Jesus calls us to be like Him. Our journey of conversion is a journey to become more Christlike. As you read the Gospels, you very quickly discover that imitating Jesus means constantly abandoning ourselves to the will of the Father.
The most obvious example Jesus gives us is in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass by me. Still, not my will but Yours be done.”
But Jesus’ entire life was a gift of the Father. And He invites us to make our lives a gift to the Father through Him.
Christ leads me through no darker rooms
Than he went through before;
He that unto God’s kingdom comes,
Must enter by this door.
Come, Lord, when grace hath made me meet
Thy blessed face to see;
For if Thy work on earth be sweet,
What will Thy glory be?
Then I shall end my sad complaints,
And weary sinful days;
And join with the triumphant saints
That sing the Lord’s praise.
My knowledge of that life is small;
The eye of faith is dim;
But it’s enough that Christ knows all,
And I shall be with Him.
Abandoning ourselves to God’s will is at the core of the spiritual life. The sin of Adam and Eve was to say “my will be done.” The goal of the Christian life is to say “Thy will be done. This isn’t just a matter of “mindset” or attitude. True abandonment to God is actually a collection of a number of spiritual virtues.
- Hope: The theological virtue of hope is expressed in trust. We should constantly strive to grow in our trust of God. When we sin, we refuse to trust that God wants what’s best for us, so we follow our own will instead of God’s. But sin isn’t the only way we distrust God. We often feel God calling us to serve Him in some way, but we are afraid to take that step. Exercise the “muscle” of trust in God.
- Fortitude: The cardinal virtue of fortitude is often associated with moral courage. Moral courage is a large part of fortitude, but fortitude is more generally firmness of will. Fortitude is important when our desire to follow God’s will sets up a conflict with our own will. We need to overcome our own selfish tendencies in order to abandon ourselves to God.
- Charity: When we abandon ourselves to God, we focus on Him rather than on ourselves. We give ourselves to Him as a total gift. This is the very definition of the selfless love described as charity.
HIS abandonment is the virtue of virtues; it is the cream of charity, the odor of humility, the reward, as I think, of patience, and the fruit of perseverance. Great is this virtue, and only worthy to be practised by the dearest children of God.
“Father,” said our sweet Saviour on the cross, “into Thy hands I commend my spirit” (St. Luke xxiii. 46). It is true, He meant to say that it is consummated, and that “I have finished the work which Thou gavest me to do” (St. John xix. 30; xvii. 4); but, nevertheless, if it is Thy will that I remain still upon this cross to suffer yet more, I am content therewith; I resign my spirit into
Thy hands; Thou canst do with it as it shall please thee.
We ought to do the same on all occasions, whether it be that we suffer, or that we enjoy some contentment, thus allowing the Divine Will to lead us according to its good pleasure, without ever allowing ourselves to be engaged with our own particular will.
Our Lord loves with an extremely tender love those who thus abandon themselves totally to His fatherly care, allowing themselves to be governed by His good Providence, without considering whether the effects of that Providence will be sweet or bitter to them ; being entirely assured that nothing can possibly be sent to them from that fatherly heart which is not for their good and profit, provided they have put their whole confidence in Him, and say with a
good heart, My Father, I resign my spirit, my soul, my body, and all that I have into Thy hands to do with them in Thy love, whatever shall please Thee.
Sometimes our Lord wills that souls chosen for the service of His Divine Majesty, should nourish themselves with a firm and inviolable resolution of persevering to follow Him in the midst of disgusts, drynesses, dislikes, and bitter-
nesses of the spiritual life, without consolations, favors, tendernesses, or sweetnesses, and that they should believe themselves worthy of nothing else; thus following the Divine Saviour with the fine point of the spirit, without anything to rest upon but His divine will, which so wills it. And in this way I desire that we should walk.
For never shall we be reduced to such an extremity as not to be able always to diffuse before the Divine Majesty the perfumes of a holy submission to His most holy will, and of a continual promise never to consent to offend Him.
It is very true that we must have a great confidence thus to abandon ourselves without reserve to Divine Providence; but also, when we do entirely abandon ourselves, our Lord takes care of everything, and conducts everything. But
if we reserve to ourselves anything about which we have not confidence in Him, He leaves us, as though he said, You think yourself wise enough to manage this affair without me; I allow you to guide it; you shall see what will come of it in the end.
Magdalene, who was entirely abandoned to our Lord, remained at His feet, and listened to Him as long as He spoke; and when He ceased to speak, she also ceased to hear, but she stirred not from His side; so does this soul, abandoned
to our Lord, abide within His arms, like an infant in its mother’s bosom, who, when she puts him down to walk, walks till his mother again takes him up, and, when she would carry him, suffers her to do so. He knows not, and thinks
not whither he is going, but he suffers himself to be carried or taken whither his mother pleases. Just in the same manner does this soul, loving the will of the good pleasure of God in all that happens to it, suffer itself to
be carried, and nevertheless walks, doing with great care whatever belongs to the expressed will of God.
You said just now, that if it be really possible
for our will to be so dead in our Lord, we should no longer know what we will or what we do not will.
But I answer, that it never happens, however abandoned to God we may be, that our liberty does not remain entire; whence there always reaches us some desire and some will; but these are not absolute wills to forward desires; and immediately the soul abandoned to the good pleasure of God perceives them, that moment she makes them die in the will of God.
You wish, further, to know what foundation this perfect abandonment ought to have.
It ought to be founded on the infinite goodness of God, and on the merits of the death and Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, with this condition, that we have, and know we have, within us an entire and firm resolution of being altogether in God’s hands, and by abandoning ourselves wholly, and without any reserve, to His Divine Providence.
I desire you, however, to observe, that I do not say that we must feel this resolution, but only that we must have it, and know we have it within us; because we ought not to amuse ourselves with thinking what we feel or what we do not feel; and the more because most of our sentiments and satisfactions are merely the amusements of our self-love.
Nor must you take me to mean, that in all these things we never have desires contrary to the will of God, or that our nature is not repugnant to the events of His good pleasure; for that may often happen. The virtues I speak of have their abode in the superior part of the soul; the inferior part ordinarily understands nothing of them; we must make no account of it; but without regarding what it wills we must embrace that Divine will, and unite ourselves to it, in spite of such inclinations. Few arrive at that degree of perfect riddance of themselves; but we ought nevertheless all to aim at it, each according to our vocation and capacity.
Here is the great maxim. We must look to what God wills, and discerning his will, we must attempt to fulfil it cheerfully or at least courageously; and not only that, but we must love this will of God, and the obligation which result from it, even were it to herd swine all our life, and to do the most abject things in the world. For in whatever service God puts us, that ought to be all one to us. Here is the very centre of the target of perfection at which we ought all to aim; whoever approaches it the nearest is the winner of the prize. Courage, I implore you. Accustom your will, little by little, to follow that of God, to whatever place it leads you. Let your will feel sharply goaded when your conscience shall say to it, God wills it.
St. Francis de Sales.
Self abandonment is usually the doorway to a deeper conversion. Once we’ve conquered the most obvious sin in our lives, the Holy Spirit will challenge us to more completely offer our lives to our Lord. When we find abandonment to the Father difficult, it is good to remember that conversion is a process of grace. It takes time for God to work on our hearts. But we can be steadfast in our determination to be like Jesus and to say to our Heavenly Father, “Not my will, but Yours be done.”
Quotations taken from A Rosary for Lent by Miriam Coles Harris. This book is in the public domain.