For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons:
“ My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD,
Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;
For whom the LORD loves He chastens,
And scourges every son whom He receives.”
If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed. (Hebrews 12:3-13 NKJV)
Why, then, is it strange if God tries noble spirits with severity? No proof of virtue is ever mild. If we are lashed and torn by Fortune, let us bear it; it is not cruelty but a struggle, and the oftener we engage in it, the stronger we shall be.
Seneca, De Providentia, 12
No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. (1 Corinthians 10:13 NKJV)
Nothing befalls anyone that he is not fitted by nature to bear.
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, V.18
Given my present circumstances, I am in need of some manful and hardy consolation. I’ve had enough of the commonly thereapeutic. There comes a tipping point when the therapeutic becomes the pathetic, where self-care (as it’s called in the nomenclature) becomes self-pity. I need much less navel-gazing and living in my head, and much more action. Give me The Quiet Man over Dan in Real Life, St. Antony over Joel Osteen.
Thankfully, I have ample resources to hand: St. Paul and Seneca, St. Manuel of Crete, the New Martyr (15 March) and Marcus Aurelius, St. Ephrem the Syrian and Epictetus, the ancient Christian saints, martyrs and ascetics and the Stoics. Further, I have my previous ruminations, providentially given to me three years ago, on Christian philosophia (scroll to bottom of page to begin). In trying times, I too often fall back to my Protestant semi-gnostic proclivities: that there is some teaching, some clarification of doctrine that will provide me the therapeutic salve for the soul, some surcease from the painful struggle. But as the psalmist writes, a different course of action is needed: “Wait on the Lord; be thou manful, and let thy heart be strengthened, and wait on the Lord” (26.14)–remembering, of course, Milton’s words, “They also serve who only stand and wait” (the sonnet on his blindness).
But one must be careful lest one substitute, in true semi-gnostic fashion, reading for doing, thinking for acting. Waiting, in Christian askesis is dynamic and active. On the one hand, union with the divine energies, on the other the activities which so unite one with God.
What if one has been deprived of one’s material possessions through violation of a court order? One may certainly work to see that justice redresses such a wrong. But what of the loss in principle? It does not touch one’s character of soul. What if one’s reputation among one’s community has been sullied with falsehoods and half-truths? What are such opinions, held in ignorance, to the light and heat of one’s indwelt heart? What if, in temporality, deception and injustice seem to have the upper hand? Indeed, what if such “win the day” in human terms? The patience of eternity is at hand, if one but grasp it, and with it the final discrimination of souls.