On Afflictions, Pain, and Labors
5 . In all circumstances have the noetic eye of the soul turned upwards, where help will come. Do not despair, whatever may happen. According to the trial, the way out follows. God never allows, or rather, He does not give a person a load beyond his strength. If men have the discernment to do this with animals, how much more does the good God, Who shed His All-holy Blood for man on the Cross! The truth is that Christians who endure temporary afflictions acquire through them future eternal joy and repose. We should never envy those who have constant joy and peace here on earth—rather we should pity them, for temporary joy will become for them an obstacle to the future life. God is merciful but also just—merciful in the present life, but after death a just Judge. It is not possible for Him to give afflicted Christians—that is, true Christians, not just Christians in name—eternal distress as well. But there He will give them constant joy, which no one will be able to take from them. God cannot cast a person from punishment to punishment. Therefore, rejoice instead of grieving, because God counted you worthy to suffer temporarily in order to give you eternal repose. Eternal joy is reserved only for suffering Christians. In the holy Gospel, the Lord says about the rich man and Lazarus: “Abraham said: Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented.” (Lk. 16:25 ).
God never shows favoritism, but He acts according to righteous principles. If you glance through the lives of the saints, you will see continous trials, afflictions, and distress. This is how they passed their lives. No pleasure-lover will enter into the eternal habitation which is full of ineffable joy, but rather those who were afflicted and endured for God, for the sake of keeping His commandments. The Lord says, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world”. (Jn. 16:33 ). This was said by the God Who came to the earth and labored and suffered throughout His life, and then finally, where did He end up? Hanging on the Cross as accursed, in order to throw down the barrier of the curse. Terrible anguish wrung the heart of the God-man, and He cried out, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” The earth shook and the veil of the Temple was torn in the middle, as could be seen perceptibly. But also on the spiritual plane, the impregnable wall of the curse between God and man shook and utterly crumbled. And as Jesus expired, what had formerly been divided was united, and man became, not simply a friend of God, but God’s own kin; man received the grace of adoption into sonship: “heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ.” (Rom. 8:17 ). For mankind gave the All-holy Virgin as a Mother to the Son, and Christ took flesh from Her pure blood. This deified human flesh sat at the right hand of God the Father. Henceforth, God was seen in the heavens and was worshipped also in human nature by the angels. Do you see where the human race has ascended? We shall become gods by grace! (cf. Jn. 10:34 ). But without afflictions, is anyone able to reach there? We shall be distressed, we shall be afflicted, but one day all will come to an end and will be forgotten; suddenly, the eternal Joy will open wide His tender arms and will call out, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden (with afflictions ), and I shall give you rest.” (Mt. 11:28 ). In each of your deeds and actions, whether in word or in thought, remember that God is present and He sees them and one day will judge them. From this saving meditation arises godly fear, which produces the greatest benefit: “I beheld the Lord ever before me, for He is at my right hand, that I might not be shaken,” (Ps. 15:8 ), said the Prophet David. “Thy law is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my paths”. (Ps. 15:8 ). It even produces humility. So humble-mindedness does not arise only from trials and tests but also from spiritual meditation and from realizing our weakness. One reflects on how weak man is, that he is not able to do good, even though it is sown within his nature. Evil, on the contrary, he does very easily, even though it is alien to him. Man wants to please God, but if the grace of God does not work together with him, the good he does is not good; and even if he wants to labor, if God does not help, his desire and labor are in vain. When a person considers his past—when he did not know God, how much he sinned—he feels contrition, humbles himself, weeps, seeks forgiveness, and reflects: “Even now, if the grace of God leaves me, I am capable of doing worse things.” Then a certain fear mingled with humility protects the soul as with a wall. This meditation is called awareness of man’s weakness, and it bears the fruits of humility and benefit, without toil and afflictions. Yes, trials come, but most of them are sent because of our pride. When someone is found in a state of humility, the trials will be fewer and light. But one must be ready, as a captain who expects a storm after the calm. When someone anticipates something, it does not seem strange to him when it comes, because he expected it. Thus one must always be prepared, so that when it comes he will not be distressed. But is it possible, my child, that we not experience distress? For it is from distress, from this affliction, that we shall inherit the eternal, unceasing good things which “eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has ptepared for those who love Him”? (1 Cor. 2:29 ).