“The chief effect of love is to unite the hearts of those who love each other so that they have the same will. Hence the more we submit to God’s designs for us, the more we advance toward perfection. When we resist, we go backwards.”
Fr. Jean Baptiste Saint-Jure
The above comes from the excellent little spiritual classic, Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence.
Love unites hearts, and hearts united unite wills. It is the goal of the Christian heart to love God entirely and, as such, to unite one’s will to the will of God.
Thy will be done.
Be it done to me according to thy word.
Do whatever he tells you.
That is why St. Augustine of Hippo could advise with absolute confidence, “Love, then do what you will.” God is love, and if one truly loves, than one’s heart is entirely united with God’s own heart. United entirely with God’s heart, one’s will is entirely united to God’s will. So, those who truly love will only act according to God’s will.
But, here is the temptation: to mistake our own will for God’s will. Rather than submitting to God’s will out of love, we submit to our own will and convince ourselves that our will is God’s will. This is a common error in a pseudo-spiritual environment where people believe that the truth about God is assumed to emerge from within themselves rather than being revealed to them from outside of themselves. As a result, even many Christians are in the habit of reflecting on the Scriptures not for the purpose of considering God’s word and what He might be demanding of them or calling them to, but to justify and erroneously confirm the decisions and lifestyle they’ve already chosen.
Now, I don’t pretend to be an expert on the matter, but one way we can expect to know God’s will for us is if we are regularly surprised and made uncomfortable. God often calls us outside of ourselves, to stretch us and to expect more of ourselves than we are commonly wont to do. We like to be comfortable. We like to find our groove. Too often, however, a groove become a rut. God likes to knock us out of our ruts. In fact, I believe He finds great joy in doing so!
Another way of discerning God’s will for us is to consider the circumstances of our lives, especially those aspects or events of our lives over which we have little to no control. All that happens to us, the good and the bad, is according to His will and for the sake of our salvation. By responding to the circumstances of our lives with holy submission to God and even gratitude to God, we more and more shape ourselves according to God’s designs. Unfortunately, we are too eager to believe that what God wants for us is all good, all pleasure, all wellness and happiness, comfort and protection, even in this temporal realm. But, how can we really believe that when we see so often that those most dedicated to Him are suffering the most at the hands of a godless world? Consider the martyrs and the persecuted Church. Do we really believe that their hardships, sufferings and sacrifices are the result of God having abandoned them? Quite the opposite! Their trial by fire is testimony to God’s great love and His grace forging them to perfection. Yet, if we believe that God’s designs for us are only our temporal happiness and comfort, we must conclude that the martyrs are the least in conformity with His divine will and the least favored by Him.
This is utter foolishness! God does not try us beyond our ability to persevere. Given that, it ought to be obvious that those who are most comfortable, who enjoy great pleasures, wealth and honor among people are precisely those in whom God has least confidence. It takes little effort and less faith to hold firm to the Rock when we’re standing on the top, basking under the sun, far from the waves that regularly strike at the base. The holy and mighty ones are those enduring the torrent, gripping with everything they have to the One they know is their sure foundation, while the storm rages about them, posing a constant threat. Even still, it is the struggle that strengthens them.
It’s easy to see God’s will and divine beneficence in the good things that happen to us. It’s not so easy to see His will and blessing in the hardships. Yet, it is especially in those hardships that we have the opportunity to conform ourselves to His will. Christ was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and so won for us our salvation. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church. By holding firm to the Rock when the waves batter us, we become stronger and more effective witnesses to the faith. The word martyr means “witness.”
The more we love God, the more we will desire to do His will and the more our lives will reflect His will. The more we submit to God’s designs the more we advance toward perfection. Be perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Thy will be done on earth — and in me — as it is in heaven.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.