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What to do with suffering

Archimandrite Aimilianos of Simonopetra wrote:
The soul has to make a choice, and the outcome will either break it into pieces or enable it to sail to its destination in God. And the choice comes down to this: Will the soul accept or reject suffering? Will it make this suffering its own, or struggle against it, seeing it as something alien to itself?
…If he chooses to accept his suffering, he must embrace it with the wholeness of his life; he must discover and accept the proper relation to his suffering. If he can do this, he will have transformed his suffering so that in the end his only reality will be God. But if he continues to resist his suffering, refusing to find his salvation in it, his anguish will continue unabated.
The question is ultimately this: Will he offer himself as a voluntary sacrifice to the will of God? …He must accept as his own will, as his own desire, the will of God for his life. If this happens, he will cease being anxious about his sufferings, for he will see that they too are the signs and tokens of God’s presence.
It follows from this that the [soul’s] salvation hinges on a single decision, namely, the acceptance or rejection of his suffering. To the extent that he struggles against his suffering, seeking to disown and reject it, his agony will only intensify. The avoidance of suffering serves only to increase suffering in a vicious cycle that never ends.
If, on the other hand, he chooses to entrust himself to God, and so recognize in his suffering God’s mercy and love; if he is able to see his suffering as proof of God’s love for him, then he will undergo another, greater experience that will shake him to the core of his being.
Just when he thinks his life is about to end, that he is about to breathe his last, he will feel, not simply an upward surge into new life, but deep within himself the presence of the “long-lived seed” mentioned in the Prophet Isaiah:
“It was the will of the Lord to bruise him; He has put him to grief; yet when he makes himself an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, a long-lived seed, and the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand; he shall see the fruit of his suffering of his soul and be satisfied” (Isaiah 53:10).
Spiritual health is not found in the avoidance of suffering, but in its joyful acceptance. The [soul’s] dilemma lies precisely in whether or not he will accept his sufferings or reject them, which is another way of saying that the choice he needs to make is whether to accept or deny God.

Fr Silouan Thompson

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