When your soul becomes insensitive, brother, it is useful to read the Holy Scriptures and the heart-touching words of the Holy and God-bearing Fathers, to remember God's Last Judgment, the departure of the soul from the body, and the terrible powers that can greet it, and with whose cooperation the soul committed evil acts in this brief and tormented life. It is also useful to remember how we shall appear before the terrible and righteous judgment seat of Christ, and not only for our deeds, but for words and thoughts shall we give an answer before God, before all His angels, and in general before all creation.
Remember just as often also that sentence which the terrible and righteous Judge shall pronounce against those who stand at His left side: Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels (Mt. 25:41). It is good also to remember the great sorrows of mankind in order that the cruel and insensitive soul might be thereby if only involuntarily softened, and come to a recognition of its sinfulness.
You are failing in brotherly love because you accept suspicious thoughts against your neighbor, and trust your own heart; this happens to you also because you do not want to endure anything that goes against your will. Thus; before anything else you should, with God's help, under no circumstances believe your own opinions, and strive with all your might to humble yourself before your brothers, and with all your soul cut off your will before them. If one of them injures you, or causes you sorrow in any way, then you should pray for him, according to the words of the Fathers, as for one who has given you great benefit and has healed your love of pleasure. Through this your irritability will decrease, for in the words of the Holy Fathers, love is the reigns on irritability. And before all, pray to God to give you attentiveness and understanding, so that you might know what is that good, perfect and acceptable will of God (Rom. 12:2); also pray for the strength to be ready for every good work. For to Him belongs all glory, honor and worship unto the ages of ages. Amen.
To the same brother, beset by temptations.
First of all, my brother, I must say that we do not know the ways of God's Providence, and therefore we must surrender everything connected with us to Him for His ordering, and even more should you do this now. For if you want to judge according to human reasoning concerning what is happening instead of laying all your cares upon God, then those thoughts will only make it harder for you. Thus, when opposing thoughts attack you and pressure you, you should call out to God, "Lord! as You wish, as You know, order this matter"; for God's Providence accomplishes much that is beyond our comprehension and hopes. Furthermore, sometimes what we had supposed to be true turns out to be different in actual experience. In a word: during temptations we must have much patience and pray, and not desire, as I have said, or assume that we can overcome demonic thought by human thoughts. Knowing this, Abba Poemen said that the scripture telling us not to take care for the morrow (Mt. 6:34) refers to a man who is in temptations.
And thus, my son, believe that this is the truth, abandon all your own thought, however wise it is, and have hope in God, Who can do incomparably more than we can ask or think (Eph. 3:20). I could have answered everything you said, but I do not want to contradict you or even myself. I only wish to show you the way to hope in God, for this path is the least dangerous and the most sure. The Lord be with you.
To the same brother.
Remember, my son, the One Who said that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God (Acts. 14:22), and He did not say exactly how much, but said inexactly, much tribulation. Thus with thanks and understanding endure those [tribulations] that are upon you: if you have sins (and how sweet it would be if you did not), then they are cleansing you of your passions or interceding for you in the kingdom of Heaven. May the man-loving and merciful God, Who forbade the winds and the sea and wrought great calm (Mt. 8:26) forbid your temptation, my son, and give you greatness of heart, so that you might understand the enemy's cunning. Amen.
To the same brother, who fell into a difficult illness and various stumbling-blocks.
I ask you, my son, to endure and be thankful for the stumbling-blocks that occur in illness, according to the saying, whatsoever is brought upon thee take cheerfully (Sir. 2:4), that the intention of Providence might be fulfilled in you, my son, as it is pleasing to Him. Thus, be manful, be strong in the Lord and hope in His care for you. God be with you.
To the same brother, undergoing temptations.
Peace to you in Christ, brother! Force your heart to believe that you definitely gave yourself a cause for temptation, although now, under the present circumstances, you cannot find it. Despise yourself, endure, pray--and I hope in the mercy of the good Master Christ, that He will remove the temptation. The Apostle said, The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds (Phil. 4:7).
Do not be amazed, my son, if while along the path that leads to the heights, you fall into thorns and mire; smooth places will again appear--for those who find themselves in struggles sometimes fall, and sometimes they themselves throw down their opponents. The great Job said, is not the life of man upon earth a state of trial? (Job 7:1). And another of the saints said, "A man who has not undergone temptations is not tested (experienced)." For we are tempted for instruction in faith, so that we would be become experienced and learn to battle. The Lord said, In patience possess ye your soul (Lk. 21:19). Thus, may hope in a good end help us in everything that happens to us. And the holy Apostle, teaching us patience, says, God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able (I Cor. 10:13). And our Lord--Truth Itself--consoles you, saying, In the world ye shall have tribulations, but fear not, for I have overcome the world (Jn. 16:33). Learn this, abide in this and remember the Lord and His goodness, my son! He will help you in everything, for He is merciful and knows our infirmities. He will again forbid the waves and bring a calm to your soul, by the prayers of His Saints. Amen.
Just as shadows follow a body, so do temptations follow the fulfillment of the commandments; for no one, as the Anthony the Great has said, will enter the Kingdom of heaven without temptations. Thus, do not be amazed, my son, that in caring for your salvation, you meet with temptations and sorrows. But endure them without disturbance and pray, thankful that for keeping the commandments you are vouchsafed to be in temptations for the instruction and testing of your soul. May the good God grant you attentiveness and patience during temptations.
We are the creation and work of the good and man-loving God, Who said, As I live, I desire not the death of the ungodly, as that the ungodly should turn from his way and live (Ezek. 33:11). Likewise, I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance (Mt. 9:13). And thus, if this is true, and if we so believe, then Cast thy care upon the Lord and He will nourish thee (Ps. 54:25), that is, He will save you, for He cares for you. May He console your heart, my son, through the prayers of His saints. Amen.
Well did Abba Poemen reason that the instruction not to take care for the morrow (Mt. 6:34) is given to a man who finds himself in temptations. And the saying, Cast thy care upon the Lord (Ps. 54:25) relates to the same thing. Thus, forsake, my son, human reasoning and have hope in God, which will accomplish much more than we suppose, and hope in God will comfort you. May the Lord help you, my son, through the prayers of the Saints. We should oppose such thoughts, for we dare not say that will shall live until tomorrow.
To a certain very sick brother who had various bad thoughts as to who will take care of his needs.
In the name of Jesus Christ, my brother, let us not have anything against our neighbor, for we should overcome and cover this with love. No one says to his neighbor, "Why don't you love me?" But he himself, making himself worthy of love, attracts also his neighbor to love. And concerning the needs of the body, I will say that if someone is worthy of comfort, then God will instruct the heart of a Saracen to show him mercy according to his need; if he is not worthy, or if for his instruction it is not useful for him to be consoled, then even if he were to create an new heaven and a new earth, he would not find repose. And what you said about burdening your brother is apparently a self-justification; for no one, in helping his neighbor who desires salvation, in order to fulfill the commandment of God, will say to him, "I burden you." He who hates those who upset him hates meekness, and he who flees from those who offend him, flees from repose in Christ. May the man-loving God cover us, my son, by His grace, through the prayers of all the saints. Amen.