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Necessity of Trials in Attaining the Goal

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Necessity of Trials in Attaining the Goal - St Shenouda Monastery Pimonakhos Articles

I know that you are heartbroken, stricken with trials, but if you endure nobly, you will possess joy. If trials do not come to you, either openly or in secret, you cannot receive aid above what you are used to receiving. All the saints were found in trials when they asked that their faith be increased. For whenever anyone receives a blessing from God a trial from the enemies is immediately added.

They wish to deprive him of the blessing with which God has blessed him. The demons, therefore, when they know that the soul which has been blessed receives advancement, wrestle openly or in secret against it. When Jacob was blessed by his father, for example, the trial of Esau immediately fell upon him. The devil moved Esau’s heart against Jacob, wishing to nullify the blessing.

But he has no power against the just, for it is written: “The Lord will not let the rod of the sinners rest upon the inheritance of the just.” (Psalm 125:3). So Jacob did not lose the blessing which he received, but increased it day by day. You too, then, work hard to become better through trials, for those who have obtained blessing must, by necessity, endure trials as well. Even I, your father, have endured great trials, both in secret and in the open, but accepting and begging for the will of God, I endured, and he brought me safely through. You too, then, my beloved, because God’s blessing fell upon you, trials followed. Endure them until you get beyond them. For if you get beyond them you will obtain great success and increase in all your virtues, and a great joy which you have not yet known will be given to you from heaven. The remedy for overcoming trials is that you not be neglectful, but pray to God giving thanks with your whole heart and persevere in everything, and they will pass from you. For Abraham too, and Jacob, and Job, and many others were tried and turned out more worthy. As it is written, “Many are the troubles of the just, and the Lord rescues them from them all.” And again St. James says: “Anyone who is discouraged among you, let that one pray, “Do you see how all the saints, when they fell into times of trial, called upon God? Again it is written: “God is faithful, and he will not allow you to be tried beyond your strength.” For that very reason, through the uprightness of your hearts God will work with you. If he did not love you, he would not lay trials upon you. For it is written, “The one whom the Lord loves, he disciplines, he chastises the child whom he receives.”~ And so the condition of trials is laid upon the faithful, but those who are untried are illegitimate children. While they wear monastic clothing, they deny its power as St. Antony said to you that no one can enter the kingdom of God who has not been tested. And the apostle St. Peter says, “In this you rejoice, if it is necessary to be saddened by various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, much more honourable than perishable gold, might be found through the fire of testing.”  They say that trees root themselves more firmly and grow taller when they are shaken by the winds. In this, then, and in other things, listen to your teachers so that you will make progress. Know that, when it comes to spiritual work, the Spirit provides joy at the beginning [for the just], seeing that their hearts are pure. But when the Spirit has given them joy and sweetness, then it flees and abandons them. This is its sign. And it does this in this beginning with every soul which seeks God. It flees and abandons them, so that it knows if they seek God or not. Some, when the Spirit flees and overthrows them, endure oppression and they sit unmoving in their heaviness. They do not pray to God that he may remove the oppression so that joy and sweetness might come to them, that joy and sweetness which they once knew. But through their carelessness even their own wills are made strangers to the sweetness of God. Because of this, they become carnal. They only wear the monastic habit, but have denied its power. They are those who are blind in their own lives and do not know the work of God.

If, however, they become aware of an oppression contrary to what they are used to and to their previous joy, and they beg God with tears and fasting, then the good God, if he sees that they ask in uprightness and with their whole heart and that they deny their own will entirely, gives them greater joy than before, and establishes them more firmly. This is the sign which he gives to every soul seeking God.