Feeling Lousy?

View the previous Discovering the Diary.

Turn to any page of the Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska and you find spiritual gems. Like this one:

That priest consoled me, saying that in my present situation I was more pleasing to God than if I were filled with the greatest consolations. "It is a very great grace, Sister," he told me, "that in your present condition, with all the torments of soul you are experiencing, you not only do not offend God, but you even try to practice virtues. I am looking into your soul, and I see God's great plans and special graces there . . . . But despite all that, my soul was in a state of torture; and in the midst of unspeakable torments, I imitated the blind man who entrusts himself to his guide, holding his hand firmly, not giving up obedience for a single moment, and this was my only safety in this fiery trial (68).

When we find ourselves in the midst of great suffering, feeling poorly, we tend to assume that God must be dissatisfied with us. But according to St. Faustina's confessor, the opposite is true - we can please God more in great torment than in great consolation, especially if amidst our pain we continue to strive for virtue.

Why?

Suffering purifies the will. When we practice virtue in the face of pain, we prove that we are striving for virtue for the right reasons. Under normal circumstances, when we do something virtuous, we often tend to feel good about ourselves as a result. In this way, virtue comes with incentives. Sometimes, doing what's right may even feel exciting and gratifying.

But according to the passage, it doesn't seem like at this time St. Faustina experienced any of these positive feelings no matter what. Still, she does what's right, not because of what she feels, but despite what she feels, out of her own willpower.

In fact, so great was St. Faustina's existential pain that even when the confessor tries to console her, she still doesn't feel any better. Saint Faustina compares herself to a blind man entrusting himself to his guide to be led to safety. How disheartening this experience of suffering must have been for St. Faustina.

Though her trials in this case seem spiritual in nature, in our worst moments, we likely know how St. Faustina must have felt. Amid great loss or rejection, or perhaps as a result of mental illness, we too have the capacity to feel numb to good emotions. During these times, we shouldn't assume that the way we feel about ourselves is the way God feels about us. God's love for us and feelings toward us always remain the same.

We must remember that any good feelings we get when we strive for virtue are a grace. The Lord could take them away at any time. During the difficult times, we can either let ourselves be overcome with grief and give up any attempt at virtue. Or we can look at these moments as a challenge to test our own faith, to see how much we believe in the truth and how much we need to learn to trust the Lord. Because as long as we trust our guide to lead us to safety, our difficulties will come to an end eventually.

My prayer: Jesus please help me to remember that You love me despite what I feel and think. Give me the strength to persevere through any trial. Help me to trust that You will bring me closer to You through my suffering.

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