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.

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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.

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.

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.

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.