Archbishop François Fénelon (1651-1725) received some negative feedback for what he urged his constituents to do while still recovering from the hardships of war. They complained, “It is impossible to do what is required.” They saw this as the temptation to despair. The archbishop responded, “Despair of yourself as much as you please, but not of God.” He reminds them that God is both loving and powerful, and He will deal with them in keeping with their faith. So, if they have any faith at all, Jesus said you will be able to move mountains. But if they believe nothing, they will receive nothing, and it will be their fault. Remember Abraham, who hoped against hope. Imitate the blessed Virgin, who, when what seemed utterly impossible was told to her, she answered without hesitation, “May it be to me as you have said.”

So do not shut up your heart. It is not that you cannot do what is required of you, it is because your heart is so restricted. It is that you have no desire to comply. You do not wish to have your heart enlarged because you’re afraid it will happen. How can you expect grace to gain entrance into a heart so stubbornly closed against it? All that is asked of you is to surrender calmly in a spirit of faith. Do not feel obligated to include your ideas. In other words, if you yield humbly and gradually, you’ll regain peace through meditation on God’s Word, and everything will work together for your good. What seems impossible in your present state of temptation will become easier to overcome. Then, we will hear you saying, “What? Is this all?” Why so much despair and complaining over something God is working on and preparing so lovingly for your good?

Be careful not to resist His Spirit, for this may cause you to become indifferent and hostile toward God. All the faith you claim to have will prove hollow if you should fail in this essential point. Then, everything will dissolve into indulging in personal tastes and tendencies. May God not allow you to fall away! There is more danger in the risk of resisting God than in the heaviest of other sorrows. Crosses carried with quiet endurance, lowliness, simplicity, and self-denial unite us to Jesus the crucified Anointed One. To reject crosses by thinking too highly of yourselves and through self-will not only separate you from Him, but wither the heart, and gradually dry up the fountain of grace. So, yield humbly without trusting in yourself, the fragile broken stalk that you are. And say, “To God, nothing is impossible.’’ He asks only for one “Yes,’’ spoken in pure faith.[1]

Archbishop Fénelon no doubt recalled the words of the Chronicler in the First Covenant, who advised, “Seek the LORD and His strength; seek His presence continually!”[2] It is especially true when confronted with difficulties above our ability to handle them. And the Apostle Paul transformed such hardships into potential benefits by saying, “We are happy with the troubles we have. Why are we happy with troubles? Because we know that these troubles make us more patient. And this patience is proof that we are strong. And this proof gives us hope. And this hope will never disappoint us. We know this because God has poured out His love to fill our hearts through the Holy Spirit, He gave us.”[3] Paul also advised that “We must not get tired of doing good. We will receive our harvest of eternal life at the right time. Therefore, we must never give up.”[4]

The Apostle James also had something to say about perseverance when he wrote, “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Instead, let it do its work, so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.”[5]

The author of Hebrews added, “You need to keep on patiently doing God’s will if you want Him to do for you all that He has promised. His coming will not be delayed much longer. And those whose faith has made them good in God’s sight must live by faith, trusting Him in everything. Otherwise, if they shrink back, God will have no pleasure in them.”[6]

[1] Fénelon, François: Paraclete Giants, The Complete Fénelon, Translated and Edited by Robert J. Edmonson, Paraclete Press, Brewster, Massachusetts, 2008, pp. 30-31; Vocabulary redacted by Dr. Robert R Seyda

[2] 1 Chronicles 16:11

[3] Romans 5:3-5

[4] Galatians 6:9

[5] James 1:2-4

[6] Hebrews 10:36-38

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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