What preserves you?

The Martyr John, Archbishop of Riga, wrote:

Martyrdom of St John of. Riga
Martyrdom of St John of. Riga

What dissoluteness grows in man’s heart, like rust on the blade of a battle sword when it lies unused, or like a garden which becomes overgrown if not tended by the gardener’s shears.

Tell me, O Christian: What preserves you from the haughtiness which so easily penetrates even the strongest hearts, even the hearts of Christ’s disciples? Is it not the cross and suffering? What humbles the passionate inclinations of the flesh which so quickly and easily spread in times of well-being and prosperity like insects in a swamp on a sunny day? What teaches you to shun this uncleanness? Is it not the rod of misfortunes and sorrows? What arouses you from the sleep of self-assurance in which we are so easily lulled to sleep by times of earthly happiness?

Or what is more conducive to lazy vegetation than cloudless, carefree days of prosperity? At such times, isn’t a storm to be welcomed? What will draw you out of the dangerous state of insensibility? Will not sorrows? Will not illness? What tears us away from our worldly attachments, the love for the world and all that is in it? Is it not necessity and misfortunes?

Do not trials teach us to take life more seriously? Do not sorrows teach us to be prepared for death?

Wild brambles in the heart cannot be uprooted without the pruning shears of the heavenly Gardener, and the good fruit of truth and righteousness will not grow without the rain of tears and sorrows.