This is the third chapter in a series of chapters on the subject of humility, taken from the book Divine Intimacy.
1. Christian humility does not lower, it elevates; it does not cast down, but gives courage, for the more it reveals to the soul its nothingness and abjection, the more it moves it toward God with confidence and abandonment. The very fact that in everything - in essence as in act, in the natural as in the supernatural order - we depend on Him, and that we can do nothing without Him, shows us that God wants to sustain us continually by His help and His grace. Consequently, the relations of a humble soul with God will be those of a child who confidently expects everything from its father. This is the lesson that Jesus wished to give His Apostles when they asked Him who would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven: "Amen, I say to you, unless you be converted and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, he is the greater in the kingdom of heaven" (Mt 13,3.4.). "To remain little," explains St. Therese of the Child Jesus, "is to acknowledge one's nothingness and to expect everything from the good God, as the child expects everything from its father.... Even among the poor, a child, while he is very little, is given everything that is necessary, but when he has grown, his father no longer wants to support him, and says 'Go to work now! You can rely on yourself.' It is that I might never hear those words that I never wanted to grow up, because I felt incapable of earning my own living: eternal life."
To the soul who humbly acknowledges its poverty and turns toward God with complete confidence, He is a very tender Father who delights in showering His gifts upon it and in doing for it what it cannot accomplish by itself. Then the smallest soul - that is, the one most thoroughly convinced of its own nothingness - becomes the greatest, since it has the greatness of God Himself at its command.
2. God does not introduce a soul to a higher spiritual life, nor admit it to deeper intimacy with Himself, as long as it is not completely despoiled of all confidence in itself. When a soul practically forgets its nothingness, and still relies on its own strength, knowledge, initiative, or virtues - be it ever so little - God leaves it to itself. The failures which follow, the falls, the fruitlessness of its works - all reveal its insufficiency; and the more a soul insists upon trusting in itself, so much the more will the Lord prolong this experience of its nothingness.
In speaking of her definite, total conversion, St. Teresa of Jesus confesses that what prevented her from overcoming the last obstacles was really a remnant of confidence which she still had in herself. "I must have failed to put my whole confidence in His Majesty and to have a complete distrust of myself." Confidence in God increases in proportion to our mistrust of ourselves; it becomes total when the soul, having acquired a thorough comprehension of its nothingness, has lost all faith in its own resources. The soul then realizes the truth of Jesus' words: "When you shall have done all these things that are commanded of you, say: We are unprofitable servants" (Lk 17,10). Even if the soul has had much experience in the interior life, in prayer and in virtue, it knows that it cannot rely on its own strength at all. It realizes that even if it has worked for the glory of God, it cannot depend on its own works; hence it will rely wholly and solely on Gd's mercy and grace: Non habeo fiduciam nisi in tua misericordia. All its confidence rests on the infinite merits of Jesus, on the merciful love of the heavenly Father and on the workings of grace; and this confidence makes it more courageous, more daring than ever, because it knows that with God it can do everything.
"What pleases Jesus," says the Saint of Liseaux, "is to see me love my littleness and poverty, the blind hope that I have in His mercy. This is my only treasure."