As God infinitely surpasses in excellence and perfection all created things; as angels and men, the noblest of His works, are, before Him, only atoms and dust; as all their intellect and wisdom is, in comparison with His, only ignorance and darkness,— so the orders and designs of God must be infinitely more elevated than theirs. As, moreover, the felicity God has prepared for man, — considered either in the operating cause, which is God; or the final cause, which is the eternal possession of Him, — is the most sublime of all things, we must conclude that the ways by which He conducts man to beatitude ought naturally to transcend all our ideas. “My thoughts are not your thoughts,” says He by the prophet Isaias, ''neither are my ways your ways: as the heavens are elevated above the earth, so are my thoughts exalted above your thoughts, and my ways above yours." In conducting an affair, God does what we would not do, under the circumstances, and leaves undone what we should do. For example, if God and a man love the same person, they comport themselves very differently toward her: the man believes himself obliged to procure, for her, honors, riches and pleasures; he would never think of treating her harshly, of sending her sickness, of exposing her to persecution and contempt. But God shows His love by sending all these evils, and refusing or retrenching all those goods; as evidently appears by the manner in which He acted toward His Son, our Lord, toward our Blessed Lady, and all those whom he specially loved.
St. Peter, being scandalized to hear our Lord speak of His sufferings and death, “began to rebuke Him, saying: Lord, be it far from Thee: this shall not be unto Thee.” But Jesus reproved Peter, saying that he spoke like a man animated with a human spirit, not with the spirit of God; thus showing the diversity of the respective sentiments of God and man.
Do we not often see that those whose position gives them much facility for promoting the glory of God and the happiness of men, as the great, will not do so; and those who desire to promote the honor of God and the good of man, as the just, have neither the authority nor the ability to do so? God often gives graces to persons who, He knows, will abuse them, and denies them to others who would have made a good use of them. These are the rains of which Job speaks, which fall in desert places and on rocks, while neighboring lands that would have profited by them, are parched with thirst. Now, if these things depended on us, it is certain that, following our own light, we should act otherwise; we should give the power to do good to him that had the will to use it, and graces to those who would turn them to good account. We do not sow wheat on sand, but in a good soil; we do not give our money to a person who, we think, might throw it into the river, but to one who will employ it well. Thus, the ways of God are different from ours. Still more: very often the ways of God seem contrary to the ends to which they refer: heat is not more opposed to cold, or dryness to humidity, than the ways of God are opposed, in appearance at least, to the ends He has in view. He promised a numerous posterity to Abraham, through his son Isaac, and then commanded him to kill this son. Now, if He wishes to multiply the race of Abraham through Isaac, why does He command the slaughter of Isaac? And if He intended that Isaac should be offered in sacrifice, why did he make such a promise? Afterward, God gives Isaac a sterile wife. What bond can her sterility have with the promised fecundity, or the fecundity with the sterility? God sent Gideon against an immense number of Madianites, Amalekites and other peoples, to defeat them; nevertheless, He desires him to disband all his men except three hundred, and these have for arms only empty pitchers, with lighted lamps and trumpets. Our Lord gives sight to a man born blind: but how? By putting clay on his eyes,— a proceeding which would suffice to blind him, if his sight were ever so good.
But let us, in proof of this, examine at greater length the history of Joseph and that of David. God had resolved to elevate Joseph above his brethren, and, though he was nearly the last in age, to make him the first in dignity, so that the rest should bow down before him; as was foreshown him in two dreams which he had, and which he related to his father and brothers: the first, of his sheaf, before which the sheaves of his brothers bent; the other, of the sun and moon and eleven stars that adored him. God, then, has formed this design; but let us now see the means He uses to accomplish it.
At first, He permits the brothers to conceive so great a hatred for Joseph, that they never speak a kind word to him. Later on, in consequence of this hatred, they resolve to put him to death. However, not wishing to imbrue their hands in his blood, they cast him into a deep pit, and leave him there to die of hunger. They are not moved by the sweet name of brother, by his beauty and innocence, by his prayers and tears, or by the consideration of their father whom the loss of this dear son would render inconsolable. Rescued from the pit, he was sold to some merchants, and by them to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh’s household. Potiphar, deceived by his wife, cast him into prison, and thus recompensed the signal services he had rendered him, and the heroic chastity he had practised. There he dwelt, according to Philo, thirteen years, and, according to others, three, in anguish and misery, for he was scourged, outraged and ill-treated. Speaking of this illustrious innocent, David says: “They humbled his feet in fetters, the iron pierced his soul, until the word of the Lord came. And the king released him, and made him ruler of all his possessions.”
Now, how did God elevate Joseph? By what degrees did he mount to the glory destined for him? By the envy and hatred of his brethren, by slavery and imprisonment, by false accusations, chains, and all sorts of evils. Afterward, the favor of the king, the plenty and famine of Egypt, the necessities of Jacob and his other sons, were secret ways by which the design of God was carried into effect. And God might well say to Joseph what He afterward said to another by his prophet Ezechiel: “You shall know that I have not done without cause all that I have done in these events.”
Let us now speak of David: God designed to make him king in place of Saul. Let us consider the means by which He put the crown on his head. Contrarieties in abundance occurred in the fortune of this famous shepherd. First, as to time: he is anointed, and with the unction receives the right to the kingdom, in the twentieth year of his age and the eighteenth of the reign of Saul. He must wait, nevertheless, till the death of this prince to enjoy the throne, but, even after this, Isboseth, son of Saul, disputes it with him for seven years and a half. Secondly, as to obstacles: how great were those which he encountered, and from which he suffered! Saul, gnawed by envy, employed all his power and all the inventions of his malice and fury to destroy him. He persecutes him incessantly, and seeks him everywhere. Having heard that he was sick in his house, he sent officers to seize him saying,“Bring him to me in the bed that I may kill him.” Three times he cast at David the javelin he usually held in his hand,“thinking to nail him to the wall.” He sent him to fight with the Philistines, hoping that he might be slain. He constrained him by violent pursuits to hide himself in caves, and rocks, and inaccessible places, says the sacred text; to seek protection of strange princes, as the King of Gath and the King of Moab. In fact, the fury of Saul went so far that he ordered to be massacred in his presence eighty-five priests, of whom Abimelech was the chief; and, after that, caused all the inhabitants of their city, even children and beasts, to be slain, because Abimelech had innocently allowed David to pass through Nobe, the city of the priests, and did not arrest him. One day, while at table, he darted his javelin at his own son Jonathan, because Jonathan loved David and took his part. See through what afflictions David had to pass before he enjoyed what God had solemnly promised him!
But in the ways of God there is nothing more extraordinary than the means He adopted to save the human race; that is to say, the death of His Son, who died nailed to a cross. This has always appeared so strange, so extravagant, and so contrary to reason, that, according to St. Paul, the Greeks held it to be pure folly; and the Jews, who possessed the knowledge of the true God, who were instructed by His prophets and governed by His laws, esteemed it a scandal and a blasphemy to think or to say that Christ was the Son of God.
St. John Chrysostom, explaining these words of St. Paul, “We preach Christ crucified: to the Jews indeed a stumbling block, and to the Gentiles foolishness,” says: “When we solicit the Jews to believe, they answer: ‘Cast out devils, raise the dead, work other miracles, and we shall believe.’ And what do we reply, but that He in whom they should believe, was crucified!” This, far from attracting those who do not wish to come, would naturally drive away those who are eager to join us. If we ask the Greeks to embrace our faith, they demand logic and eloquence, they desire riches, honors and pleasures; and we despise these things, and preach only the cross, in which they see but poverty, contempt and sorrow,— the cross which was first announced by unknown, ignorant fishermen, the refuse of the world. Since, then, we do not give what is asked of us, and even give what is diametrically opposed to it, and, nevertheless, subject souls to Christ by this means, it is clear that God leads us to salvation by ways that seem contrary to it.
Thus, the immense riches of heaven are promised to voluntary poverty, glory and greatness to opprobrium and abasement; pleasures and delights in paradise are exchanged for sufferings of body and mind; and the clear vision of all mysteries is the recompense which awaits the obscure knowledge which faith give us here below. Thus, by darkness we go to light, by misery we reach happiness, by sickness we acquire health, and by temporal death we attain to life eternal.
The Spiritual Man; or The Spiritual Life Reduced to its First Principles by Jean Baptiste Saint Jure pages 342-347