Quotes from The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas a Kempis (1380?-1471); thought to be the most widely read Christian devotional book in history. No book of any kind, besides the Bible, has been translated into more languages.
You have here no lasting home (Hebrews 13:14); and wherever you may be, you are a stranger and a pilgrim (Hebrews 11:13). You shall have no rest until you are wholly united with Christ. Why do you look about here for your comfort and peace, when this is not the place of your rest? Dwell rather upon heaven and give but a passing glance to all earthly things. All things are passing away, and you together with them. Take care, then, that you do not cling to them lest you be entrapped and perish. Fix your mind on the Most High, and pray to Christ.
If you meditate on the suffering of Christ, you will find great comfort in your own suffering; and you will mind but little the scorn of men, and you will easily bear their slanderous talk. For Christ also was in the world, and He was despised by men. In the hour of need He was forsaken by his friends and left to the depths of scorn. He was willing to suffer and to be despised; do you dare to complain of anything? Christ had enemies and slanderers; do you think everyone should be your friend and benefactor? How can your patience be rewarded if no adversity ever tests it? How can you be a friend of Christ if you are not willing to suffer any hardship? Suffer with Christ and for Christ if you wish to reign with Him.
Do not place much confidence in weak and mortal men (Jeremiah 17:5), helpful and friendly though they be. And do not grieve too much if they sometimes oppose and contradict you. Those who are with us today may be against us tomorrow, and often again they turn around, like the wind. Place all your trust in God (I Peter 5:7); let Him be your fear and your love.
Be not troubled about those who are with you or against you, but take care that God be with you in everything you do (Romans 8:31; I Cor. 4:3). Keep your conscience clear and God will protect you (Psalm 28:7), for the malice of man cannot harm one whom God wishes to help. If you know how to suffer in silence, you will undoubtedly experience God’s help. He knows when and how to deliver you; therefore, place yourself in His hands. It belongs to God to help and to deliver from all distress and confusion.
First keep peace with yourself; then you will be able to bring peace to others. A peaceful man does more good than a learned man. Whereas a turbulent man turns even good to evil and is quick to believe evil, the peaceful man, being good himself, turns all things to good… The disturbed and discontented spirit is upset by many things. He neither rests himself nor permits others to do so. He often says what ought not to be said and leaves undone what ought to be done. He is concerned with the duties of others (Matthew 7:3), but neglects his own. Direct your zeal, therefore, first upon yourself; then you may with justice exercise it upon those about you. You are skilled at coloring your own actions with excuses, but you are not willing to receive the excuses of others. If you wish men to bear with you, you must bear with them…
It is no great thing to be able to associate with the good and gentle, for such association is naturally pleasing. Everyone enjoys a peaceful life and loves best those who agree with him. But to be able to live at peace with harsh and perverse people, or with the undisciplined and those who irritate us, is a great grace, and an exceedingly commendable deed.
All our peace in this miserable life is found in humbly enduring suffering rather than in being free from it (for we will suffer). He who knows best how to suffer will enjoy the greater peace, because he is the conqueror of himself, the master of the world, a friend of Christ, and an heir of heaven.
John 16:33 — (Jesus said), “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Romans 8:31 — What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?
Matthew 7:3 — (Jesus said), “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”
Help us against our own negligence and cowardice, and defend us from the treachery of our unfaithful hearts.
Give us, O Lord, steadfast hearts that cannot be dragged down by false loves;
give us courageous hearts that cannot be worn down by trouble;
give us righteous hearts that cannot be sidetracked by unholy or unworthy goals.
Give to us also, our Lord and God, understanding to know You,
diligence to look for you,
wisdom to recognize You,
and a faithfulness that will bring us to see You face to face. Amen.
–Thomas a Kempis