“How long will you torment me and crush me with words? Ten times now you have reproached me; shamelessly you attack me. If it is true that I have gone astray, my error remains my concern alone. If indeed you would exalt yourselves above me and use my humiliation against me, then know that God has wronged me and drawn his net around me.” (Job 19: 2-6)
Holy and righteous Job lived in Avsitida, a teritory between S. Arabia and Edomit. His father was Zaret and his mother, Vosora. The story of Job is historical and Scriptural and not merely a legend or a myth. This is certified by profet Ezekiel who calls Job – one of the greatest Old Testament righteous, along with Noah, Daniel and Jesus, the son of Sirah. For us faithful Christians, Job is a great model of patience, love and obedience towards God.
Sufferings are a Medicine
Sufferings are bitter medicines with blessed effects. They cure our various sins, especially pride, and humble us. When the doctor treats a sick man, he does not give him sweet dainties, but medicines which are usually bitter. If the sick man is wise, he accepts these bitter drugs with gratitude and without grumbling, knowing that they will cure him. Only foolish children make faces and do not want to drink the saving medicines because they are bitter to the tongue! How much we resemble foolish children when we grumble against the sufferings and sorrows in life which God sends to us! In our times of deepest grief, we must remember righteous Job who suffered without guilt and, despite that, accepted all misfortunes which piled upon him without grumbling and blaspheming. He lost his property, his herds, his servants, and even his children. One after the other came the messages which informed him of the woes which had come upon him. At receiving every tragic piece of news, he only repeated the wonderful words: The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. In all this, Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly (Job 1:21- 22).
Patience to the End
Through his sufferings, Job received salvation. However, not all suffering is beneficial to the soul and elevates it, taking it into the Heavenly Kingdom. It is only that suffering which is endured patiently, with gratitude and trust in God, and without grumbling. Those who suffer must have great patience, so that they will be able to see how the bitter green buds on the branches of the virtuous life slowly and gradually, under the care of the warm Sun of righteousness, ripen and turn into sweet fruits of perfection and salvation. Those who suffer must have great patience lest they despair and, because of their impatience, the fruits fall before their due time-sour, bitter, and green. In such a case their suffering is in vain. Only he that shall endure unto the end shall be saved (Matt. 24: 13). According to the teaching of St. Ephraim the Syrian, ”The Christian must stand among the various sorrows and temptations like an anvil which, even though it is constantly hammered upon, does not move from its place, nor does it get ruined, but stays the same [as firm as it was in the beginning].”
We cannot be saved without suffering; how else could we be tested by God for being firm and unwavering in virtue? God arranges many things in life in such a way that man is tempted, so that his free will can be manifested, and he, through the enduring of all trials, can receive salvation. “Because those,” according to the words of St. Macarius the Great, “who live in suffering and temptations and endure to the end will not lose the Kingdom of Heaven.”
It is told about a saint that he, like the holy Apostle Paul, was seized and taken to heaven where he saw the bright homes of the righteous. He stopped in front of a wondrous palace in which a righteous and blissful soul was shining, and he asked: “What were you on earth?” It answered: “I was a leper, and I constantly thanked God for that mercy.” Such are the fruits of sufferings which are borne with gratitude and without grumbling.
Some are bothered by the thought that their suffering may be pointless and fruitless for the salvation of their souls. They tell themselves: the saints endured for Christ’s sake, and that is why they were certain that through the enduring of suffering they would save their souls. But we, unlike the saints, suffer either for our sins, or because of the envy of evil people, or by some chance; and because we do not suffer for Christ’s sake our sufferings weigh us down with their aimlessness and torment us doubly because of their uselessness. To this we should answer that nothing in this world happens by chance-without God’s will or God’s permission. Even a single hair does not fall from our heads without God’s knowledge (cf. Luke 21: 18). If we are suffering because of our own sins but we endure and repent before God, these sufferings free us from future punishment in the life beyond the grave and save us. The thief who was saved was crucified for his sins on a cross on the right side of Christ but through his endurance and repentance, he entered Paradise.
Suffering is to the soul what fire is to ore. Ore, mixed with dirt, gravel, and other things, is purified when it passes through fire. The soul, muddied by sins, clears up when it passes patiently through sufferings. Even though the sinner does not suffer like the martyrs for Christ’s sake, these woes of his are counted as sufferings for God s sake and are beneficial to him when he consumed with a yearning to be saved, humbles himself in his sorrows, repents of his sins, and says: “For my lawlessness, I deserve much greater sufferings than the merciful God has sent me”. St. John Chrysostom says that “the soul is cleansed when it suffers sorrows for God’s sake.” Muddy water cannot be made clear unless it passes through the filter of sand. In the same way the soul cannot be cleansed unless it goes through sufferings.
If we undergo troubles without guilt, from the malice of evil people, then, according to the words of Sr. Dimitry of Rostov, even though we are not enduring persecution because of Christ our sorrows will be counted as suffering for Christ’s sake an will bring us martyrs’ crowns if we give thanks to God and do not grumble. Thus every suffering can become suffering for God s sake.
(Archimandrite Seraphim Aleksiev in “The Meaning of Suffering & Strife and Reconciliation” @ St Herman Press and St Xenia Skete, 1994).
The Reason That God Allows the Devil to Tempt Us
– Geronda (Elder in Greek), why does God allow the devil to tempt people?
– So that He can select His children. “Do whatever you can” God tells the devil, because no matter what he does, in the end, the devil will be smashed on the cornerstone that is Christ. If we believe that Christ is the cornerstone, then nothing will scare us.
God does not give the devil the permission to test us unless something good is to come out of it. When He sees that a greater good will come out of it, He lets the devil do his job. Do you remember what Herod7 did? He killed fourteen thousand infants, but, in so doing, he made fourteen thousand martyr angels. Can you believe it fourteen thousand martyrs and angels! The devil had his face crushed. Diocletian8 became the devil’s partner when he brutally persecuted Christians, but, against his will, he great good to the Church of Christ because he enriched it with Saints. He thought that he would eliminate all Christians, but in the end, he fell short of his expectations. He left countless holy Relics for us to venerate and made the Church of Christ stronger.
God could easily have wiped the devil off. He is God, after all. If He wishes, He can wrap him up and send him to hell, but He lets him be for our benefit. He would never allow him to torment and torture His creature without any reason.
He let the devil loose up to a point, and for a specific time, so that the devil can help us with his malice, by tempting us and sending us running to God for help.
He will only allow the devil to tempt us if that is going to do us good. If nothing good will come out of it, He will not allow it. God permits everything for our own good; we should believe this.
7. King of Judea (40 RCA A.D.) who ordered the death of all children’ under the age of two in Bethlehem in order to kill the infant Jesus.
8. Emperor of Rome (284-305 A.D.) who instigated the last major persecution of the Christians in 303 A.D.
He lets the devil be so that man may keep up the fight. No pain, no gain. If the devil did not torment us, we would have taken ourselves for saints. Thus, God allows the devil to attack us with malice, because these beatings clear out all the dust from our dusty soul. Other times God lets him bite us hard so that we may seek refuge in Him. God is constantly calling us close to Him, but we usually stray away and will run to Him only when we are in danger. When man becomes one with God, there is no place for the evil one to enter and there is no reason for God to permit him to tempt us so that we may take refuge in Him. Whatever is the case, the devil can benefit us; he helps us become holy. This is main reason that God tolerates him.
God has given freedom not only to human beings but also to the demons, because they do not and cannot damage the human soul; unless of course we ourselves want to harm our soul. On the contrary, evil or careless people, who unwillingly harm us, provide a gain for our soul.
Why do you think the Abba says, “Take away temptations and no one will be saved”? (The Sayings of the Desert Fathers, Abba Evagrios, p. 54:5). Temptations can do us great good. Not that the devil can ever do good – since he is all evil – but our Good God blocks the stone he throws at us to break our head, puts it in our hand, and gives us a handful of almonds to crack and eat! God, in other wards, allows temptations not because He wants the devil to torment us, but in order for us to take in this way our “exams” for the next life and have no unreasonable expectations for the Second Coming. We must realize that we are at war, and we have to go on fighting against the devil himself as long as we are alive. During this lifetime, we’ve got a lot of work to do to improve our souls, but we also have the right to take spiritual exams. If we die without having passed the test, there will be no other chance. There will be no make ups!
(Excerpt from Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain in “With Pain and Love for Contemporary Man” @ Holy Monastery St John the Theologian, Souroti – Greece).
Holy Righteous Job, pray to God for us!