The Practice of Conformity to the Will of God
To the question, “In what things should we practice conformity to the will of God?” there can be only one answer: “In everything.”
The first thing that God asks of us is that we should faithfully keep His commandments and those of the Church, humbly obey those who have authority over us, and carefully fulfil the duties of our state.
Thereafter we should desire what God does and accept with filial submission all that is decided by His Providence. Let us now see some of the circumstances which may arise.
In the Natural Incidents of Our Daily Lives
In a spirit of conformity to His holy will we should accustom ourselves for the love of God to putting up with all the little daily vexations, such as a word said that wounds our self-esteem, a fly that annoys us, the barking of a dog, knocking into something as we walk along, a small accidental hurt, a light suddenly going out, a rent in our clothes, a pen that won’t write, and so on. In one way it is even more important to practice conformity to God’s will in thee small tings than in larger ones, both because they are more frequent and because the habit of supporting them in a Christian spirit prepares us in advance and in a natural manner to show resignation when we have to face serious difficulties.
We should wish with the divine will for heat and cold, storm and calm, and all the vagaries and inclemencies of the elements. We should in short accept whatever kind of weather God sends us, instead of supporting it with impatience or anger as we usually do when it is contrary to what we desire. We should avoid saying, for instance, “What awful heat!” “What terrible cold!” “What shocking weather!” “Just my bad luck!” and other expressions of the same kind which only serve to show our lack of faith and of submission to God’s will.
Not only should we wish the weather to be as it is because God has made it so but, whatever inconvenience it may cause us, we should repeat with the three youths in the fiery furnace: Cold, heat, snow and ice, lightnings and clouds, winds and tempests, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever. The elements themselves are blessing and glorifying God by doing His holy will, and we also should bless and glorify Him in the same way. Besides, even if the weather is inconvenient for us, it may be convenient for someone else. If it prevents us from doing what we want to do, it may be helping another. And even if it were not so, it should be enough for us that it is giving glory to God and that it is God who wishes it to be as it is.
St. Francis Borgia, the third General of the Society of Jesus, provides us a good example in this matter. He was once traveling to a house of the Society when it was snowing hard and bitterly cold, and his arrival was delayed until a late hour of the night when everybody was in bed and asleep. He had to wait some time before his knocking aroused someone to let him in, and then to the apologies for keeping him waiting so long in such foul weather he answered cheerfully that it was a great consolation to him to think that it was God who had dropped so much snow on him.
This practice of conformity to His will is so pleasing to God that it often has a visible influence on the material things of life. There is a story in the Lives of the Desert Fathers of the laborer whose fields always gave better crops than those of his neighbors. When asked the reason he replied that he always had whatever kind of season or weather he chose. “I never wish for any other kind of weather but what God wishes” he explained, “and as I wish for everything that pleases God, He too gives me the sort of crop that pleases me.”
In Public Calamities
We ought to conform to God’s will in all public calamities such as war, famine and pestilence, and reverence and adore His judgments with deep humility in the firm belief that, however severe they may seem, the God of infinite goodness would not send such disasters unless some great good were to result from them.
Consider how many souls may be saved through tribulation which would otherwise be lost, how many persons through affliction are converted to God and die with sincere repentance for their sins. What may appear a scourge and punishment is often a sign of great grace and mercy.
As far as we are personally concerned, let us meditate well on this truth of our faith that the very hairs of our head are numbered, and not one of them will fall except by the will of God. In other words we cannot suffer the least harm unless He wills and orders it. Relying on this truth we can easily understand that we have nothing more or less to fear in times of public calamity than at any other time. God can just as easily protect us in the midst of general ruin and despair as He can deliver us from evil while all around is peace and content. The only thing we need to be concerned about is to gain His favor, and that is the inevitable effect of conforming our will to His. Let us therefore hasten to accept from His hand all that He sends us, and as a result of our trustful surrender He will either cause us to gain the greatest advantages from our misfortunes or else spare us them altogether.
In the Cares and Difficulties of Family Life
If you are the father or mother of a family, you ought to conform your will to God’s with regard to the number or sex of the children He pleases to give you. When men were animated by the spirit of faith they regarded a large family as a gift of God and a blessing from heaven, and considered God more than themselves as the father of their children.
But now that faith has weakened and people live isolated from God, or if they think of Him at all it is mostly to fear Him and hardly ever to have trust in His providence, they are reduced to bearing the burden of their families alone. And as a man’s resources, however ample and assured they may seem, are always limited and uncertain, even those who are most favored by fortune view with dismay an increase in their family. They regard it as a kind of disaster which fills them with apprehension, an endless source of worry to poison their existence. How different it would be if we realized God’s paternal treatment of those who submit to Him with filial trust! If we did so we should realize also what St. Paul meant when he said that God is able to make all grace abound in you, so that always having ample means, you may abound in every good work.
To obtain the help of Providence it should be your aim to cooperate, as it were, with the Fatherhood of God and bring up your children as He would wish them brought up, especially by showing them good example. Have the courage to lay aside all other ambition and let this be the only object of your care and desire. Then, whatever the number of your children, you can rest assured that their heavenly Father will provide for them. He will watch over them and dispose all things for their happiness and welfare, and the more unreservedly you entrust their future to His hands, the greater will be His loving care for them.
Avoid worrying, then, about anything else for your children except whatever may contribute to bringing them up virtuously. For the rest, having entrusted them to God try to see what His will for them is, to help them along the path in life He has chosen for them. Never be afraid of relying too much on Him, but rather seek always to increase your trust more and more, for this is the most pleasing homage you can pay Him and it will be the measure of the graces you will receive. Little or much will be given you according as you have expected little or much.
This article is taken from a chapter in Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence by Fr. Jean Baptiste Saint Jure, S.J. and St. Claude de la Colombiere, S.J. which is available from TAN Books.