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Jeanne Guyon: Always in the Hands of Love
Vicissitudes form and mature the interior
In this letter, Jeanne Guyon1 advises trusting in the love of God and seeking contentment in whatever state he may put us in, whether it be consolation or desolation. On the whole, I like what she’s recommending, but I may differ slightly with it, or at least I’d want to nuance what she’s saying. Genuine suffering is not a good in itself and I don’t believe God causes it, even though he may permit it — for a time. With that said, no form of suffering is outside God’s redemptive scope, so all pain and affliction can ultimately be used for our good, our greater transformation into love.
As the soul advances in the life of God, its natural or selfish movements decrease; and it depends less on mere emotional exercises, and there is really less variation of the emotions.
Rest assured, it is the same God who causes the scarcity and the abundance, the rain and the fair weather. The high and low states, the peaceful and the state of warfare, are each good in their season. These vicissitudes form and mature the interior, as the different seasons compose the year. Each change in your inward experience, or external condition, is a new test, by which to try your faith and love; and will be a help towards perfecting your soul, if you receive it with love and submission.
Leave yourself therefore in the hands of Love. Love is always the same, although it causes you often to change your position. He who prefers one state to another, who loves abundance more than scarcity, when God orders otherwise, loves the gifts of God more than God himself.
God loves you; let this thought equalise all states. Let him do with us as with the waves of the sea, and whether he takes us to his bosom, or casts us upon the sand, that is, leaves us to our own barrenness, all is well.
For myself, I am pleased with all the Lord orders for me. I hold myself ready to suffer, not only imprisonment but death; perils everywhere—perils on the land — perils on the sea — among false brethren; all is good in Him, to Whom I am united forever.2
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Madam Jean Guyon (1565-1648) was a French mystic and non-conformist spiritual teacher who dedicated her life to a deep, personal relationship with the divine. She wrote extensively on her experiences of the divine and its mystical nature, ultimately forming a method of prayer which she called “spiritual union”. She was born into a well-known noble family and was married off at the age of 13, eventually bearing three children. Her early life was marked by a great deal of suffering and she found solace in the works of spiritual writers, such as Teresa of Ávila and John of the Cross.
At the age of 58, she joined the Ursulines, a Roman Catholic religious order, where she served for thirteen years. During these years she developed her unique spiritual teaching, which she called “the way of the heart”. Guyon taught her message of inner contemplation, detachment from material goods, and personal transformation through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Guyon was widely known and respected during her lifetime and she had a considerable influence on the development of spirituality in France and beyond. Her devotional works and letters have been reprinted in multiple languages, and her teachings continue to be studied and practiced by seekers of inner and spiritual growth.
Upham, P. L.. Letters of Madam Guyon. N.p.: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2013.