Perseverance and Confidence
Presence of God – O Lord, increase my confidence in Your help and grant that in this confidence, I may always find courage to begin again.
What most distresses souls of good will who are seriously trying to live a spiritual life, is to find themselves falling so many times, despite their continual and sincere resolutions. When they begin a program of asceticism, they are usually very brave and have no doubts concerning their success; but being still inexperienced, and not having yet faced the demands of more advanced virtue, they know nothing of the struggles that await them on this way. And herein lies the danger: meeting with new difficulties, they fall; they rise and fall again; again they rise, and shortly after, find themselves prostrate once more until they are, at a certain point, attacked by that most dangerous temptation: to give up the undertaking which henceforth seems impossible. How many souls have fervently begun the ascent of the mount of perfection, but discouraged by their continual falls, have stopped halfway up or even turned back, because they lacked the courage to begin anew every day and every moment?
Humility is needed for the exercise of courage; we must be convinced that in spite of our lofty aspirations, we are fallible men like all the rest. Sacred Scripture affirms that the “just man shall fall seven times and shall rise again” (Proverbs 24:16); how then, can we, who are not just, pretend never to fall?
The real evil is not so much in falling as in failing to rise. The distinguishing mark of fervent souls, and even of saints is less their lack of faults, than their promptness in rising after each fall. The annoyance felt by so many souls when they see themselves continually falling, is not the fruit of humility but of pride. They are not yet convinced of their own misery and are astonished to experience it so constantly. They rely too much on themselves, and God, who wishes to lead them to the full realization of their nothingness, permits them to fall again and again. In the plan of Divine Providence, these falls are for the definite purpose of convincing us that we are miserable creatures. If we wish to adhere to the divine plan, we have but one thing to do: to humble ourselves. But if on the contrary, we become discouraged, and give up what we have begun, we shall be going farther away from our goal, to our very great loss.
“O Jesus, You see I am a very little soul and can offer You only very little things: I frequently miss the opportunity of welcoming these small sacrifices which bring so much peace; but, I am not discouraged—I bear the loss of a little peace and I try to be more watchful in the future. You are so good to me that it is impossible for me to fear You.
“If it is Your will that throughout my whole life I should feel a repugnance to suffering and humiliation; if You permit all the flowers of my desires and good will to fall to the ground without producing any fruit, I shall not be disturbed. I am sure that if I persevere in my good efforts, in the twinkling of an eye, at the moment of death, You will cause rich fruits to ripen on the tree of my soul” (cf. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Story of a Soul, 11 – Counsels and Souvenirs).
“O God, I am very weak in ability, poor in strength, and full of poverty, but if Your eye will look upon me, I shall be lifted up from my low estate, my head shall be exalted, and many will glorify You.
“Grant that I may be steadfast in Your covenant, and be conversant therein, and grow old in the work of Your commandments. I will trust in You and persevere in what I am doing, for it is easy for You to suddenly make the poor man rich. Your blessing will be my reward, and in a swift hour my efforts will bear fruit” (cf. Sirach 11:12-24).
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Art for this post on perseverance and confidence: Partial restoration of Tomb of Thérèse de Lisieux [Statue], artist unknown, photographed by Renardieu, 2005-07-03, CCA-SA 2.0 Generic, Wikimedia Commons. Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, O.C.D., mirror from open source material.