THE RIGHT USE OF TRIALS
François Fénelon found it hard to believe that people would think that, out of loving-kindness, God piles crosses on those He loves. “Why should He take pleasure in causing us to suffer?” they ask. “Could He not make us good without making us so miserable?” Yes, doubtless God could do so, for to Him, all things are possible. His all-powerful hands hold the human heart and turns it as He pleases, just as people who have a garden hose turn the stream in whatever direction they desire. But though God could save us without crosses, He chose not to do so, just as it’s His will that people grow up through the weakness and troubles of childhood instead of being born fully developed. He is the Master; we can only be silent and adore His infinite wisdom without understanding it. Thus, we see that Christians cannot become excellent except by becoming humble, unselfish, and in all things turning from self to God.
But as grace operates, it cannot (except through a miracle), do otherwise. God does not perform continuous wonders in applying kindness, any more than in the order of nature. It would be as great a phenomenon to see a self-centered person die suddenly to thoughts of self-consciousness and self-interest as it would be to see a three-year-old child go to bed and wake up the next morning thirty years old! So, God hides His work beneath a series of invisible events, both in grace and nature and in this way, He subjects us to the mysteries of faith. While we are waiting, He is working. God accomplishes His work gradually, but does it by the simplest and most ordinary means so that its success appears natural. Otherwise, all that God does would be like perpetual supernatural marvels, and this would cancel the life of faith by which He wants us to exist.
Such a life of faith is necessary, not only to mold us by causing us to sacrifice for our benefit in a world of darkness, but also to blind those whose presumption misleads them. Such people see God’s works without comprehending them, and take them to be simply natural. Thus, they are without proper understanding, since knowledge is given only to those who mistrust their judgment and the proud wisdom of humanity.
Therefore, it is to ensure that the operation of grace may remain a mystery that God permits to be slow, painful, but sure. He uses our inconsistency, ingratitude, disappointments, and failures that come with prosperity to detach us from the created world and its good things. He opens our eyes by letting us realize our weakness and evil through countless falls. All this seems to part of natural occurrences, and this series of apparently natural causes bakes us like a slow fire. We would much rather be consumed at once by the flames of pure love, but so speedy a process would cost us nothing. It is utter selfishness that we desire to attain perfection so cheaply and so quickly.
Written over 450 years ago
Vocabulary redacted by Dr. Robert R Seyda