By Elder Moses the Athonite †
Let’s not fear any delay in a miracle we’ve asked for. It may be better thus. It’s certain that God knows our state much better than we do. God is on our side and the miracles are for us, but his presence and his intervention aren’t predetermined by us. God’s presence is often felt in our life in many and different ways, not in a deafening and phantasmagorical display. What else are an inexpressible inner peace, an exceptional and moving sense of contrition, a profound feeling of sinfulness if not a sign of the serene presence of God in our life?
God isn’t merely the provider of health, longevity and prosperity, much less earthly immortality, but also the dispenser of the heavenly gifts and graces, of the salvation of our immortal soul. It’s a great mystery, which is hidden in the depths of the Orthodox spiritual life: that the faithful can experience the sweetness, the beauty and the peace of eternal life deep in their soul, despite their many external adversities.
It’s vital that we all wake up immediately and put other priorities in place in our life. As Christ says, we should seek the Kingdom of Heaven and then add all the rest. Those who don’t have serious bodily ailments may still be suffering from more serious spiritual ones: spiritual incapacity, spiritual blindness, hardness of heart and so on.
We want a God who’s easy, obedient, generous with gifts, whom we hold in our hand, so that we can live well and happily, in which case we’ll thank him and glorify him. We don’t allow him to send us trials for our edification, to admonish us strictly, to prevent us making mistakes. We want control of our life so that we can do what we like. When things work out as we want, we say how good God is; but when something goes wrong, we don’t just find fault with him, we want nothing to do with him. We think him harsh, fearsome, strict and implacable.
There’s no Byzantine icon of God smiling; he looks you straight in the eye, with complete sincerity and understanding. Without a trace of pity, revenge, threat, terror, fear or compulsion. We have an astonishing, unique, wonderful God who surprises us, moves us, shakes us up and shocks us in order to transfigure us. We should allow him to speak and tell us what he wants, rather than what we want to hear.
Only if we manage to accept God’s will within ourselves shall we be free of the myriad wicked thoughts that strain and exhaust us. Accepting God’s will isn’t easy, we must admit, and it may sometimes seem incomprehensible, especially for those people who are without humility.
If, with God’s help, the faithful don’t allow themselves to be overcome, to become disappointed, isolated and melancholic, then they can live in an enhanced state, rich in the grace of the Holy Spirit. Humbled by pain, they can experience the great joy of the presence of God in their life and know that the sole purpose of this life isn’t to enjoy good times, health or longevity, but a genuine connection with God, that is, life in Christ.