God’s mercy is concealed in sorrows!
If you’re beleaguered by sorrows, rejoice,
for it is the time when you are on the right track.
Those who do not avoid sorrows but carry them to the best of their ability,
They shall receive the eternal Kingdom.
– St. Anatoly (Zertsalov)
Theoretically, we all know that we should accept all troubles and misfortunes with gratitude. If we can’t rejoice in sorrows, we should at least try to avoid grumbling and cowardice. Where does one find power to accept a severe disease of one’s own child, for example? How should we deal with complicated circumstances to be able to overcome ourselves and our sins and to make a step further on the road to spiritual prowess?
We interviewed the Rev. Valery Zakharov who serves in our Convent and asked him how to learn to accept hardships while staying assured of God’s Plan and hoping for his help.
“Giving advice is as easy as throwing stones from a belfry but following your own advice is like carrying them back to the top of the belfry,” Father Valery says. “Still, let’s discuss this topic.”
First of all, when you face hardships, you should make sure you don’t jump straight into action. You should stop to pray and think, reminding yourself that the Lord never gives us a burden that is too heavy for us to carry. The Lord sees your condition and the condition of your relatives. Everything that happens, happens according to God’s Plan.
Of course, if you inspect your soul thoroughly, you’ll see that you deserve all the worst. It’s hard to imagine that the Lord still tolerates you patiently… While it’s easy to say so about yourself, it’s a whole lot more difficult to endure and accept diseases of your loved ones, children especially.
You have to consider the perspective, that is, the Kingdom of God. When I visit the boarding home for children with special needs, it’s emotionally taxing for me to see the sick children, some of whom spend years confined to bed. I pity them so much. At the same time, I can clearly feel the presence of the Kingdom of Heaven in those kids. Alexei, a wheelchair-bound friend of ours, always smiles at everyone. Always. We have arms and legs but we keep complaining: there’s this and here’s that; I am unwell; no one likes me…
When I was around 20, after having returned from the army, I had a similar attitude of “nothing good ever happens”, until I saw an old lady in a wheelchair, who was beaming with joy. I told myself, “Hey, you’re a robust young man in perfect health. You can do everything you want to; you have a great future in front of you but you’re sad. That old lady is confined to her wheelchair but she’s happy.” I wondered if that was right.
This case motivated me to examine the situation and myself more carefully. We must rejoice at everything that the Lord gives: the sun, the rain, the wind, or tranquil weather. We should train ourselves to view all those things as expressions of God’s mercy and kindness towards us.
When we learn to perceive life circumstances as gifts from God, we will no longer feel disgruntled and be able to accept even our family members’ illnesses because we will realize that they are beneficial for the salvation of our souls.
When people find themselves in painful situations, they often say, “I have to face it because I did this or that.” God isn’t vindictive! We face hardships and troubles not because we’re getting punished. We chose the wrong path that led us to a swamp, to an impasse. If we had chosen the right track, we wouldn’t have to spin around without traction. We went astray but we blame God for it. The Lord doesn’t punish us; rather, He teaches and saves us. He teaches us with love. He loves us no matter what.
God doesn’t have why; He only has what for. His task is much more difficult than ours. We want to lead a more comfortable life and have a good salary, a nice house, children, a wife, a car, and that’s it. His task is to bring that busy and fidgety person to the Heavenly Kingdom. That’s why illnesses and sorrows happen so that we could recall the foundation of our livelihood, stop, think, and change our lives. The Lord keeps calling us and showing us the right way but we keep moving on…
The same is true for everything that goes on in our lives, even when people die. Speaking of an untimely death — what does it mean? Why does life stop abruptly? There can be two reasons for that. Either that person was in the zenith of his or her spiritual development, e.g., reached his or her maximum, and the Lord gathered the fruit. Or the Lord prevented that person from a downfall so that he or she wouldn’t fall into a greater sin. God has a plan for each individual.
Sure, we’d like to see our loved ones free from their ailments. We have to pray and ask God for help, and leave it up to God to decide whether it’s good for us or not. Our prayer is an expression of our love towards both God and man. You might hear someone say that it is embarrassing to beg for mercy… When your kid comes to you and asks you for something, do you hate it? I think that the very fact that he came to you is already great and delightful. When we approach God, we make our Heavenly Father happy and show that we love and care for our neighbor.