The Spiritual Combat

Chapter 14:

What to do when the inferior will and one's enemies
appear to have conquered the superior will.

If it seems you have reached the point where you no longer feel an effective desire to fight, and feel as if your superior will can offer no more resistance to the inferior will and to your enemies: stand firm, and do not abandon the combat. In fact, you must consider yourself ever victorious, unless you realize with certainty that you have given in. Our superior will does not need the desire of the inferior will to produce its acts, so its enemies cannot ever constrain it to capitulate if it does not wish to -- although they may oppose it harshly.  It is for this reason that God has blessed our will with liberty and with such strength that, if all our senses, if all the demons, and all the world together armed themselves and swore to defeat her, fighting and pressing against her will all their power:in spite of them she can will or not will anything with great freedom, and as often and as long and however and to whatever end may please her.

And if at times these enemies should assail and constrain you with such violence that your will, nearly suffocated, has not -- so to speak -- the breath necessary to produce a single contrary act, do not lose heart, nor throw down your weapons, but in this case use your tongue to defend yourself crying: "I will not surrender to you, I do not desire you!" So behaves a solder whose enemy is so close as to rule out stabbing him with the sword's tip: instead he beats him with the sword handle. Just as he tries to leap back in order to wound him with the blade, so must you withdraw into your self-knowledge that you are nothing and can do nothing. With faith in God, who can do all, strike the foe, your passion, crying out: "Help me, O Lord! Help me, my God! Help me Jesus and Mary, that I might not give in to my enemy!"

While your enemy gives you time, you can reinforce the weakness of your will by resorting to your intellect and considering various truths. Through this consideration, the will can breathe and collect its strength against the foe. For example: in some persecution, or in some other travail, you are so assailed by impatience that your will nearly cannot bear it, or wishes not to bear it: comfort her with the intellect using these or even other arguments.

First: Consider if you merit the evil you suffer, because you have given it the occasion to attack. If you merit it, it is your just duty to support patiently this evil which you have inflicted with your own hands.

Second: If you have no fault in this whatever, turn your thought to your other errors which God has not yet punished, and for which you have not punished yourself. Seeing that God's mercy changes your punishment for these, which may be eternal, or perhaps the temporary punishment of Purgatory, with a small sentence for now, you should not merely receive willingly: you ought to give thanks.

Third: When it seems you have done a great deal of penance, and have done little to offend the divine Majesty (although you should never persuade yourself of such things), think how, in the kingdom of heaven, no one enters except through the narrow gate of tribulation (see Matthew 7.13-14).

Fourth: Even if you could enter through some other way, the law of love dictates that you should not dwell on such a thing, as the Son of God, with all his friends and all his members, passed through that gate through thorns and crosses.

Fifth: But that which ought primarily to cause you to marvel on this occasion, and on every other, is the will of your God. On account of the love he bears you, he is indescribably pleased with every act of virtue and of mortification that his faithful and generous warrior performs in his sight, so as to correspond with him in love. Be certain of this: however irrational the travail, however unworthy its origin, causing you all the more pain and difficulty in tolerating it: you will give that much more joy to the Lord by approving and loving his divine will and disposition, even on those occasions that are disordered by their very nature, and so all the more bitter to you. For everything that befalls you, even the unruly, has its rule and its most perfect order.

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