Lesson: Thérèse shared with her sister that her “soul has been refined in the crucible of interior and exterior trials.” Thérèse did not simply say that she has suffered greatly in her life. Rather, she immediately links both her interior and exterior suffering of the past to the refinement of her soul. Thérèse saw suffering through the lens of God’s purifying grace. She discovered in her suffering the gift of transformation and holiness.
Thérèse suffered in various ways throughout her short life. She suffered greatly at the death of her beloved mother when she was only four years old. Again, she experienced the pain of loss at age nine when her older sister and “new mother” Pauline entered the Carmelite convent. In school, Thérèse suffered what many children undergo when she was teased and mistreated by her classmates for being different. She was naturally very sensitive and scrupulous and this caused her much interior anguish. She also suffered physical illness as a child, as well as in the last year of her life.
Especially as a young nun, Thérèse suffered great darkness in her soul, which is a common experience for those who draw exceedingly close to God. This “darkness” is best described as a loss of all interior consolation and a sense that God is absent. But this darkness was a gift given to her by God to strengthen her faith and to enable her to choose the will of God for the sake of love alone and not for the reward of consolation.
At age twenty-one, Thérèse described herself as “a flower after the storm.” She went on to share that all she suffered enabled her to blossom and radiate the love of God. And throughout every “storm” she endured, the Good Shepherd was with her, walking by her side, leading her to the depths of His divine love.
Reflection: What is it that you suffer? Perhaps the loss of a loved one or a broken relationship is the cause of much anguish in your life. Perhaps you are misunderstood by another, misjudged, ridiculed, or mistreated. Perhaps you suffer from depression, loneliness, or another form of interior darkness.
If any of the above describes you, know that, just like Thérèse, God wants to strengthen you through your trials. This is a difficult lesson to understand and even more difficult to accept. But God is all-powerful and is able to use every storm in life to bring nourishment and strength to your soul.
When you experience the hardships of life, turn your eyes to “the flower after the storm.” Allow yourself to understand how God can use your suffering to strengthen you and know that He never leaves you during your trials. He is the Good Shepherd and walks through every dark valley you tread. Make an act of faith and love in the midst of your darkness and look forward, with hope, to the day that the sun will shine upon the flower God is nourishing within you.
Dear Saint Thérèse, God’s Little Flower, you beautifully weathered the storms of life. Pray for me, that I may be filled with divine hope and that I may imitate your great faith and love so that I, too, will be “refined in the crucible of interior and exterior trials.” May your prayers and witness help to mold me into the splendid flower God desires me to become. Saint Thérèse, pray for us.