Asceticism, Cross, Discernment, Elder Ephraim of Arizona, Elder Joseph the Cave-Dweller, Elder Joseph the Hesychast, Elder Paisios of Mount Athos, mental health, New Martyr Archbishop John of Riga, Patience, Podvig, Purification, St. John Chrysostom, Temptations
No one is exempt from sorrows and difficulties in this life. Therefore, we must try to endure life’s difficulties joyfully because there is no other more beneficial road leading to the salvation of our soul as the narrow and sorrowful path of hardships, through which we mimic and follow our Lord Jesus Christ, Who suffered so much in this life. He chose this path for both Himself as well as His followers, and advised us that we cannot become His disciples if we do not carry our cross and follow Him: “And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple” (Lk. 14:27).
We cannot hope to make progress in the spiritual life and become Christ’s co-heirs along with all the Saints in Paradise if we do not first swim through the waters of sorrow, just as our Lord and all the Saints were glorified after first carrying their Cross. This cross of suffering is so noble and so highly regarded by the Lord that He Himself promises to be next to the person who suffers, to deliver him from his affliction, and to glorify him in a wondrous manner: “I will be with him in affliction; I will deliver him, and glorify him” (Ps. 91:15). Who then will not embrace life’s difficulties with joy and not seize the opportunity to acquire such a sweet, faithful, and almighty Companion? God, in His compassion and wisdom, allows us to be faced with these small and transient sorrows in order to grant us the indescribable and eternal riches in His heavenly Kingdom.
Truly, we must thank them who harm and ridicule us more than them who help and support us. They who wrong us become purifying agents of our soul, through which we receive forgiveness of our sins. When our merciful Lord allows us to be confronted with difficulties and sorrows, He expresses greater love for us than when He grants us temporary enjoyment and spiritual consolation.
Indeed, we should despise them who impede us from the Cross and love them who grieve us, just as the Holy Gospel teaches. When Peter, moved by love for Christ and not wanting to see his Master suffer, urged Him not to die on the Cross, the Lord rebuked him, “Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men” (Mt. 16:23). From this, we must realize that sorrows are pleasing to the Lord; moreover, that we must shun them who advise us to forsake our cross, whereas thank them who harm us. This is precisely what the Lord did: He referred to Judas as His “friend” (Mt. 26:50) when he betrayed Christ with a kiss, showing us in this manner that we must consider our persecutors as friends and agents of our salvation.
—from the book The Salvation of Sinners