Why does suffering exist? This perplexing question came to mind recently as I stood in a hospital corridor and overheard a young man and a young lady talking about a friend who was quite ill in the room nearby. "Why does he have to suffer so much? Is he being punished by God?" The second person followed with: "What I can't understand is why God lets this happen to a person as kind as Bill?"
We are all aware of the fact that no one can escape personal suffering which does not distinguish between individuals. The paramount question is how will we handle the suffering? As we consider this most misunderstood subject, we must learn to accept the fact that suffering touches all and that we must develop deeper insights into all of life.
Throughout the world and in every age the questions about suffering continue to be asked. Why does it exist? Does God want us to suffer? Is it God's will? Medical science has made great strides in recent years; however, suffering still exists with the accompanying fear and depression that follow. With the experience of suffering we can either grow spiritually, or become hardened and isolated, from God.
Father Paisios said: ‘When we have stillness there is a desert. The place is not a desert. In the desert I must make myself deserted of all my passions. When I adjust the desert to myself, I do not live in the desert. I must adjust myself to the desert. And in the world one can accomplish a lot. It’s enough to try to do away with mistakes’…
Elder Paisios said: “In order for you to have time for prayer you must not concern yourself with things that other people can do. Let’s take an example. A doctor should not be concerned with gauzes and bandages. A nurse can do that. The doctor will take care of the serious matters. He’ll do the examinations and operations, etc. If he was concerned with gauzes he won’t get to the serious work and then many who have need won’t benefit. The same with you. Pray for your suffering parishioners (applied to the correspondent and two other priests) remember their names and note those who have greater need. It’s better for you to know the pains of each other. That way the prayer is better”.
“Whether we pray for ourselves or for others, the prayer must be from the heart. The problems of others should become our problems. You have to prepare for prayer. Read a bit of the Gospel or the Gerontiko and then pray. It requires an attempt to take the mind to the divine space. Study is like a gift which God gives us to direct us to greater spirituality. With study the soul is warmed…”
Elder Paisios was born in Cappadocia on July 25, 1924. Almost immediately his family was forced to flee with the general exodus of Greek refugees from Asia Minor. They settled in Eperos in North Western Greece. He first visited Mt. Athos in 1949 after his time in the army. He returned in 1950 and, after a short time in the neighbourhood of Karyes, settled in the Monastery of Esphigmenou.
A. The Pitfalls
I can briefly describe an Orthodox Worldview in a few minutes, but I can offer no easy solutions when it comes to actually acquiring one. Developing an Orthodox mind is hard work, and takes time. But before I get into the means that God has provided for this, let me briefly mention some of the pit falls and snares that stand in our path. You can always be assured that the demons will oppose any spiritual effort -- in fact if you are not battling with demons, then you are most likely not making any spiritual progress.
One of the biggest snares which Satan has laid for us in our day is Modernist Orthodoxy. This is especially a problem for converts from Protestantism, because the Modernist Orthodox mentality is Protestant in origin, and so the convert is likely to be attracted at first to aspects of it because he will find himself at home there -- it will strike a cord of familiarity. Surprisingly, the origin of Modernist Orthodoxy is not primarily from converts who have brought such thinking into the Church, but rather it is cradle Orthodox who have been