The joy of conforming to the will of God

“Why is loving God a source of contentment and happiness?”

Last week, I examined the writings of St. Alphonsus Ligouri on the importance of the virtue of living in conformity with the will of God. To the holy man, living according to one’s will and not of God’s is the same as idolatry, since in that case, instead of worshipping the divine will, he worships, in a certain sense, his own. The greatest glory, then, that we can give to God is the fulfilment in everything of his holy will. But as St. Alphonsus makes unmistakably clear, the chief point lies in our embracing the will of God in all things which befall us, not only when they are favorable, but when they are contrary to our desires.

For St. Alphonsus, he who acts in this way does not only become a saint, but he enjoys, even in this world, a perpetual peace. He abandons himself to the will of God, and receives all things, whether prosperous or adverse, as from his hands. To those who love God, all things work unto good. Those who love God are ever content, because their whole pleasure lies in the accomplishment, even in things that run counter to themselves, of the divine will; and hence even afflictions themselves are converted into their contentment, by the thought that in the acceptance of them they are giving pleasure to their Lord whom they love.

Why is loving God a source of contentment and happiness? The treatise of St. Alphonsus asserts that: “Souls that are truly resigned if they are in a state of humiliation, desire this; if they suffer poverty, they desire to be poor; in short, whatever happens to them, they desire it all, and therefore they are, in this life, happy. A holy man once said: When cold or heat, rain or wind, prevails, he who is in a state of union with the divine will says, I wish it to be cold, I wish it to be hot; I wish the wind to blow, the rain to fall, because God wishes it so. Does poverty, persecution, sickness, death arrive, I also wish to be poor, persecuted, sick; I wish even to die because God wishes it thus.”

This pandemic is a source of joy or misfortune for us depending on how much we are in harmony with the will of God. To those who are detached from God’s love, the sickness and privations that it brings is a curse that must be condemned and avoided at all costs. But for those who surrender themselves to the will of God, the pandemic is an opportunity and a unique occasion to obtain blessings of peace and tranquillity. For the latter, this adversity can liberate them, from all sins, concupiscence, and baser passions that bring us closer to God that brings peace and contentment. In the end, death, persecution, injustice, and nakedness cannot separate us from the love of God, the ever-faithful one.

Saint Teresa of Avila advises and reminds of what the will of God is:

“Don’t fear that it means He will give you riches, or delights, or honors, or all these earthly things. His love for you is not that small, and He esteems highly what you give Him. He wants to repay you well, for He gives you His kingdom while you are still alive (…) Well, see here, daughters, what He gave to the one He loved most. By that, we understand what His will is. For these are His gifts in this world. He gives according to the love He bears us (…) according to the courage He sees in each and the love each has for His Majesty. He will see that whoever loves Him much will be able to suffer much for Him; whoever loves Him little will be capable of little. I myself hold that the measure for being able to bear a large or small cross is love (…)

Everything I have advised you about in this book is directed toward the complete gift of ourselves to the Creator, the surrender of our wills to His, and detachment from creatures—and you have understood how important this is – I’m not going to say any more about the matter; but I will explain why our good Master teaches us to say the words mentioned above, as one who knows the many things we gain by rendering this service to His eternal Father. For we are preparing ourselves that we may quickly reach the end of our journey and drink the living water from the fount we mentioned. Unless we give our wills entirely to the Lord so that in everything pertaining to us He might do what conforms with His will, we will never be allowed to drink from this fount.”

Our suffering in this season of sickness and death, where every day we must say yes to God’s will, brings in front of us this fount from which we can drink the living water that helps us carry on, with joy in our hearts.

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