This book was written in the 1530s by a German monk named John of Landsberg. He wrote in Latin but it was later translated into English in the late 1500s and then into its current form in 1990. It is written as if Jesus authored a letter to His followers (the full original title was “A Letter from Jesus Christ to the Soul that Really Loves Him”). Overall I didn’t love the book but it has several profound passages that I reproduce here to let you decide on your own if you want to read it (remember that all passages are written as if Jesus is speaking to you).
I stand here desiring you and waiting for you. I want you to return to me with your whole heart. Leave all these vain and useless things. Become wholly devoted to me, and quite humble in heart, so that I can talk to you more closely and lovingly and please your mind with delights that are far better and far purer than those that have drenched you for so long.
I don’t want you to do a whole lot of things, to agonize over this or that exceptional way of pleasing me. I want a chaste, faithful and pure heart which isn’t interested in its own pleasures. I want sincere love and fervent devotion. I want a will that is ready and eager to honor me and obey me, and a sincere and pure intention to do what I really want you to do.
I am happy if you trust me, surely and firmly; I am happy if you are as willing to be with me as I desire to be with you: for all my pleasure is found in human company. If you trust in me and desire to be with me, then every day your strength of mind will increase and your soul grow more sweetly loving.
I also want you to be with me always, and by being with me to be happy. Then why, you ask, don’t I plunge you directly into eternal bliss? For your own good, so that hour by hour you may grow in virtue and learn how precious a jewel time is, and say, ‘Jesus who loves me has given me this hour and this moment, and has prolonged my life this far, so that I can turn to him.”
Use every occasion, every event, all work and all leisure, and everything that could or will happen to you, to benefit your soul and serve my purpose.
I know that you’re the sort of person who always looks for consolation; you are always in some way occupied, either outwardly in physical actions, or inwardly by worrying away in your mind, in seeking comfort from the world, with the sole result that you’re distracted from what really matters.
Check your desire to be liked, loved and praised by others, and the pleasure you take in that kind of reaction. Let people think and do as people will; just worry about loving me, and whether you are worthy of my approval.
Keep at it. Be afraid that if you decide to give up or if you are just too lazy a person to keep praying, that I won’t be able to help you and that I shall, as it were, leave you to your own devices and allow you to take refuge in the most deceitful security – the feeling that anyway you’re doing what you really want to do.
People who feel no fear of their own desires are in a very dangerous state. When they think, “Actually, now I’m doing what I really wanted to do, I feel more relaxed and peaceful than I ever have,” then they’re on the edge of the slippery slope. Fight hard against that kind of confidence in your own desires. And never despair.
Profound depression and perplexity of mind often follow a loss of hope, when what really ails you is that things simply haven’t happened as you expected and wanted.
Try every day to advance my glory as much as possible wherever you can, and to do my will in yourself and in others. Don’t neglect any good work that you have the ability to do, but try to do better every day without glorying or rejoicing in your own ability or all the effort you put into being good. Remember that you should act as if you did nothing entirely of yourself.
Don’t glory in anything and don’t boast about or be proud of anything that you have, feel or do. If anyone happens to offend or to despise you, don’t be angry with that person, or look sourly at him or her, or bear him or her less or no good will. Instead be quite astonished that every creature alive doesn’t persecute you in return for the injury that you have done to me who made both you and them, and whom you nevertheless aren’t in the least afraid to offend.
Make sure that you do not take pleasure in yourself but wonder instead how you could ever please or delight anyone else who really knows you as you are.
You will want for nothing as long as you are with me. I shall look after you, I shall protect you. You can lose nothing if you lose yourself in this way, for in me you will find something a hundred times better than what you have lost for my sake.
The greater hope and trust that you have in me, the more fully and perfectly you will obtain what you really desire.
There is nothing which cannot be a means for you to obtain my grace more abundantly. You will find me in every one of them. Contemplate people and things not as the creatures they are but me in those creatures. Then you will receive me, hear me, feel me in every one of my creatures, for I speak to you in all of them. Learn by everything that happens to you what I want you to do, and when you know my will be ready to do it. If you do that, then the world and everything that is in it should be a book of instruction to help you do what pleases me most.
Rely on me and commit all your cares to me. Fix and settle your heart on me alone. See me only and no more than me in all things. I am in all and all in all, so wait patiently with long-suffering until you find me. Be content to wait for me again and again and never be weary of waiting until you find me, relying on my goodness and on my most wise providence, which is full of love for you. When I don’t turn up, expect me patiently, for I will come at the last without any doubt. Be free from all your own desires, and separate yourself from all love for and delight in worldly things. Divide yourself from all fancy and imagination, and cleave to me utterly in simplicity and nakedness of heart.