An Offering of Ourselves to God

…take the case, he [St. Francis de Sales] said, of the worst sinner in the world who with his dying breath makes ungrudging offering of his life to God by the complete surrender of himself to God’s divine purpose and his beneficent Providence. No matter how great that sinner’s crimes, God would in no case condemn him. I, too, believe this, since such an offering is a perfect act of love, able, like baptism or martyrdom, of itself to wipe away all sins. Let us then frequently perform these acts of love by restoring to God’s custody all that he has lent us since he could not give it to us in our own right. And since in the language of Jesus Christ we must once more become as children, let us emulate those little ones whose father, as part of their training, asks them to return one or more of the toys and the sweets which he has given them. Only silliness or selfishness will prevent us from saying to him: dear Father, take what you want–they’re all yours. Actually the child gives what is not his to give. Yet his father’s heart is moved by these small indications of a lovable disposition. He calls the little one his dear and beloved child, he kisses it; from that time onward, towards that child he is even more generous than before. When God gives us the opportunity of making an offering to himself, this is the attitude he in his kindness adopts towards us. -from Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence, pg. 186-187 (emphasis mine)

All suffering is difficult, but physical illness may be especially challenging because it is hard to see with the eyes of God when we are distracted by our own pain. As a result, we turn inward, nursing our wounded pride that such an assault would dare be upon us. In short, we feel sorry for ourselves.

Physical suffering limits our ability to do great things or even simple things — at least physically. But when we get mired in our own selves and what we are now unable to do, we fail to realize that all that God asks from us is a simple fiat: a surrender of ourselves — our whole, physical selves — to him. Short of this, he doesn’t ask us to do anything else; that is a charge that we put upon ourselves to serve our own pride.

It would do us well to remember that we are not entitled to good health necessarily. This, too, is something God gives and takes away as he wills. And if we freely offer to him what is not even ours to give (our whole selves), God is moved to look upon our feeble offering kindly and with a generous heart.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Great Principles of Suffering

Writing to Sr. Marie-Thérèse de Vioménil, Fr. de Caussade writes about the great principles of suffering:

I sympathize with you on the continuation of your cross, but I should do so much more if you were not able to profit by it, at least by making, as they say, a virtue of necessity.  Remember our great principles: (1) That there is nothing so small or apparently trifling, even the fall of a leaf, that is not ordained or permitted by God; (2) that God is sufficiently wise, good, powerful and merciful to turn the most seemingly disastrous events to the good and profit of those who are capable of adoring and humbly accepting all these manifestations of his divine and adorable will. 

As to the grave trouble of which you speak, hang it on your cross like an extra weight with which divine Providence permits you to burden yourself, and say two fiats instead of one. After this, remain in peace in the higher part of your soul whatever the storms and tempests devastating your lower nature. It is as if you were at the bottom of some great mountain where torrents of rain and hail are pouring down, while on the summit the weather is beautiful.  Remain on those heights so as to be protected from lightning and other disagreeable mishaps. -from Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence, pg. 123 (emphasis mine)

Submission is required despite our feelings and inclinations toward rebellion and distrust. God only requires our desire to submit to his holy will; he doesn’t require that we feel wonderful about it. However, distressing feelings should not deter our peace. It seems to be a paradox, but we must understand that peace is not a feeling; it is confidence in God’s mercy and knowledge that our lives are ordained by God alone.

Remembering the great principles of suffering noted above, we can find peace in the goodness and mercy of our Lord, knowing that when we are abandoned to him, he will not abandon us.

To Suffer Humbly

Know…that you are to thank God, as though for a grace, for what you suffer meanly and weakly, that is to say, without much courage.  At such times you feel overcome by your ills, upon the verge of giving way to them, inclined to grumble about them and to yield to the rebelliousness of your human nature.  Indeed, this is a true grace and a great grace at that, since to suffer this is to suffer with humility and with no great spirit.  If, instead, you feel a measure of courage, a measure of strength and conscious resignation, your heart is puffed up by these, and you become, yourself unaware, full of trust in yourself, interiorly proud and presumptuous. -from Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence, pg 298 [Fr. de Caussade is writing to Sr. Marie-Thérèse de Vioménil] (emphasis mine)

God is so good to us! Where at once we are inclined to condemn ourselves because we do not suffer with quiet humility as the Saints did, we can take comfort in God that he would keep us from the sin of pride were we to laud the accomplishment of suffering well.

Fr. de Caussade continues to encourage Sr. de Vioménil:

In such a state as yours, however, we draw near to God, altogether weak, humiliated and disconcerted at having suffered so feebly.  This truth is sure and comforting, essentially interior, and little known.  Remember it on all those occasions upon which, feeling more keenly the weight of your tribulations and sufferings, you feel your weakness also, looking always inward in peace and simplicity to all that God wills; for this is the most satisfying way of suffering. You must apply this rule in every painful ordeal, and recall it particularly in the midst of those daily difficulties that come your way through the person you find trying, and at all times when you feel antagonistic towards others. -from Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence, pg. 298-299 (emphasis mine)

Fr. de Caussade describes this truth as “little known”.  To save us from our wretched self-love, God mercifully works in and through us though we do not perceive it.