Orthodox America


  In the Hands of God


Here Bishop Theophan the Recluse counsels a young woman on arranging her life.

 

May the mercy of God be upon you.

    You are still burdened by worldly cares. Tell me, what is the cause of this? All is well with your life externally; inwardly you have examined and put things in order, and your decision has strengthened all this. So what cause is there to be upset? It is all the devil's work, straight from him. Nothing else.

    And what else could it be? Do not think that you can determine the course of your life yourself, by your own strength and wisdom, even in accordance with what has been planned. Think about this, and if there is even a grain of truth in this, make haste to remedy it. With such an attitude there will be no end of confusion.

    Let us, if you will, examine or mentally review all that was prescribed and all that you experienced inwardly, and how finally you came to a decision concerning your course of life--and direct this examination in such a way that there will come from it a firm resolve, to give your life over unconditionally into the hands of God. Then pray fervently, crying to the Lord from your heart: "I place myself in Thy hands, O Lord. Direct my life and all that touches upon it as it is pleasing to Thee. From henceforth I am relinquishing all care for myself, having only one concern --always to do what is pleasing in Thy sight." Say it in this way and in very deed commit yourself entirely into God's hands, being anxious for nothing, peacefully accepting all situations--whether pleasant or unpleasant-as being deliberately arranged for you by God. Your only concern must be to act in all situation s according to God's commandments. For you, this is the one thing needful.

     As soon as you do this, there will be an end to all your unrest. Now you are concerned about yourself, and every situation you want to arrange and turn around according to your good pleasure. When everything doesn't go just so, you get upset that this isn't right or that's wrong. But when you give everything over to the Lord and accept all as coming from Him for your benefit, then you will be free from all earthly cares. You will look around only to see what lesson the Lord is sending so as to act in accordance with it. The commandments can be brought to bear on any situation. Do this and act in accord with the commandments, striving to please God rather than pushing to satisfy your own self-will. Think well on what I have said and make it your aim to attain such a state.

     I pray that the Lord deliver you from that situation which you consider unpleasant-insofar, I would add, as this is in keeping with God's will and for your salvation, And He will deliver you--in His good time, of course. Arm yourself with this faith and have patience. Just looking at the course of events, we see that they are constantly changing; nothing lasts. That which troubles you will likewise change. The days will come when you will breathe freely, and not only breathe, but like a butterfly flit from one flower to another; you need only patiently to await the trouble's end. The housewife puts the pie into the oven and does not remove it from there until she is sure it is properly baked. The Ruler of the world has placed you into the oven--and is holding you there, waiting until you are done. Have patience and wait. As soon as you are baked through, you won't sit there an extra minute. You will be immediately taken out. If you try to break loose yourself, you will be like an underdone pie. Arm yourself with patience. I will add this: according to our faith, he who graciously endures various trials that come his way, accepting them as from the hand of the Lord, such a man partakes of martyrdom.

     It is impossible to live without feelings, but to give oneself over to one's feelings is unlawful. They must be controlled and given proper direction. You are very impressionable and your heart rules your head. Act as I have already written you: first determine under what conditions certain feelings are aroused and then proceed by guarding yourself from any agitation of the heart, or by taking a firm hold upon your heart. This requires practice and with practice one can advance to complete control of oneself.

    But everything comes from God. And one must run to Him. You write, however, that you don't pray. That's smart! What did you do, enlist with the pagans? How can one not pray? Don't just read from the prayer book --tell Him in your own words what is on your heart, and ask for help: "Lord, you see what is bothering me--this and this... I cannot straighten myself out. Help me, O Merciful One !" And relate all the particulars of your need, asking for help in accordance with all this. This will be the most genuine prayer. You can always pray in your own words, not reading the written prayers, so long as you do not indulge in laziness.

    But why do you listen to him who suggests that you stop praying? Or don't you realize that it' s the enemy? It' s obviously the enemy. He whispers into your ear: "Give it up;" and sometimes as though seizing the body itself, he hurriedly drags it into bed. These are all his tricks. But he is doing his business, trying to d i s t r a c t you from what is good. However, we must do our work, not abandoning it until we have finished. In this way I beg you to arm yourself with courage, and don't listen to the enemy, and don't pay any attention to his whisperings. Getting angry at the enemy is even better. He will immediately flee.

    From all my heart I pray that you will at last be able to calm down.

May the Lord bless you. 

(Excerpt translated from What Is the Spiritual Life and How to Attune Oneself to It; Jordanville, 19 )


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