16 October 2009

Thoughts on Adversity and Consolation, by Tomas a Kempis

BOOK I, Chapter 12 from Imitation of Christ, Tomas a Kempis

It is good for us to have sometimes troubles and adversities; for they make a man enter into his heart, that he may know that he is in banishment, and may not place his hope in any thing of this world. It is good that we sometimes suffer contradictions and that men have an evil or imperfect opinion of us, even when we do and intend well.

These things are often helps to humility, and defend us from vain glory.

For then we better seek God, our inward witness, when outwardly men hold us cheap, and do not think well of us.
Therefore should a man establish himself in such manner in God, as to have no need of seeking many consolations from men.
When a man of good will is troubled or tempted, or afflicted with evil thoughts, then he better under- stands what need he has of God, without whom he finds he cannot do any good.
Then also he laments, sighs, and prays, by reason of the miseries which he suffers.
Then is he weary of living longer, and wishes death to come, that he may be dissolved and be with Christ. Then also he well perceives that perfect security and full peace cannot long abide in this world.

From Chapter 9:

He (St. Lawrence) overcame therefore the love of man by the love of the Creator; and instead of human solace, he made choice rather of the good pleasure of God.

So do thou also learn to part with some familiar and beloved friend for the love of God.

And take it not to heart when thou art forsaken by a friend, knowing that one time or other we must all part.

A man must go through a long and great conflict within himself before he can learn fully to overcome himself, and to draw his whole affection towards God.

When a man stands upon himself, he easily falls off to human consolation.

But a true lover of Christ and a diligent follower after virtue does not fall back on consolations, nor seek such sensible sweetnesses, but is rather willing to bear strong trials and hard labours for Christ.

Therefore, when God gives spiritual comfort, receive it with thanksgiving ; but know that it is the gift of God, not thy desert.

Be not puffed up, be not overjoyed, nor vainly presume ; but rather be the more humble because it is a gift, and the more cautious and wary in all thy actions; for this hour will pass away and temptation will follow.

When consolation shall be taken away, do not presently give up hope, but wait with humility and patience for the heavenly visit; for God is able to give thee back again a fuller consolation.

This is no new thing, nor strange to those who have experienced the ways of God; for in the great saints and ancient prophets this has often been the way, that the one changes for the other.