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Letter VI.—Fear Caused by Self-Love.
To Sister Marie-Henriette de Mahuet (1731). How the fear of displeasing God may be caused by self-love.
My dear Sister,
On re-reading your letter to which I have not been able to reply sooner, I remarked two things in it: many graces of God, and many very evident marks of self-love. Your pain and distress are, you say, made worse by your uneasiness. Pain and distress are graces from God which serve to purify and to elevate the soul; uneasiness is an effect of self-love which is agitated and complaining under this interior cross by which God desires to put an end to it in order that you may live a new life in Him. You experience a miserable inability to make your mind act, so that all reasoning and reflexion are a weariness to you. Another sign that God would have you feel that He wishes to do away with your own petty and miserable operations and to substitute the divine operation without which your progress would be very slow and painful. But, at the same time you are very much afraid of wasting time. Another effect of self-love always seeking for certainty on which to place reliance, while God wills you to rely entirely upon Him. Books and directors say enough to reassure you completely as concerns those foolish fears of wasting time, suggested by self-love or the devil, in the position you hold. You always feel confused and in a state of abstraction that makes you seem stupid, and on account of this you believe yourself to be under an illusion. God grant that it may not be a mistake to believe that you are in that state of abstraction which is one of the greatest graces that God could bestow on a soul. If you are actually, as you say, in this state I congratulate you; far from being an illusion, what you call abstraction can be nothing else but a profound recollection leading to everything good by the constant feeling of the presence of God, and by an intimate union already formed, or about to be formed in your soul. You are in great peace: another grace; but you do not dare to think so: another effect of self-love. Do you not know that the solid peace established by God in a soul subject to trials, is always without sensible sweetness? and besides, does not God necessarily deprive a soul of sensible sweetness when it would only make use of it to nourish its self-love? Could He do us a greater favour than to kill this domestic enemy by depriving it of its most essential sustenance, such as sensible spiritual sweetness. It would indeed be very unjust to complain of this God of infinite mercy, Who alone knows how to purify your soul, a thing you would never have been able to do yourself. Your very complaints prove that you would never have had the courage to put an end to your self-love which alone impedes the reign of divine love in your heart. Bless our Lord then for sparing you the trouble and because He only asks you to allow Him a free hand to accomplish this work in you. You fear, you say, that your past unfaithfulness may prevent the operations of God in your soul. No, my dear Sister, neither your past infidelities, nor yet your present miseries, darkness, and weakness ought to terrify you. The only obstacles to the divine operations are your want of submission and your voluntary annoyance in times of spiritual poverty, obscurity and weakness. Poverty, darkness and weakness patiently endured without anxiety would, on the contrary, only facilitate the divine action. You have nothing to fear but your own fears. However, if you wish to know how you ought to act during these interior trials I will tell you. You ought to keep an attitude of peaceful silent waiting, submissive, and entirely abandoned to the divine will, as one would wait under shelter until the storm had passed, leaving to God the task of calming the elements let loose. The difference between outward and inward storms is that patience in the former case could not prevent the greatest disasters resulting, while in the latter case it would produce the greatest good in the soul.
Your excessive fears about your past confessions are another result of self-love which desires certainty about everything. God, on the contrary, wills that we should be deprived of the absolute certitude so pleasing to our self-love. We must then make a sacrifice of it to our sovereign Master Who has willed it so to keep us in humiliation and complete dependence. When you do violence to yourself you imagine that it does not please God on account of the imperfection of your interior dispositions. Another very dangerous illusion of the devil by which he hopes either to prevent you from doing good, or else to throw you into a state of uneasiness and trouble after having done so. In the one case, as in the other, he would deprive you of a great deal of your merit. Do not, I beg of you, be trapped in such a palpable snare.
What causes me pleasure is, that in spite of mistakes caused by your inexperience I find in your soul, by the grace of God, the two dispositions most essential to the divine operations, namely, a firm resolution to belong to God without reserve whatever it may cost you, and a firm and constant will to avoid the smallest deliberate fault. Persevere in these dispositions, keep more on your guard than you have done hitherto against the secret seekings of self-love, and you will find that the reign of God will be re-established within you.
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