it is also from him.