Pure Love Only Can Suffer Aright and Love its Sufferings

We know that we must suffer, and that we deserve it; nevertheless, we are always surprised at hardship, as if we thought we neither deserved nor had need of it. It is only true and pure love that delights to go through, for nothing else is perfectly abandoned. Surrender induces us to bear pain, but there is a something in it which is trouble greatly in suffering, and resists. The resignation that measures out its abandonment to God with selfish reflection, is willing to suffer, but is constantly examining make sure whether it suffers acceptably. In fact, the resigned soul is composed as it were of two persons; one keeping the other in control, and watching in case it should refuse to obey.

In pure love, unselfish and abandoned, the soul is fed in silence on the cross, and on union with the crucified Saviour, without any reflections on the harshness of its sufferings. There exists but a single, simple will, which permits God to see it just as it is, without aspiring to regard itself. It says nothing, does nothing. What then does it do? It suffers. And is this all? Yea, all; it has nothing else to do but to suffer. Love can be heard easily enough, without speech or thought. It does all that it is required to do, which is, to have no will when it is stripped of all comfort. The purest of all loves is a will so filled with that of God, that there remains nothing else.

What a relief is it to think that we are then rid of so many anxieties about our exercise of patience and the other virtues in the sight of those about us? It is enough to be humbled and abandoned in the midst of suffering. This is not courage; it is something both more and less; less in the eyes of the ordinary class of Christians, more in the eyes of pure faith. It is a humiliation which raises the soul into all the greatness of God; a weakness which strips it of every resource, to entrust upon it His omnipotence. “When I am weak,” says St. Paul, “then I am strong; I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (2 Cor. xii. 10; Phil. iv. 13.)

It satisfies then, to feed upon some short sentences suited to our state and our taste, with frequent interruptions to quiet the senses and make room for the inward spirit of recollection. We sometimes suffer, scarcely knowing that we are in unhappiness; at other times we suffer, and know that we bear it ill, but we carry this second and heavier cross without anger. True love goes ever straightforward, not in its own strength, but esteeming itself as nothing. Then indeed we are truly happy. The cross is no longer a cross when there is no self to suffer under it, and to appropriate its good and evil.

The Inner Life – Francois Fenelon


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