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By Dr. Robert Stackpole, STD (Dec 28, 2009)
A woman named Alexa was bewildered about something in the Diary of St. Faustina, so she wrote to me:

I am confused with the saying of Jesus [in Diary entry 586]: "Fear nothing, I am always with you. And know this, too, My daughter: all creatures, whether they know it or not, and whether they want to or not, always fulfill My will." I am particularly confused by the last sentence: So is God's will always fulfilled on us creatures, whether we know it or not?

Well, Alexa, that is indeed what Jesus said to St. Faustina. But it might help to know that the phrase "God's will" can mean more than one thing. It has several meanings, and in one sense we know that God's will is not always done, simply because we do not always do it! Sometimes we sin and rebel against His will. Jesus also taught us to pray: "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done," which certainly implies that His Father's will is not always done at every moment (otherwise, why would we need to pray that it might be done).

There is a deep mystery here. Let's do the best we can to explore it.

On the one hand there is what the theologians call God's "antecedent" or "absolute" will. This means the full attainment of His loving purposes for all created things. Saint Paul alludes to this in Ephesians 1:9-10: "For He has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of His will, according to His purpose which He set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in Him, things in heaven and things on earth." God's antecedent will is obviously not fully accomplished, because some of His creatures (both angels and human beings) misuse the freewill He gave to them, and reject the loving plan that He had originally laid out for them.

This brings us to the second and third meanings of the phrase "God's will."

First, His "moral" will or commandments. Again, God's moral will is obviously not always done. As a result, God's "consequent will" (in the light of the rebellion against His will by the fallen angels and by human beings) is to defeat Satan and the demons in the end. In the meantime, He sends His Son to earth to redeem us on the Cross from our moral debt due to God for our sins and to merit for us by His perfect life and death all the sanctifying graces that we need to overcome the power of sin in our hearts and to prepare us for everlasting life with Him in heaven.

In a sense, then, God's "consequent will" is fully done when human beings freely respond to and cooperate with His grace: when they repent, are converted, and live out their faith in works of loving service, on the road to heaven. But God's consequent will, in this sense, is not always done either, because some people refuse to repent and cooperate with the merciful love of Jesus Christ. Some remain cold-hearted to the bitter end and are lost forever by their own choice.

What, then, could Jesus have meant by telling St. Faustina that "all creatures, whether they know it or not, and whether they want to or not, always fulfill My will"? I think He was referring to God's will in a fourth and final sense: what theologians sometimes call God's "permissive will," or His "providential will." God certainly does not want to see His antecedent and consequent will obstructed or rejected by his creatures. But it is not as if the world is "out of control" and God doesn't have a "plan B" just because His "plan A" will is not always done! In fact, He would never permit any evils to occur in His world unless it were possible for Him to bring good out of them — sometimes a greater good than if He had not permitted those evils to happen in the first place.

Think of God as the greatest chess player of all time: No matter what move we may choose to make, He always knows how to respond in such a way that will bring about His ultimate plan to rescue as many of His children as possible from eternal loss. For example, it was not God's will (antecedent, moral, or consequent) that Judas betray Jesus. But He foresaw it and permitted it and used it as part of His providential plan to bring about the salvation of the whole world (and, of course, He permitted it even out of His love for Judas, giving him the dignity to choose his own destiny). The same is true of so many evils, misfortunes, and sufferings that befall us. We cannot always see why God permits them, but we can know by faith that He would never do so unless it was possible for Him (often with our cooperation) to bring good out of them — maybe even a good purpose that we could never have imagined before hand!

When Jesus was crucified, the apostles never dreamed that Jesus had thereby redeemed the whole world from sin. They were dejected and downcast and huddled together behind the locked doors of the cenacle, wondering what would befall them next. It was only later, after the Resurrection, that they came to appreciate that all this was part of God's permissive will to rescue mankind from sin, Satan, and death. In this sense, God's permissive and providential will is always done, and always leads to the fulfillment of His loving plan. I think this is what Jesus was referring to in that quote from the Diary that perplexed you, Alexa.

In fact, the Diary of St. Faustina is full to overflowing with her reflections and prayers about these various forms of the will of God. On the one hand, she dedicated herself to actively carrying out the moral will of God in every aspect of her life:

In spite of the profound peace my soul is enjoying, I am struggling continuously, and it is often a hard-fought battle for me to walk faithfully along my path; that is, the path which the Lord Jesus wants me to follow. And my path is to be faithful to the will of God in all things and at all times, especially by being faithful to inner inspirations in order to be a receptive instrument in God's hands for the carrying out of the work of His fathomless mercy.... Before each important action, I will stop to consider for a moment what relationship it has to eternal life and what may be the main reason for my undertaking it: is it for the glory of God, or for the good of my own soul, or for the good of the souls of others? If my heart says yes, then I will not swerve from carrying out the given action (Diary, 1173 and 1549).

On the other hand, fairly early in her Diary, one of her confessors tells St. Faustina that simply "doing" God's will, either in the sense of obeying His external commandments or of following His interior inspirations, is only the first and second degree of accomplishing the will of God. "In the third degree," he told her, "the soul abandoned to the will of God, allows Him to dispose of it freely, and God does with it as He pleases, and it is a docile tool in His hands" (444). Saint Faustina came to realize that this surrender to God's permissive and providential will was by far the hardest of the three degrees to attain:

There are times when He Himself allows terrible sufferings, and then again there are times when He does not let me suffer and removes everything that might afflict my soul. These are His ways, unfathomable and incomprehensible to us. It is for us to submit ourselves completely to His holy will. These are mysteries that the human mind will never fathom here on earth; eternity will reveal them (1656).

What brought St. Faustina comfort, light, and strength whenever she just had to "close her eyes," so to speak, and trust in God's permissive will, was her faith that Jesus is Divine Mercy Himself, and must be working out His loving plan, His "providential will," in all that He permitted her to suffer:

Today the Lord Jesus is giving me an awareness of Himself and of His most tender love and care for me. He is bringing me to understand deeply how everything depends on His will, and how He allows certain difficulties precisely for our merit, so that our fidelity might be clearly manifest. And through this, I have been given strength for suffering and self-denial. ... I want to live in the spirit of faith. I accept everything that comes my way as given me by the loving will of God, who sincerely desires my happiness. And so I will accept with submission and gratitude everything that God sends me. I pay no attention to the voice of nature and the promptings of self-love. ... Jesus gave me to know that even the smallest thing does not happen on earth without His will. After having seen this, my soul entered into an unusual repose; I found myself completely at peace as to the work [of mercy] in its full extent. God can deal with me as He pleases, and I will bless Him for everything (1409, 1549, and 1262).

Alexa, when you have the chance, read St. Faustina's wonderful "Act of Oblation" in her Diary, entry 1264, which she calls "an act of total abandonment to the will of God, which is for me, love and mercy itself." Here St. Faustina surrenders her own will to both the moral and providential will of the Lord in a way that encompasses every aspect of her life. It is a matchless expression of what living out the words of the Lord's Prayer, "Thy will be done," really means. And then, who can forget her beautiful prayer from entry 950, which is customary to recite now after every Divine Mercy Chaplet, and sums up her trustful surrender to the will of God so well:

Eternal God, in whom mercy is endless, ands the treasury of compassion inexhaustible, look kindly upon us, and increase Your mercy in us, that in difficult moments we might not despair nor become despondent, but with great confidence submit ourselves to Your holy will, which is love and mercy itself.

Robert Stackpole, STD, is director of the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy. His latest book is Divine Mercy: A Guide from Genesis to Benedict XVI (Marian Press). Got a question? E-mail him at [email protected].

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Kalona. PNG - Jan 11, 2010

I can testify to the will of GOD in my experience in Jan 2007 of a vision that Divine Mercy came to me and revealed these Bible texts; (1) Romans 8:8 Those in the flesh cannot please GOD, (2) Romans 8;18 The sufferings of the present time are nothing compared with the glory to be revealed & (3) Romans 8: 28 In all things God works for good for those who love GOD, those whom he has called according to his purpose.
Thank you for the inspiration and we are all in his eternal plan.

EFI, VANDERGRIFT - Jan 10, 2010

Thank you, Dr. S.
I agree with all l that you have written.
I would like to respond by looking at the daily news: astronomers recently report finding several new planets (exoplanets) and expect to find more Earth-like planets very soon. Surprise! Surprise!
They must have been there an awfully-long time and we never knew it. Which makes me wonder: How many other things and ideas in the world, in the Universe and in our own mental universe are there, just waiting to be discovered?
All of this has got to be part of God's plan. How can anyone think that they already "know it all"?
The only way to approach life is to have complete Faith and Trust in God. He knows what He is doing. We can only dimly guess, like the astronomers.
God's Plan and Mercy are unfathomable, but we
have got to believe that we are in good hands!

Ann - Jan 7, 2010

Truly God has revealed His Mercy to us in the life of Sister Faustina. Thank you for the explanation of His will for us. I find it difficult sometimes to accept His will but this explanation has revealed to me the purpose God has for me .

deb - Jan 3, 2010

this god's will -
permitting and/or ordained has been confusing me as well....
i pray about being a good amassador of His money - for example - get great peace from months of prayer - invest it all in what research indicates is safe -
and lose it all to a ponzi scheme!
was it God's will i lose all my financial savings and retirement?
am i being punished for not listening to him?
i prayed away!!!

Iryna - May 25, 2008

Thank you for your sharing. It's good to have people around who are open minded because I cannot do like that. I was before opened to my relatives and than I felt that they stealing everything good that I have insight and I stopped immediately to be who I am by copiing my cousin's wife. Than, I changed completely insight of myself and outside.Lately, I started hate myself.My life was awfull, but now I feel like I become who I am as I was before 4 years ago.Thank you for your prayers and guidnesses. I still have problems to communicate with people and find friends but with God all problems are not problems but eternal life.

Russ Spencer - Mar 30, 2008

Truly an "enlightened" and thought provoking answer to a difficult question. Total surrender to God's will is the key to salvation.

Rosemarie - Mar 24, 2008

AMEN!!! I started reading St. Faustina's Diary when my mom was diagnosed with Cancer last year. It was given to her by her close friend who propagates The Divine Mercy. I ended up reading the Diary since I needed explanation as to why this is happening to us and specially to my mom, who has the most beautiful soul and the purest of heart and very god fearing too. God spoke to me through this Diary. He gave me the strength I needed to face my suffering including my mom's death, separation with my husband after hearing that he had a child with someone, including my father's infidelity and cold-hearted, betrayal from relatives, loss of job after taking care of my mom, financial problem ... ALL in the same year. BUT WITH GOD, JESUS CHRIST, and the HOLY SPIRIT, MOTHER MARY, ANGLES AND SAINTS along with St. Faustina's Diary and The Divine Mercy Chaplet...NO WORDS CAN EXPLAIN...and being a young woman age 27 I was able to FACE, ACCEPT AND MOVE ON with my life with and all I did was TOTALLY SURRENDER MYSELF TO GOD. I never stopped praying up to this day and I cannot tell you the BLESSINGS CAME POURING and the tears of joy and the strength that GOD has been giving me. GOD was with me through the storm and I stand still until the storm quiets down for he was with me when I look back. Jesus, apart from YOU, I can do nothing. You are my entire life. GOD BLESS YOU ALL. My mom died on the Feast of Mt. Carmel which was her devotion and I recited the Chaplet on an on until she stopped breathing. On St. Faustina's Diary she wrote that Jesus told her "Encourage souls to say the Chaplet which I have given you... Whoever will recite it will receive great mercy at the hour of death... When they say this Chaplet in the presence of the dying, I will stand between My Father and the dying person, not as the Just Judge but as the Merciful Savior... Priests will recommend it to sinners as their last hope of salvation. Even if there were a sinner most hardened, if he were to recite this Chaplet only once, he would receive grace from My infinite mercy... I desire to grant unimaginable graces to souls who trust in My mercy.. Through the Chaplet you will obtain everything, if what you ask for is compatible with My will." GOD BLESS YOU ALL AND HAPPY EASTER!

John - Mar 23, 2008

Thank you so much for these thoughts. I was quite fascinated by that passage myself, having read it recently.

Your response is very helpful to confronting difficulties. The thought of God making something good come from bad situations is very comforting.

I do find one difficulty though: You said "such a way that will bring about His ultimate plan to rescue as many of His children as possible from eternal loss." But, it seems like His Divine Will would be not "as many....as possible," but "all." Thus, even His providential Will is not being fulfilled, following this line, which would be at odds with the original statement.

MATTHEW - Mar 22, 2008


Eric - Mar 22, 2008

Let us assume for a moment that Jesus meant what he said (that all creatures do His divine will) and we need not explain it away. This would mean that no matter what we do, whether we rebel or not, that our actions are subordinate to the almighty power of God, and even though we have a free will God's will is going to be done regardless. I like to think that it is kind of like after creation when God said it was good. We cannot change it from being good. Somehow, through God's almighty power, it is good. We see only dimly if at all -- God's word is always fulfilled, in ways which we cannot fathom. I think then the key issue becomes not do we actually do His will, but was that our intention?

Julie - Mar 21, 2008

Thank You!! God's ways are not are our ways, God's thoughts are not are our thoughts!!! Thank God!!!!

Ann T. - Mar 20, 2008

Truly a Divinely inspired response, Dr. S. Thank you for you faithfulness. I can't even take in the full scope of the Mystery in your response in one reading. I shall pray and ponder it further, especially as our Triduum commences.

Andy - Mar 20, 2008

WOW, I feel joy in my heart reading this. Thank you for your own surrender in order for the Holy Spirit to give you this to in turn give it us.
God Bless, Andy

Kathleen - Mar 20, 2008

Excellent, excellent answer to a challenging question. Thanks Dr. S. for this and all your insights.

a servant of Jesus and mary - Mar 19, 2008

WOW! This is very beautiful. It clarified a lot of things - May God be praised. Thank you for sharing your insights.

mary davao city - Mar 19, 2008

I love it,it give me a deeper meaning which I sometimes find confusing and it help me to clear my doubts.I will share this to my friends for I know this will give them the answer,have a wonderful day and God bless.