From The Joy of Full Surrender
All we need to know is how to recognize God’s will for the present moment. Any reading we might choose without regard to the will of God is harmful to us. The will of God and obedience to his leading brings us grace, and this grace is what does the work in the depths of our hearts through reading or anything else we do. Without God, books are only vain appearances, deprived of God’s life-giving power as far as we are concerned, and they succeed only in emptying the heart by the very satisfaction our reading brings to the mind.
God’s will, working in the souls of simple and ignorant persons through suffering or through a few very ordinary actions, produces an abundance of supernatural life in those persons without filling their minds with self-exalting ideas. On the other hand, proud persons who study spiritual books merely out of curiosity, with no concern for the will of God, receive only the dead letter of the law into their minds, and their hearts grow even drier and harder.
God’s order of things, God’s divine will, are the life of the soul, no matter in what way they work or are obeyed. Whatever may be the relation of God’s will to the intelligence, it nourishes the soul and gives growth to it by giving it each moment what is best for it. Nor is one thing more effective than another in producing these happy effects, but rather, whatever God has willed for the present moment. What was best for the moment that has passed is no longer so, because it is no longer the better part: all we have to do is allow it to act and surrender ourselves to it blindly and with perfect trust. It is infinitely wise, powerful, and bountiful to those who trust themselves unreservedly to it, who love and go in search for it alone, and who believe with an unshaken faith and confidence that what it arranges for each moment is best, without searching elsewhere for more or less, and without pausing to consider the connection between these outward circumstances and the will of God. Such consideration would be the seeking of pure self-love.
Nothing is essential, real, or of any value unless it is ordained by God, who adapts all things and makes them suitable to the soul. Aside from God’s will, everything is hollow, empty, and vacant: there is nothing but falsehood, vanity, nothingness, shallowness, the letter of the law, death. The will of God is the salvation, health, and life of both body and soul, no matter what may be its ways of reading us. We must not, then, scrutinize too closely the suitability of things to the mind or the body to form a judgment of their value, because this is of little importance. It is the will of God, given in and through these things, that effectively works to renew the image of Jesus Christ deep within our hearts. We must not attempt to make God’s will conform to a law or set limits on it, for it is all-powerful. Whatever ideas the mind may form, whatever feelings the body may experience, even if the mind is tormented with distractions and trouble, or the body with sickness and pain – nevertheless, God’s will is always the life of the body and the soul at every moment. In fact, both body and soul, whatever their condition may be, are sustained by God’s will alone.
Without it, bread may be poison; with it, poison can be a healthful remedy. Without it, books can only darken the mind; with it, darkness is turned to light. God’s will is everything that is good and true in all things. In all things that will unites us to God, and God, infinite in all his perfections, leaves nothing to be desired by the soul that possesses him.