“Let us, then, abandon everything to God’s good pleasure, because being infinitely wise, He knows what is best for us; and being all-good and all-loving—having given His life for us—He wills what is best for us” (St. Alphonsus Liguori)
One night before bed, I told my husband I wanted to be a saint. I cannot explain what spurred me to make that declaration, but as we tucked our child into bed, I said a prayer asking God to show me how I could more closely follow in His footsteps.
Beyond the baseline of following the commandments and regularly receiving the sacraments, how could I love and serve Him more each day in my vocation as a wife, mother, and business owner? The answer came more quickly than I could have planned, proving to me once again that God desires my holiness more than I do.
A Surprise Answer
The next day, I unexpectedly received a copy of Finding Peace in the Storm: Reflections on St. Alphonsus Liguori’s Uniformity with God’s Will by Dan Burke, founder of the Avila Institute and spiritual warfare expert. This book-within-a-book contains Burke’s insights and explanations of a treatise first written in 1755 by St. Alphonsus Liguori, an 18th-century bishop and moral theologian.
Imagine my surprise when I read the answer to my prayer within the first few pages. “A single act of uniformity with the divine will suffices to make a saint,” writes St. Alphonsus.
There was my answer: If I wish to become a saint, then God’s will must be my greatest aim.
Uniformity with God’s will in all things is the main theme of the book, with each chapter expanding on this concept using examples of the lives of the saints and Scripture. St. Alphonsus and Burke both beautifully illustrate how:
God wills our good and is working out all things for our sanctification and His glory.
We are called to trust Him through adversity and trials as they bring about our eternal salvation.
When we reject God’s will, we drink a “paralyzing cocktail.”
It is possible to experience peace in every circumstance.
From the beginning, St. Alphonsus reminds readers that when we seek to do God’s will, we imitate Christ, who declared that He came not to do His will but the will of His heavenly Father (John 6:38). Christ emphasized this point when He said, “For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother” (Matthew 12:50; emphasis added).
Conforming our will to God’s will is an act of love. St. Alphonsus asserts:
The more one unites his will with the divine will, the greater will be his love of God. Mortification, meditation, receiving Holy Communion, and acts of fraternal charity are all certainly pleasing to God—but only when they are in accordance with His will. When they do not accord with God’s will, He not only finds no pleasure in them, but He even rejects them utterly and punishes them.
St. Alphonsus drives home the point by saying, “The man who follows his own will, independently of God’s, is guilty of idolatry. Instead of adoring God’s will, he adores his own in a certain sense.”
We can see the effect of pursuing our own will in our culture today. A recent Time article titled “Self-Love is Making Us Lonely” shares how our culture’s emphasis on “excessive autonomy and self-reliance has engendered a society rife with disconnection.” When we seek our own will at any cost and rail against God when we encounter difficulties or trials of any sort, we can easily spiral into “viewing hardship as an aberration rather than an inevitability, for which we must lean on Christ for strength,” as Alexandra Macey Davis wrote for Catholic Women in Business.
Instead of focusing on ourselves and our own plans, Burke encourages us to first ask God to help us embrace His will. He offers us a simple prayer we can say:
Lord, I know that You love me and that all You will is for my good. Please help me to embrace Your will and thus to know union with You and peace in this life and in the next.
The second step is to “immerse ourselves in the One whom we love little but want to love much”:
In the Ascent of Mount Carmel, St. John of the Cross gives a simple formula but one that is revolutionary in the souls who choose it: we must fall in love with Jesus. This love emerges in the soul through the loving discipline of mental prayer—a kind of pursuit of the heart that seeks to know Jesus, to follow Jesus, and to remain with Jesus every moment of our lives.
This is ultimately St. Alphonsus and Burke’s point: When we love Jesus and truly believe He has our best interest in mind and is using everything—every joy and every suffering—for our good, then we can have peace in the storms of life.
Having this attitude of trust and surrender, we can be like the poor man who, according to St. Alphonsus, says:
When I have nothing to eat, I give thanks to God; when it rains or snows, I bless God’s providence; when someone insults me, drives me away, or otherwise mistreats me, I give glory to God. I said I’ve never had an unhappy day, and it’s the truth, because I am accustomed to will unreservedly what God wills. Whatever happens to me, sweet or bitter, I gladly receive from His hands as what is best for me. Hence my unvarying happiness.”
This book has dramatically altered my spiritual life and drawn me closer to God. I highly recommend it to anyone striving to live an extraordinary life. As a Catholic business owner, it has taught me to trust God through the ups and downs of my business. I am called to work hard and diligently; however, I am also learning to leave the outcome to Him who is working out all things for my good (Romans 8:28).
This post first appeared on Catholic Women in Business and is reprinted here with permission.