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?
10 thoughts on “Let Teresa of Avila teach you about patience”
We found out a year ago that my wife struggles with severe depression. It’s taking a lot of patience simply because it’s such an uncertain thing. Will she be ok today? How are the kids? Does she need a few weeks break? A few months? God gives His grace through very loving and supportive friends and family, but it’s something so out of your control that you have to trust God or you’ll go crazy. We believe it won’t always be this uncertain – even in the nearer future. But until then, you have to hope and believe that it really is his will, that the quote you started with is really true.
Thanks for commenting, Jonathan. My prayers are with you and your family. What a trial! But at the same time, what a grace! First, that your wife was diagnosed, so she can get the help she needs. Second, that you can learn to trust God. I believe that we cannot really “take off” in the spiritual life until we have learned that everything depends on God, not on ourselves. That’s why I’m writing a book about trust. It’s challenging, but ultimately freeing. I have been struggling with this for years, but only recently has the light bulb turned on so that I realized what was holding me back. Now I can look back at all my struggles as grace, and even my sins as “happy faults.” Of course, this is not always my first reaction to difficulties! Outwardly I look just the same. My inward attitude is usually different. Sometimes well-meaning friends and relatives might work against you, urging you to be anxious, because they will think your peaceful attitude is a sign of passivity or indifference. I will pray that God brings peace to all of you.
This is a great post Connie. It’s quite true, I am more sinful than I realize. I became aware of that myself as I added up all the sins I comitted during the course of a day. At least I’m conscious of them now, but I bet even now I’m still more sinful than I think. Happy feast day to St. Teresa. She’s a great saint.
Thanks, Manny. I know there are a lot of sins I am not even aware are sins–they seem so minor. Thankfully, God reveals our sins to us slowly over time, when we can handle the knowledge.
Hi Connie. I gave you a hat tip on my blog for the St. Teresa quote.
Thanks, Manny. You really ought to read Interior Castle. As you know, I recommend reading it along with Fire Within. Beautiful background photo on your blog, by the way.
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Connie, i so appreciate your blogs! I am not a mother who homeschools, but your homeschool website has certainly been benefitting me. This particular blog comes to me at a time when it seems most needed. I don’t feel so alone and gather strength. I am glad our Father guided me to your site. It never fails to amaze me how our Beloved hears my prayers and throughout my days, i am mysteriously led to “things” that seem to be coming straight from His perfect Lips! How does He love me so much!? How long till He gives me the grace to demonstrate the same love He pours on me every day back to Him and His creatures? I trust He knows. I just have to trust His “clock”. Thanks again for sharing your spiritual journey with us all! May God bless you and your family abundantly!
Stephanie, I am so happy to be used by Him to bless you! I’ve been on the receiving end so many times myself. Yes, God cares about the little things–like sending snow for St. Therese’s clothing ceremony, a childish wish of hers. He is a good Father who delights to surprise His children.
Connie, I am wondering how to move the
“shares vertical icon” from you page, or to the bottom? (the one for Pinterest, tweet, facebook, goodle, etc.?) It is right on top of your wonderful writing.
I love your website especially ALL things St. Teresa of Avila.