God loves you, but you don’t usually feel it with your heart, don’t remember it, to say nothing of feeling this with every cell in your body. But try to feel that you are a beloved child of God wherever you are now—in your present situation, in your struggle, falls and weakness. God loves you even in this state. Because God is not like me or you, he does not walk past you when you are in trouble or sorrow. God is like the rays of the sun that penetrate everywhere and touch all things in this world—clean and unclean, flowers, seas and mountains, garbage and filth. God does this because He loves you and sees that you make efforts and try to live piously. Remember this!
When an artist paints, he begins with a blank canvas. At first paintings are mere sketches. He starts with small strokes, draws silhouettes, and little by little brings them to perfection, filling them with color. In conclusion he draws the details—eyebrows, eyes, hands etc. And if at the initial stage you want to see the details and ask:
“Where are the eyes here? Where are the lips?”
He will answer you:
“Wait, they will appear in due course. I haven’t finished yet.”
Can you hear these words, “I haven’t finished yet”? It means that I am still alive, I still persevere and say to God, “Continue Thy mercy unto them that know Thee” (from the Great Doxology). “I am still walking towards Thee, making efforts to come to Thee, into Thine arms; but I make mistakes just as all Thy children do, so I ask for Thy understanding. And God shows you understanding.”
Thus, when someone passes to eternity, we offer up the following prayer at the funeral service: “With the souls of the righteous departed, give rest to the souls of Thy servants, O Savior, preserving them in the blessed life that is with Thee, O Thou Who lovest mankind.” Then the deceased would be able to say, “Now I have finished. Now I can be judged so that God can see if I have done everything well and applied the paint and all the different shades of color properly.”
But as long as I am alive and struggling, I haven’t yet finished, I am still walking and will have ups and downs on my journey. It is necessary to realize this, reconcile with yourself, your difficulties, falls and torments, and keep calm. There should be no panic, no anxiety, no interminable wailing. True, you will start weeping, but then you will repent and carry on, wipe your tears and move forward.
If you are unable to cry by shedding tears, then cry in your soul. There are people who are unable to shed tears, but their souls weep. And God sees that they are filled with compunction. The main thing is that this compunction should take place and your soul should begin to move and get agitated. If your soul becomes filled with remorse, there is no need to cry. Just work, do something and change something yourself. Because some weep, but don’t change; get agitated, but don’t reform; therefore, they change practically nothing.
I want to tell you all this so you can struggle and not become disappointed, love yourself, repent, feel pangs of guilt, while realizing that it too has “a service life” and avoiding living with a sense of guilt forever. One man used to say:
“I feel my guilt.”
Okay, but how long are you going to feel it?
There is always something that has left its mark in our lives—we have hurt someone or someone has hurt us, and now we feel miserable because of this. But how long are you going to feel miserable? For some reason you wear black clothes as a sign of mourning. But how long are you going to continue this way? Your entire life? Do you really reject the hope, forgiveness that God gives you and the love that He grants you?
“I do accept them.”
Then why are you lamenting all the time? Why is your heart sighing heavily? Where is your forgiveness, your smile of hope, a Sunday smile with which people say, “God has forgiven me”?
“God loves me, helps me out and rescues me; and I struggle, make efforts and smile.” Show it and demonstrate it to those around you, to your children and spouse. It is essential that others see our repentance and transformation.
We are accustomed to a sense of guilt, to sorrows, and disappointments; and when they disappear we don’t feel the seventh heaven of joy. We as if miss those feelings, are unable to make a step forward without them, and can’t say that we deserve happiness. On the contrary, we say, “I can’t be happy for a long time. If I am happy for a long time, then something bad will surely happen to me. I don’t believe I can stay happy for such a long time.”
Someone said to his wife:
“So many hours have passed, and we haven’t argued yet. It’s strange!”
He didn’t believe that it was possible.
We don’t have such faith; we haven’t yet drawn God’s vision of us in our hearts. We haven’t yet come to believe what heights God calls us to reach and haven’t yet been inspired by His call to become like Him. What do the words, “in the image and likeness of God” mean? They mean we are called to become like God in glory, beauty, joy, and bliss.
Have you come to believe that? That it was addressed to you and not to somebody else—to you, to me, your children, brothers and sisters, your neighbor, to anyone you love or hate, and to everyone?
We failed to believe this, that’s why we keep complaining, whimpering, grumbling, grieving, and despairing, because that is to our liking; and we don’t display the joy God gives us. That’s why the Lord said, Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth? (Lk. 18:8). Will you see any people who have faith in Him and commend their lives to Him?
What does having faith in Him mean? In order to be a believer, repeating the Creed isn’t enough. Confusion, fear, a sense of loneliness remain in your soul, though you have just uttered, “I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.” So don’t say this formally. Let the words sate you; let your heart feel them keenly.
“I believe in one God the Father.” These words mean that your Father is the Creator of the earth, the God of love, joy, glory and happiness—while you are so gloomy. Well then, it appears you aren’t a child of this God. Something is wrong with you and with me too. Let’s think of this more deeply, keep this in mind and say, “I believe that God wants me to become very good in this world. Not in the sense that everybody should look at me and devote their time to me alone; but in the sense that I can rejoice as I walk my path in this world, and make the sign of the cross when I wake up and begin every day with the words, ‘Glory be to God!’”
O, those words, “Glory to God!” Many people pronounce them with such gratitude that you can’t help but rejoice on hearing them! Those who knew the humble holy fathers of Mt. Athos were often struck with the way they uttered this praise. For example, one old monk would water his kitchen-garden, while the others from their balconies would hear him exclaim, “Glory to God!”, “Glory to Thee, O Lord!” All of us sometimes pronounce these words, including you and me. But that monk exclaimed out of happiness and joy, while we do it out of necessity, duty or habit because we don’t have this glory in our hearts.
“Sanctify those who love the beauty of Thy house. Glorify them also by Thy Divine power” (from the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom). I like this expression: “Sanctify them also.” We glorify Thee—please glorify us also. Send us the new glory in response to the glory we render Thee. Grant us this glory in response to the love we have for Thee and glorify us! And the point is not that we should know this but that our hearts should feel peace, that I should live and not want to die, not think of suicide, and have a pure mind, ignoring the thoughts that surround me as bees surround honey and fly into my mind; and this host of thoughts, agony, despair and gloom drive me mad. May all this vanish and may I experience Divine joy. Isn’t that beautiful?
So we need a reminder. Set up your phone so that it can remind you that God invites you to His glory and loves you. The human mind is forgetful, so we must remind ourselves of this permanently.
In the Philokalia it is said that the greatest problem of the mind is that it has been clouded, it can no longer see clearly and it has forgotten the great things God granted us. We have forgotten that we are children of God, that everything will be fine; and if something is wrong it is only for some years, while happiness exists somewhere in our hearts and in eternity. This is what should reign in us so that we can say: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! Help me not to forget about Thy love. Lord Jesus Christ, I thank Thee for the love Thou givest me!”