My dear sister,
I can’t tell you how deeply sorry I am for all the trouble you are facing. However, I don’t only feel grief. I also have a strong desire to offer you this comfort: God loves you. Do you know that even this bleakness is a sign of God’s love? God cares for you enough to trust you with the cross of Jesus Christ. We may think we have spiritual insight or some vibrant spiritual emotion; but if either wisdom or sentiment does not bring us to the steady experience of dying to ourselves, they are a delusion.
Dying to self: this is the true spiritual path. This is no sunny primrose path though. May I say the obvious? Death involves suffering. When God blesses us (yes, I said bless) with death, it cuts to our core. God knows where the knife needs to land.
This is how God cuts: God slices away at the very things we hold with the tightest grip. It isn’t hard for God to find these spots. Whenever God cuts and we wince in pain, our wincing indicates he has sliced into a tender place. This sore spot is hiding something, protecting bits of our self-life. However, we need God-life.
God is a good Father, and he doesn’t waste time hacking away at those parts of us that have already died to God. The hard truth is that God isn’t most concerned with how to keep us alive. God is most concerned with how to help us die. Die to ourselves. Die to our delusions. Die so we can really live.
Dying hurts, though. God must cut into places full of life (self-life, that is), and there’s no way around it – that hurts. Expect it. God will get tenacious, relentless. God will bore into those gross and evil desires, the same desires you thought were long gone. God might take away the freedom you feel in your soul. God might strip away the person who has brought you comfort or the experience that has provided meaning in your spiritual life. God knows how and where to probe and cut.
Are you going to push back at God in the cutting? No! Don’t do that. Be patient. Lean into it. Let God do what God will do. He won’t cut more than you allow. You must open yourself up to God. If you resist God in this, your opposition communicates loud and clear: you want to cling to your self-life; you don’t want God-life. Lay still under God’s knife. Trust God to do good with you.
What are you afraid of? Where is your faith? Do you fear that God isn’t big enough, strong enough, to give you whatever you need? Do you fear God might take away a spiritual friendship you share with other people? Do you really think that another person can provide you something that God can’t give? The only reason God takes away such relationships is to clear out space for himself in your life. God desires to roll up his sleeves and get busy in your heart. God wants to use the painful experience to clean out the rubbish in your soul.
This is what I see: I see God closing off everything to you, everything but him. I see God determined to transform you. I see God cutting off every human resource that might distract you from the fresh life God intends to create in you. God is a jealous God. No one else will be able to take credit for your rescue. Only God.
So give yourself over to God’s plans. Let God steer you where he will, even if it is headlong into pain and chaos. Avoid sprinting to others for aid if God tells you not to. The reality is that a friend can only be helpful if God has given them something to pass along to you. Besides, why be discouraged that you can’t sip from your usual cup when God is leading you to the gushing stream, the very source of water, of life?
Excerpted from Let God: The Transforming Wisdom of Francois Fenelon by Winn Collier. Used by permission of Paraclete Press (www.paracletepress.com).