Excerpts from the book The Foundation of Family Life. Reflections and Advice from Archimandrite John (Krestiankin)
You’re family people, and Fr. F. is right to orient you to the most important thing—taking care of your family. But how to do that is an internal matter, by your own labors and capabilities. Everyone is called to live in a Christian manner—both monastics and laymen—but the paths are different, and the demands will be different. So build your family creatively. Not all artists have to paint icons. There’s no need for so many icons as there are people desiring to paint them. The world can’t do without doctors, teachers, or artists, for the world will become impoverished and sick. After all, everyone does his own work and should carry it out as a Divine obedience—with joy and love.
And don’t forget: There is no demand from you before God for self-imposed podvigs, for fasts outside those required by the Church, but for your family, your daughter, your spouse—this is what you will answer for. You have focused only on yourself and stopped seeing the need of your neighbor. Is this really what God inspires you to do? The enemy is walking about, attacking, to knock us from the path of God.
Your worries are a very delicate and creative matter—a matter of love. It’s not always possible to find the tune and sing together harmoniously. But that’s life. Life is a struggle. Life is a science—it teaches us patience, humility, and love.
E. I., think about it—we, who seem to live far from the vexations of the world, are affected by its feverishness, and what can we say about those whose souls, minds, and hearts are directly touched by it? May God give them strength to endure and not avoid the momentary vagaries of life (life is arranged without God, and that means, though they’re living, they’re not living).
So, dear E. I., know that we have a very important role to play—to understand and pray, and to give in a timely manner, and accept consolingly, thereby easing the difficult burden of external experiences for your spouse.
You have to be a helper, and for that it’s not necessary to know, but it’s necessary to feel. And I will finish with the words of the Apostle, which are appropriate for us now: Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth (1 Cor. 8:1). I know that you have a special difficulty. You want a support for yourself, but you need to be a support to those around you. I’m already ninety, and they still mercilessly demand that I be a support too. But I know that we have One support, and our strength is in One, and our salvation is in One—everything is in our Lord and Savior Christ. With God’s help, we will endure everything and survive, keeping faith and loyalty. The most important thing for us is to always be with God in everything.
God’s blessing to your family.
You have to fight for your family—it’s not just your relationship with your spouse. It’s your children’s life, broken from a young age. The first thing you must constantly do is pray for your spouse and pray to Sts. Gurius, Samonas, and Abibus for the preservation of your family. Second, and no less important, is to look into your heart, take a closer look at yourself—whether it’s your fault that your husband never comes home.
Your Christian patience, humility, and love, at least a little, in due time, will do their job, and your other half, your husband, will be revived in the spirit. But for this, start working on yourself: He may lose his cool, but don’t you do it. You have to understand that it’s harder for him than for you—he doesn’t know God, and the enemy leads him whither [he] wouldest not. Begin praying for him constantly and with a feeling of pity, remembering that it’s been hard for him since childhood, just as it was for you. And the rest is God’s work. Read the First Epistle to the Corinthians, chapter 7, and remember that you’re sick together with your husband, as the two of you are one flesh.
And the fact that you pray in secret from him is good. You have to do this so as not to cause him to blaspheme. The time will come when the secret will be done in the open.
You have to preserve your family with a wise and patient attitude towards your husband. It’s easy just to say: “I’m getting divorced!” You can say this when you think and know only yourself, but if you also think about your husband, and about your children, then you’ll make every effort for the children to know their father, and your husband to know his family.
Believe that the Lord is nearer to you than even those closest to you, that He hears not the rustling of your lips but the prayerful beating of your heart and what it is filled with at the moment of your turning to God. You are a family man, responsible before God for every member of your family, and that means your heart should ache for them all. May God grant you wisdom! And begin, S., by fulfilling the order of St. Seraphim of Sarov: “S., my joy, acquire the spirit of peace, and not only your family, but thousands around you will be saved.” And that’s it. See how life teaches us to live. If you want to be content and happy—live in God; but if you don’t—there will be no happiness.