People say: 'Alas, sir, I wish I stood as well with God or had as much devotion and were as much at peace with God as others are, I wish I were like them, or that I were so poor', or: 'I can never manage it unless I am there or there, or do this or that; I must get away from it all, or go and live in a cell or a cloister.'
In fact, the reason lies entirely with yourself and with nothing else. It is self-will, though you may not know it or believe it: restlessness never arises in you except from self-will, whether you realise it or not. Though we may think a person should flee these things or seek those things - places or people or methods, or company or deeds – this is not the reason why methods or things hold you back: it is you yourself in the things that prevents you, for you have a wrong attitude to things.
Therefore start first with yourself, and resign yourself. In truth, unless you flee first from yourself, then wherever you flee to, you will find obstacles and restlessness no matter where it is. If people seek peace in outward things, whether in places or in methods or in people or in deeds or in banishment or in poverty or in humiliation, however great or of whatever kind all this may be, this is all in vain and brings them no peace. Those who seek thus seek wrongly; the further they go the less they find what they are seeking. They are like people who have taken a wrong turning: the further they go, the more they go astray. But what should they do? They should resign themselves to begin with, and then they have abandoned all things. In truth, if a person gave up a kingdom or the whole world and did not give up self, he or she would have given up nothing. But if you give up yourself, then whatever you keep, wealth, honour or whatever it may be, still you have given up everything.
One saint comments on St Peter's words: "See, Lord, we have left everything" (Matt. 19: 27) - and all that he had left was just a net and his boat. This saint says whoever leaves a little of his own free will, leaves not that alone, but all that worldly people can get hold of, in fact all that they are able to desire. For they who resign themselves and their own will have left all things as truly as if they were their free possession and at their absolute disposal. For that which you don't want to desire, you have handed over and resigned for God's sake. That is why our Lord said: "Blessed are the poor in spirit" (Mt 5: 3), that is, in will. And none should doubt this, for if there were any better way our Lord would have declared it, just as he said: "If anyone would follow me, he must first deny himself" (Mt 16:24). It all depends on that. Observe yourself, and wherever you find yourself, leave yourself: that is the very best way.