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.