Freedom from Suffering

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The moment we accept death, true life can begin.  (Elder Aimilianos of Simonopetra)

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The secret to his freedom does not lie in the rejection of his suffering, but in his joyful acceptance of them. He will be truly free only when he lets go of wanting to be free of his sufferings, for all freedom and all life depend on our being in right relation to God. When he accepts his death; when he allows himself to hear the sound of his footsteps descending into the grave, he will find that death no longer has a hold on him, for now he is with God. The darkness will vanish and he will see only light.

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If he accepts to become an instrument of God’s will, he will emerge triumphant; but otherwise he will fail.

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If “l” exist God cannot exist, for there cannot be two gods, and so it is either God or the self. When someone sees only his own suffering, God cannot answer him, for it is precisely the mistaken, negative attitude toward suffering that constitutes the separation between him and God. But if “I” cease to exist, if my relation to my suffering changes, then I can be united to God. This union depends on the denial of my self, so that God can come into my life.

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I must learn to accept suffering with joy, to find joy within my suffering, to realize that even in my moments of glory, I am nothing but “dust and ashes” (Gen 18:27), a pelican in the wilderness (Ps 102:6), lost in a desert land, seeking shelter in a landscape of ruins. I must realize my sinfulness, my nakedness, my alienation from God; I must realize I am like a sparrow alone o a house top (Ps 102:7), not because I have some psychological problem, but because I have been separated from God. … In this cry, this calling out, there exists the hope that I will hear the sound of His footsteps, and these will overtake my own and lead me to salvation.

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Source: Psalms and the Life of Faith, by Elder Aimilianos of Simonopetra, pp 104-10
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The Causes of Sorrows and Trials

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There are many causes which generate trials and sorrows in our life. Besides that, their combinations can be quite complex, so we are in a labyrinth of factors.

However we can distinguish four big categories of influence which will help us to avoid and protect ourselves from unwanted happenings in our life.

Sorrows Because of our Sins. When we sin, because the sin is an existential distortion, spiritual law will try to re-establish the equilibrium. If we will try by ourselves, through repentance, confession, and asking for forgiveness to fix our mistake, then sorrow will not come. Otherwise, it will happen after a certain time when it will be clear that we didn’t have an analogous repentance.

Blocking Trials. We make a plan and begin to follow it. However, we cannot see too much in advance. God, which knows everything, sees that in front of us is a deep tar pit, a trap which will harm us badly. That’s why He will allow a blocking trial to happen in order to close our path towards the trap. That’s why the Holy Fathers say, “When God closes a door, don’t break the doorknob”. You will repent of it after.

Advancing Sorrows. Someone can advance spiritually but (s)he cannot or (s)he doesn’t want and/or (s)he doesn’t know how to advance. In such cases, God gives us a trial, a sorrow, in which we will gain virtues like prayer, patience, humility, and other qualities upon which we will advance spiritually.

Trials for Example. Everyone is a sinner but there are times in which we don’t do such sins in order to trigger the spiritual law in a big degree. Even then, God might put us in a trial in order to be an example to follow, a light for others. We have here the classical example of Job in the Old Testament period. In the New Testament period, there is, firstly, the example of our Lord Jesus Christ and, after Him, a lot of saints.

Based on Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi, Saint Paisios the Athonite

Source: Ascetic Experience