Struggling with Hope

In my last blog, Struggling Toward Salvation, I discussed how in Orthodoxy I had to let go of the idea of “blessed assurance,” that salvation is taken care of and now I can just sit back and enjoy life.

In my own reflections, and in discussions with several friends, I have seen a great deal of discouragement.  Once we begin to recognize our pitiful, sinful state, a feeling of hopelessness can easily grip the heart.  But such hopelessness is not godly.

Our fear of God and the Day of Judgement is meant to be reverential and not anxious.  So, while we do not go through this life feeling like we are already saved and the struggle is done, we do persevere in the hope that God, through whatever hardship and trials encounter us, is actively saving us. Continue reading Struggling with Hope

Anxiety and Burning Out in the Christian Struggle

Elder Paisios
Elder Paisios

When asked about lay people coming home from a hard day of work and feeling too tired to complete a service commonly done after the evening meal, St. Paisios replied:

When they come home at night from work and feel tired, they should never pressure themselves and become anxious.  Instead, they should always say to themselves with philotimo [1], “If you cannot read the entire Apodeipno [2], read just half or one third of it.”  And then they should try not to get too tired during the day.  They should strive spiritually as much as they can, and do so with philotimo, entrusting everything to God, and God will act.  The mind should always be close to God; this is the best form of study.

   – Geronda, what does God think of intense ascetic discipline? [3]

If it is done from philotimo, people feel great joy; God also rejoices in the philotimo of His children.  A heart that is bursting with love drips honey.  But if it is full of egoism, it is tormented… Continue reading Anxiety and Burning Out in the Christian Struggle

Bitter Fruit and Growing Up

ripe_for_the_picking_by_retrodevil-d58ek6sAbout ten years ago during a stay in Florida, I found a tiny orange tree with a large, plump orange on it. I picked it and excitedly bit into the orange only to find that it was terribly bitter – to the point of being inedible. Disappointed, I tossed it and asked the native Floridians with whom I was staying about it. They advised me that some orange trees grown from seed are bitter in the first years.

Ten years later, I remembered that experience and thought of its lesson for me. While some produce bitter fruit, most fruit trees produce no fruit Continue reading Bitter Fruit and Growing Up