Teresa of Ávila wrote these words on a bookmark she kept in her breviary:
Let nothing disturb you;
Nothing frighten you.
All things are passing.
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
Nothing is wanting to him who possesses God.
God alone suffices.
St. Teresa was determined to reach the heights of holiness. Yet at the same time she was realistic, based on her own experience and those of the nuns under her care as head of the Discalced Carmelite Order. Put these two characteristics together, and you have one of the wisest guides to the spiritual life. Let’s take a closer look at her advice.
Perseverance is a key to success
Remember the parable Jesus told about the persistent widow (Luke 18:1-8)? We must never give up praying when it seems God is not hearing us. Teresa advised her sisters to apply this lesson to growth in prayer.
… I say that it is very important – it is everything to have a strong and firm resolution, not to stop till we arrive at the water [union with God], come what may, or whatever may be the consequence, or whatever it may cost us. No matter who complains, whether I reach there or die on the way, or have not courage to endure the troubles which I may meet with, or though the world should sink under us… (Way of Perfection, Chapter XXI)
It’s easy to get discouraged in prayer. Seeing no measurable growth in intimacy with God, we might be tempted to give up. We might wish to say along with the doubters in the end times, “Where is this coming He promised?” (2 Peter 3:4). Don’t!
Be patient with God
Peter assures us, “The Lord is not slow about His promise as some count slowness…” (2 Peter 3:9). God always keeps His promises. If it seems like He is taking a long time, ask yourself what He wants to teach you in this time of waiting. Often He makes us wait because we are proud. He does not want us to think that we have come to Him through our own efforts. He wants us to know for certain that everything is grace.
Or, He might be teaching us to trust Him more. Do you have deep-seated fears you haven’t dealt with? Are you easily disturbed or frightened? Abandon yourself completely to God and He will give Himself completely to you.
Be patient with yourself
You are more sinful than you think. Sorry, but that’s true of all of us. I don’t say this to discourage you. Quite the opposite. We should not be frustrated when it takes us longer to overcome bad habits than we imagined it would. We should not be surprised that it’s difficult to be loving. We are fallen human beings.
Some canonized saints experienced dramatic second conversions. In one instant, their lives were changed. But for most of us, spiritual growth is a slow process. We might have sudden growth spurts, but in between it can seem like we’re getting nowhere.
Adjust your expectations
Most of us will probably “die on the way,” rather than reach the waters of divine union. Even that should not disturb us. If we are still striving to love God with our whole heart, then we are in good stead with Him. We should not lower our standards, but we must understand that God sees success differently than we do. Otherwise we may be tempted to despair.
Are you doing God’s will–or at least trying to? That’s what He requires. Making you a saint is His business. Sudden death or incapacitation can’t defeat us, because it can’t defeat Him.
“Nothing is wanting to him who possesses God.” Or, as St. Paul puts it: “He who did not spare his own Son but gave Him up for us all, will He not also give us all things with Him?” (Romans 8:32).
If you have God, you have everything. Right now. So what are you waiting for?
Share with us: How has God taught you to be patient? What is the hardest thing for you to wait for?