There was a young man who once asked God to learn to love the entire world. He wanted to love the world with an open mind and for no personal gain. He wanted to have selfless love. He desired with all his heart and soul to love the strange and the difficult people.
Years later, at the age of 45, this man visited the island of Tinos, stood in front of the icon of Our Lady and cried, complaining about his wife, “Why, my God, did you send her to me? Why is this woman by my side and why is my marriage so troubled? We do not love each other; we constantly quarrel and get angry; we hurt each other. It always seems to lead us to separation. Things are bad for me, my Christ. Why is this happening? I have no explanation for it. Why did God send me all this?” The Holy Mother of God tries to give him an answer in his own prayer. She reminds the person that at the age of 20, he had prayed for his future family and said, “Help me, my God, to love unconditionally. Give me the strength to love for real.” The years were going by. The young man turned thirty, then thirty-five. He got married. There were difficulties and problems. At first he thought it was an accident, but when he recalled his prayers and connected the dots, he realized that they were not a punishment or an accident, but an answer to his prayer. Do you get it?
Everything that happens to us is the result of our requests. We need it. For good purposes, of course: so that we can learn to love; to be humble; to advance in the knowledge of God. You may say, “Isn’t there another way? When I asked for it, that’s not what I meant. Of course I wanted to learn how to love but without suffering and screams of pain. I didn’t ask for misery. Why so much pain? Isn’t there another way?” I don’t think there is any other way. That is what life is all about. Kazantzakis asked a holy ascetic on Mount Athos, “Is there any other way, which is easier and more comfortable, Father?” Hermit Macarius replied, “There is only one way, my child, and it is an uphill way. It is painful.” When you climb a mountain, your knees hurt, your heart aches and bleeds. There is no other way to climb to the top and see the sun rise. There is no other way to reach the salvation of the soul.
This is how the soul gets saved. This is how the beauty of the soul is preserved and it flourishes. This is how flowers blossom: they do so with the help of the scorching sun; with the help of rain, which hits their leaves with heavy drops; with the help of snow, which freezes them. This is how nature works. That is how the world works. This is how God does it. You can achieve salvation only by overcoming hardships and pain.
From the book Marriage Has Its Problems by the Very Rev. Andrew (Konanos)
Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds