Don't Wrestle with God's Vessel

By Marc Massery

Turn to any page of St. Faustina’s Diary, and you’ll find spiritual gems. Like this one:

[Jesus said], “My daughter, do not pay so much attention to the vessel of grace as to the grace itself which I give you, because you are not always pleased with the vessel, and then the graces, too, become deficient. I want to guard you from that, and I want you never to pay attention to the vessel in which I send you My grace. Let all the attention of your soul be concentrated on responding to My grace as faithfully as possible.” (1599).

If you’re like me, sometimes you’re more concerned with the “vessels” of God’s graces than with the graces themselves. What does this mean?

God gives us grace in many ways. Sometimes He works through a Scripture passage, an inspiration in prayer, a word of encouragement from a loved one, or even something as natural as a bright, sunny day. We rarely doubt that God uses vessels like these to fill us with His joy and peace.  

But sometimes the vessels He uses to dispense graces are less obvious. Sometimes He works through unfortunate circumstances. For example, if someone criticizes you, it may be that God allowed that to happen in order to humble you and to remind you that “we can do nothing of ourselves; all is purely and simply God’s grace” (Diary, 55). Or maybe God allowed you to lose money on an investment. This could be His way of teaching you financial responsibility. Or perhaps it seems as though God is withholding a certain blessing from you. This could be His way of preparing you for an even greater blessing. 

If you’re not careful, you can become too distracted by the vessel and miss the grace. This is why you must strive to stay attuned to the movements of the Holy Spirit. When you take a step back and remember that God can bestow His grace through any circumstance, the bad things that happen to you might not seem so bad. Knowing that all things are either ordained or allowed by God, you’ll find blessings and graces where others find only frustration and despair. 

On the other hand, it’s natural and healthy to grieve unfortunate circumstances. When difficulties arise, we need to ask God for the grace to see how He is working in our midst. It’s true that sometimes we may not fully understand why certain tragedies befall us. Much of the time, though, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can identify blessings even amidst the worst circumstances.  

Other times, when God bestows His graces through good circumstances, we run the risk of making an idol out of those vessels. For example, God could give us the blessing of material wealth, but instead of using it for His glory and being generous with it, we may be tempted to replace our love of God with an inordinate love of money. So, regardless of whether God is working through good or bad circumstances, we face the risk of distraction. 

In order to recognize and respond to the graces God is trying to give us, we ought to end each day with an examination of conscience. Every day, we ought to take account of the good and bad things that happened to us and consider how God’s grace has been working through them. We also ought to consider the ways in which the enemy is trying to use our circumstances to distract us and drag us down. The more we get into the habit of making a good examination of conscience, the better awareness we’ll have throughout the day of the spiritual battle raging around us. The more we become aware of this spiritual battle, the better decisions we’ll make amidst our temptations to distraction. When we successfully recognize and respond to the graces the Lord sends us, whatever vessel they come through, we’ll flourish.  

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One sister said to me, “Get ready, Sister, to receive a small cross at the hands of Mother Superior. I feel sorry for you.” But as for me, I rejoiced at this in the depths of my soul.

Turn to any page of St. Faustina's Diary, and you'll find spiritual gems. 

Turn to any page of St. Faustina’s Diary and you’ll find spiritual gems. Like this one: