From An Introduction to the Devout Life III.10 (1609)
The diligence and care with which we should attend to our business affairs must never be confused with anxiety and worry. Care and diligence are compatible with tranquility and peace of mind; anxiety, scrupulosity, and agitation are not.
Be careful and diligent in all your affairs, for God who has committed these things to your care would want things done well in accord with his will, but without your care and attention degenerating into nervous anxiety. Do not hurry or excite yourself because this will undermine your judgment and prevent you executing your responsibilities effectively.
Nothing is ever done well that is done with haste and impetuosity. We should take time to listen, in accordance with the advice of Solomon: “He that is in haste is in danger of stumbling.” We will accomplish our duties in good time when we take time to do them properly. Try, then, to meet the decisions facing you quietly, one at a time. If you try to do everything at once or out of order, your spirit will be so overcharged and depressed that it will probably sink under the burden without achieving anything.
In all your undertakings rely wholly on God’s providential care, through which alone comes success. Work steadily on your part, seeking always to cooperate with God’s designs. Then you may be assured, that if you trust all to God, whatever happens will indeed be the best for you, whether it seems in your own judgment good or bad. Imitate little children who, while holding onto their father with one hand, like to gather strawberries or blackberries from the hedgerow with their free hand. In the same way, you too, whilst gathering and handling the affairs of this world with one hand, must always make sure that you are holding onto your heavenly Father with your other hand, looking at him from time to time to make sure your actions and decisions are pleasing to him. But above all, making sure that you never let go, or preferring to gather more things, fall flat on your face.
My meaning in all this is that amid the affairs and duties of our life, we should be sure to look more to God than to them. And when our duties are of such importance that they demand our undivided attention, then we should make sure that from time to time we cast a look toward God, rather like sailors who in setting their course for port look more at the stars of heaven than the open seas. In so doing God will work with you and in you and for you, and you will not labor in vain but will be filled with God’s consolation.
Francis de Sales (1567-1622) was a gifted preacher and writer on the spiritual life, who served for several decades as Bishop of Geneva. Though a talented anti-Protestant controversialist, he was revered for his gentle spirit, which gained the respect of many of his opponents. His Introduction to the Devout Life, a manual for laypeople, is among the finest practical guides to discipleship. His feast day is January 25. The text has been altered for contemporary readers.