My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
Christ is in our midst! He was, is, and ever shall be.
"And lest I should be exalted above measure by the
the abundance of the revelations, A THORN IN THE
FLESH WAS GIVEN TO ME, a messenger of Satan to
buffet me, LEST I BE EXALTED ABOVE MEASURE.
Concerning this thing I PLEADED WITH THE LORD
THREE TIMES THAT IT MIGHT DEPART FROM ME.
And He said to me, ‘MY GRACE IS SUFFICIENT FOR
YOU, FOR MY STRENGTH, IS MADE PERFECT IN
WEAKNESS.’ Therefore gladly I will rather boast
in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest
Therefore I TAKE PLEASURE IN INFIRMITIES, IN
REPROACHES, IN NEEDS, IN PERSECUTIONS,
IN DISTRESSES, FOR CHRIST’S SAKE. FOR
WHEN I AM WEAK, THEN I AM STRONG" (2 Cor. 12:-7-10).
When in pain or suffering we must not rush to judgment when we turn to our Lord and we are not immediately freed from it. There are different ways that man suffers or is in pain. It can be a physical ailment, it can be spiritual, it can be emotional, or it can even be psychological. As a human being, I know that no one is exempt from pain, agony, disappointment, failure, sorrow, sadness, illness, or even death. It is not pleasant for anyone to go through these experiences, but no one can escape them. Saint John Chrysostom reveals to us the proper attitude of how a believer should confront these negative emotions when he says, "Glory Be To GOD, For All Things!"
Saint Paul, one of the great Holy Apostles of Christ, suffered and "pleaded with the Lord THREE TIMES that it may depart from me and He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you…". By thorn in his flesh, Saint Paul was referring to the persecutions he had so often suffered from ruthless adversaries. The Holy Apostle Paul could hardly bear the plots that were going on behind his back and he sought three times to be freed from them, but Saint Paul’s affliction was "INTENDED FOR A HIGHER PURPOSE". By the grace of God, HIS HUMILITY OVERCAME HIS WEAKNESS. "By this, it became clear that God’s power IS MADE PERFECT IN PERSECUTIONS AND SUFFERINGS. When one suffers greatly from an illness or when one feels abandoned and alone, it is then that our power is made stronger and our faith is made more perfect. The more trials we face, "THE MORE GRACE WE ARE CAPABLE OF RECEIVING." Saint John Chrysostom asks, "Does this imply that the devil is good because he is useful? On the contrary, he is evil because he is the devil, but God Who is Good and Almighty draws many good things out of the devil’s spite."
The Holy Apostle is also testifying that God makes provisions for those who have done well, while at the same time He allows them to be thrown down by different kinds of challenges which they experience. This is both so that they shall not be deprived of the fruits of their work and that they may be ENRICHED by their trials or struggles so that they may have even greater eternal rewards. Therefore, my dear friends, when we are going through personal troubles or difficulties in life, it can be both our blessing and our destruction. "We don’t know how we should pray," because they are hard to endure and because the pain is unbearable and, as human beings, we seek relief and healing. But this need of devotion we owe to our Lord our God, that, if He does not remove them, we are NOT to think that He has deserted us, but rather, by lovingly bearing evil or suffering, we are to hope for the greater good. This is how power is made perfect in adversity, then our faith is crowned. This is the difference between us and the unbelievers who do not know God, that they complain and grumble when facing problems or troubles. Adversity does not turn us from the truth of virtue and faith, it empowers us in suffering.
Saint Augustine asks, "Who could love us more than God does?," Yet He continually teaches us sweetly as well as frightens us for our good. Often adding the most stringing medicine of trouble to the gentle remedies with which He comforts us, he tries the patriarchs, even good and devout ones, by famine; He chastises a stubborn people with heavier punishments; He does not take away from the Apostle the sting of the flesh, though asked three times, so AS TO PERFECT STRENGTH IN WEASKNESS."
Saint John Chrysostom states: "Accordingly, whether we have our requests granted or not, LET US PERSIST IN ASKING AND RENDER THANKS NOT ONLY WHEN WE GAIN WHAT WE ASK BUT ALSO WHEN WE FAIL TO. Failure to gain, when that is what God wants, is not worse than succeeding. We do not know what is to our advantage in the way that God does. The result is, then, THAT SUCCEEDING OR FAILING WE OUGHT TO GIVE THANKS. Why are you surprised that we don’t know what is to our advantage? Saint Paul, a man of such quality and stature, judged worthy of inefffable blessings, DID NOT KNOW WHAT WAS ADVANTAGEOUS IN HIS REQUESTS: when he saw himself beset with trouble and diverse tribulations, he prayed to be rid of them, not once or twice but many times. "Three times I asked the Lord," he says…
"Three" MEANS HE ASKED FREQUENTLY WITHOUT SUCESS. So let us see how he was effected by it. Surely he didn’t take it badly? He didn’t turn fainthearted, did he? He didn’t become dispirited, did he? Not at all. On the contrary, God said, "My grace is sufficient for you. My power has its full effect in weakness." Not only did He did not free him of the troubles afflicting him, but he even allowed him to persevere in them. Therefore, we ought to yield to the Creator of our nature and with joy and great relish ACCEPT THOSE THINGS THAT He has decided and have an eye not to the appearance of events, but to the decisions of the Lord. After all, He knows better than we what is for our benefit and also knows what steps must be taken for our salvation" (Homily 30:16 on Genesis).
As Orthodox Christians we all know that there is not one Saint who has not walked the path of suffering until he was saved. Saint John Chrysostom again says: "Let us not consider this a sign that God has abandoned us and has despised us, when we are subjected to trials (sorrows), but let it be a sign to us that the Lord cares for us, because, BY ALLOWING THE TRIALS TO COME, He IS CLEANSING OUR SINS."
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+ Father George