It’s Fénelon Friday!
LETTER 5: Peace Comes Through Simplicity and Obedience
Learn to cultivate peace. And you can do this by learning to turn a deaf ear to your own ambitious thoughts. Or haven’t you yet learned that the strivings of the human mind not only impair the health of your body, but also bring dryness to the soul. You can actually consume yourself by too much inner striving. And to no purpose at all! Your peace and inner sweetness can be destroyed by a restless mind. Do you think that God can speak in those soft tender accents that melt the soul, in the midst of such inner confusion as you permit by that endless, hurrying parade of thoughts going through your mind? Be quiet, and He will soon be heard. The only principle you need to be concerned about is to be scrupulously obedient.
You have been asking for comfort and peace. But you do not understand that you have been led to the brink of the fountain, and are refusing to drink. Peace and comfort can be found nowhere where except in simple obedience. So be faithful in obeying even when you do not understand, and you will soon find that the rivers of living water will flow, as God has promised. You will receive according to the measure of your faith: much, if you believe much; nothing, if you believe nothing and continue to listen to your own restless thoughts.
You dishonor the meaning of Christian love when you suppose that a man who truly loves God could ever be worried about these trifles which are continually clamoring for your attention. Christian love goes straight to God in pure simplicity, knowing that these trifles are no problem to Him. Satan is the one who torments us with trivialities. And he often transforms himself into an angel of light, and bothers us with endless self-examinations and an over-sensitive conscience which allows us no peace. I’m sure you know by experience the trouble and spiritual danger which Satan can bring upon you in this way. But you can be victorious. Everything depends upon your faithfulness in repelling his first advances.
If you will learn to be honest and simple in your desires, I think you will be more pleasing to God than if you were to suffer a hundred martyrdoms. If there is anything you should be concerned about, it is simply your own hesitation in offering a sacrifice so right in the sight of God. Can true love hesitate when it is required to please its Well-beloved?
Francis Fénelon, Let Go (New Kensington: Whitaker House, 1973).