The Spiritual Combat

Chapter 10:

The exercise of the will is the end
to which all interior and exterior acts should be directed.

Beyond the intellectual exercise you must do, it is necessary to regulate your will in like manner. This way, rather than remain left to its own desires, it will in all things behave itself in a way that conforms to God's approval. And take heed: it must not be enough for you to want and procure things that are pleasing to God; you must also want them and accomplish them as if moved by him and only with the aim of pleasing him. We have a greater contrast here with our nature than we did in what we discussed before: our nature is so inclined towards itself that in all things, even in the good and spiritual ones (and sometimes more so than in others) it seeks its own comfort and delight. It holds on to these and goes avidly feeding for them, as though they were food without suspect.

In fact when they are offered us, we quickly ogle and desire them, not as if moved by the will of God or as if we had the aim of pleasing him alone, but for the good and delightful sensations that come from wanting the things desired by God. This deception is all the more hidden when the desired object is better in and of itself. Hence even in desiring the same God you risk the deceptions of self-love, because one aims more often at one's own interest and at the good that we await than one aims at the will of God, who takes pleasure in his glory alone and wants to be loved, desired and obeyed by us.

To guard yourself from this danger, which would impede your path to perfection, and to accustom yourself to wanting and doing all as if moved by God and with the pure intention of honoring and pleasing him alone (who wishes to be the one beginning and end of our every action and of our every thought), do the following. When something that is desired by God offers itself to you, do not immediately incline your will to desiring it. First you raise your mind to God to see that it is his will that you desire it and that you desire it because he so wishes it, and to please him alone. So moved and attracted by this will, bow your own will to wishing that thing as God wishes it, and only for his consent and honor.

Likewise wishing to refuse the things not desired by God, do not refuse them if you do not first fix the gaze of your intellect on his divine will, which desires that you refuse them in order to please him.

But you must know that the frauds of our subtle nature are not well-known: ever seeking itself in hidden ways, it often makes it appear that the said motive and end of pleasing God are within us, when it is not so. Hence it frequently happens that what is wanted or not wanted for our interest, to us seems to be desired or not desired in order to please God. To flee this deception the proper and intrinsic remedy would be purity of heart, which consists in shedding the clothes of the old man and dressing oneself with those of the new (see Col. 3:9-10; Eph. 4:22-23): all of this Combat directs itself to this end.

Nevertheless, to predispose yourself as you should, since you are full of yourself, from the beginning of your actions be attentive to shedding as much as you can every mixture where you esteem that there is something of your advantage, and desire neither to do nor to refuse anything if first you do not feel yourself moved and pulled by the pure and simple will of God. If you cannot so feel this will constantly in all your actions, and particularly in those exterior ones that pass quickly, content yourself with having it virtually in each of them, holding always to your true intention only to please your God in everything.

But in the actions that go on for some period of time, it is good not only to excite this motive within yourself from the beginning. You must remain attentive to renewing it frequently and to holding it awake until the very end: otherwise you run the danger of stumbling into another snare from our natural love. As this is inclined and bent more towards itself than towards God, it frequently tends to make us change our objectives and our intentions over the passage of time.

The servant of God who does not pay close attention to this frequently begins some activity only for the motive of pleasing her Lord, but then little by little, almost without realizing it, she begins likewise to take pleasure in this act with her own senses. Forgetting the divine will, she changes, and becomes so attached to the tastes of her senses and to the usefulness and honor that she may gain from the activity, that if God himself were to put some obstacle in its way, through some illness or adversity, or by means of some creature, she would become disturbed and unhappy. She might fall at times into murmuring about this and that, to say nothing of saying these things about God himself. This is a very clear sign that her intention was not completely in God, but was born from a root and a depth broken and corrupt. For anyone who moves oneself as if pushed by God and in order to please him alone does not wish the things, but wishes only to have them if it pleases God that she have them, in the way and in the time pleasing to God. Whether she has them or not she remains equally peaceful and content, since in every way she accomplishes his intention, and the end follows, which was nothing other than the consent of God.

For this reason, remain collected within yourself, and attentive to always directing your actions to this perfect end. And if in this way you should move yourself to do the good with the aim of escaping the punishments of hell or for the hope of paradise (so seeking the disposition of your soul), even in this you can present before yourself as the ultimate end the pleasure and the will of God: he takes pleasure that you do not go to hell, but that you enter his kingdom.

The person does not exist who can completely understand how much strength and efficacy this motive has, since one thing done for the will of God and for his glory, be it low or small, is worth infinitely more than many others of great esteem and value which are done without it. So a small sum given to a poor person for the sole reason of pleasing his divine Majesty is more gratifying than if someone should deprive oneself of all one's goods, however copious they may be, for some other intention, even that of enjoying the goods of heaven (which is an end not only good but most highly desirable). This exercise of doing all things with the pure aim of pleasing God will seem arduous at first, but it will become pleasant and easy with custom, with desiring the same God many times, and with aspiring for him with lively affections of the heart as our most perfect and unique good, who for himself deserves that all creatures should seek him, should serve him and should love him above whatever else.

How much more profoundly and more often will the consideration of the infinite merit of God be done, how much more fervent and frequent will be the above-said acts of the will, so with greater ease and quickness will we acquire the habit of doing every act as a sign of respect and of love for that Lord who alone is deserving.

Finally I advise you that, in order to follow this divine objective, in addition to what I have told you, you need to ask it of God with insistent prayer and you should frequently consider the uncountable benefits that God has done for us and still does for us out of pure love and without advantage to himself.

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