On obedience to God by St. Ignatius

Over all epochs, world events, and individual destinies one can see the hand of God, the Creator of all creatures and their universal Master, all-seeing, all-ruling, assigning His purposes and intentions to everything.

On obedience to God
by Saint Ignatius Brianchaninov

God allows man to be an observer of His rule. However, the reasons for various destinies and the origins of God’s commands are known to God alone: for who hath known the mind of the Lord, or who hath been His counselor (Rom. 11:34)? And the fact that man is allowed to observe God in His providence, in His rule over creation, in His destinies, is the greatest good for man, bringing him abundant spiritual benefit.

The observance of the Creator and the Lord of all visible and invisible creations invests the observer with supernatural strength: this observance is united with an acknowledgment of the unlimited power of the Almighty King of creation over His creation. The hairs from our heads, the hairs that are so insignificant in man’s frail opinion, are all accounted for by this limitless and all-encompassing Wisdom and are guarded by It. The more so not a single event, not a single upheaval in the life of mankind can occur without Its concurrence. A Christian, looking directly at God’s providence, preserves unfailing courage and unshakeable strength among the heaviest of misfortunes. He says together with King David, the psalm-singer: I have set the Lord always before me: because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved (Ps. 16:8). The Lord is my helper: I will not fear any misfortune, I will not be subjected to despair, I will not become immersed in the deep sea of sorrow. Glory be to God for everything!

The observance of God’s providence instills in us a boundless obedience to God. When the servant of God is surrounded on all sides by a multitude of intricate sorrows, he comforts his wounded heart with the following thoughts: “God sees all of this. If for reasons known to Him, the All-wise One, these sorrows were harmful to me and unnecessary, He, the Omnipotent One, would have prevented them. But He does not impede them; therefore, it is His all-holy will that they should oppress me. His will is precious to me, more precious than life itself! It is better for a creation to die than reject the will of the Creator! This will contains true life! Glory be to God for everything!”

The observance of God’s providence helps engender profound meekness in the soul and invariable love for others, which no adverse winds can disturb. For such a soul there are no offenses, no reproaches, no misfortunes: all creation acts according to the will or the tolerance of the Creator; creation is simply a blind tool. The voice of humility is heard within such a soul, accusing it of innumerable sins and vindicating others as tools of just providence. This voice is joyfully heard amid suffering, bringing peace and comfort; it quietly says: “I am receiving just recompense for my deeds. It is better for me to suffer in this brief life, than to eternally suffer the eternal torments of hell. The fact that people are punished in their brief earthly lives attests to God’s ineffable mercy.” Glory be to God!

The observance of God’s providence preserves and increases faith in God. The one who sees the invisible omnipotent hand ruling the world – remains unmoved by the terrible tempests that sweep the sea of life; he believes that public life, the Church ship, and the destinies of each individual are controlled by the omnipotent and omniscient hand of God. Gazing upon mighty waves, terrible tempests, gloomy clouds, he calms himself with the thought that God sees every-thing that is going on. It befits man – the frail creation – to exhibit quiet and modest submissiveness, a pious realization and observance of God’s destinies. May everything be directed towards the purposes that were determined from above! Glory be to God for everything!

The observance of divine providence helps overcome not only temporal sorrows, but also those which await man on the threshold of eternity. They are blunted and destroyed by the blessed comfort which enters the heart that has denied itself for the sake of obedience to God. Those who are loyal to God’s will do not fear even death itself: the faithful servant of Christ gives up his soul and his eternal fate into Christ’s hands, gives them up with a firm belief in Christ, with unshakeable hope in His mercy and power. When the soul departs from the body, and the rejected spirits arrogantly approach it, with its submissiveness to God’s will it shall defeat and rout the gloomy and evil spirits. The servants of Satan will tremble seeing such a meek and complete submissiveness to the will of God! Having rejected this blessed obedience, they turned from bright and good angels into dark and evil demons. They will flee with shame, while the soul will freely direct its path towards its treasure – the Lord God. There it will see face-to-face the One Who is seen here through faith in His providence, and will eternally proclaim: glory be to God!

Glory be to God! Such mighty words! In sorrowful circumstances, when the heart becomes encompassed by doubt, faintheartedness, dissatisfaction, and grumbling, one must force oneself to a frequent, unhurried, attentive repetition of the words: glory be to God! Whoever accepts this advice with simplicity of heart and tests it on himself, will see the wondrous power of glorifying God; such a person will rejoice in the acquisition of such a beneficial, powerful, and convenient weapon against the mental enemies. Just the sound of these words being uttered when gloomy thoughts of sorrow and despair accumulate, just the sound of these words being uttered even forcibly, – cause the aerial princes to tremble and flee; all the gloomy thoughts disperse like dust in a strong wind, and heaviness and boredom depart from the soul; instead, it becomes filled with lightness, calmness, tranquility, comfort, and joy. Glory be to God!

Glory be to God! Such triumphant words! Words that declare victory! Words of joy for all faithful servants of God, and words of fear and defeat for all His enemies, and the destruction of their weapons. This weapon is sin; this weapon is the human mind, the fallen human wisdom. It arose from the fall and has its origin in sin, and for this reason it is constantly in opposition to God and is constantly rejected by God. In vain will all the sages of the earth gather around someone wounded by sorrow; in vain will they attempt to heal him with eloquence and philosophy; in vain is the effort of the ill person himself, if he wishes to unravel the intricate net of sorrow by means of his own mind. Very frequently the mind becomes lost within this intricate net! Frequently it sees itself ensnared and imprisoned from all sides! Frequently deliverance and comfort appear to be totally impossible! And so many perish under the unbearable burden of profound sorrow, perish from the sores of misfortune, without having found any means on earth to heal these sores. Earthly wisdom presented itself with all its resources, but all turned out to be powerless, insignificant. Put aside, dear brother, all the tools of your mind! Take up the implement that is offered to you through the teaching of Christ. Human wisdom will mockingly smile, seeing the implement that is offered by faith; the fallen mind, by the nature of its enmity towards God, will not tarry in presenting the most brilliant arguments, full of educated skepticism and irony. Do not pay any attention to them, these enemies of God, rejected by God. In your sorrow begin to utter the heartfelt words: glory be to God! And you shall witness a miracle: these words will dispel sorrow, will summon comfort to the heart, will achieve that which the reason of men of intellect and the wisdom of earthly sages were unable to achieve. This intellect and this wisdom will be put to shame, while you – delivered, healed, believing with a living faith, will give glory to God!

Glory be to God! Many of God’s saints loved to frequently repeat these words, experiencing their hidden power. St. John Chrysostome, when speaking with his spiritual friends about various circumstances, especially sorrowful ones, always used these words as the foundation and the principal dogma of his discourses: glory be to God for everything!

Brethren! Let us become used to a frequent glorification of God; let us use this weapon in our sorrows. Through a continuous glorification of God let us repel our invisible adversaries, particularly those who try to overcome us with sadness, faintheartedness, grumbling, despair. Let us purify ourselves with tears, prayer, the reading of the Holy Scriptures and the writings of the Holy Fathers, in order to become observers of God’s providence, all-seeing, all-encompassing, all-ruling, directing all along its incomprehensible destinies towards goals known to God alone. Having become observers of God’s rule, let us with unshakeable inner tranquility, complete obedience, and firm faith wonder at the majesty of the incomprehensible God and give Him glory now and unto the ages of ages.

Saint Ignatius Bryanchaninov