There was a young man who asked God to teach him to love the whole world impartially, without seeking his own profit. He wanted to feel selfless love. He wanted to love strange and complex people with all his soul and all his heart.
Years went by, and that same person, aged 45, visited Tinos Island, stood in front of an icon of the Theotokos and wept, complaining about his wife, “My God, why did you sent her to me? Why is this person always with me, and why is our family life so hard? We don’t love one another. We keep quarreling and fighting. We hurt one another. We’ve been on the verge of divorce many times. My Lord Jesus Christ, I’m in trouble. Why does it happen? I can’t find any explanation. Why did God sent all this to me?” The Most Holy Mother of God tried to give that man the answer during that prayer. She reminded the man that at 20, he was praying to have a family, saying to God, “Help me, O God, to love selflessly. Teach me to love properly.” Years were flying by. The young man hit 30, then 35. He got married. He ran into some problems and difficulties. At first, he thought that they were accidental but when he remembered those past events and connected the dots, he was convinced that they are not a punishment or an accident but the answer to his earlier prayer. You see?
Everything that happens to us is the result of our own requests. We need it. Of course, it is helpful. It teaches us to love, to humble ourselves, and to further our knowledge of God. You might object, “Isn’t there a different way to achieve that? When praying, I didn’t ask for it. Naturally, I wanted to know how to love but I didn’t know that suffering and pain will ensue. I wasn’t asking for trouble. Why so much pain? Isn’t there a different way?” I believe that there is no other way. That’s what life is about. Kazandzakis asked a holy hermit on Mt. Athos, “Is there a different way—a simpler and more comfortable one?” The hermit, whose name was Makarios, replied, “There is only one way, my dear, and it is called the uphill road. It is painful and you’ve got to shed your blood to get there.” When you climb a mountain, your knees ache and your heart is tired of pumping increased volumes of blood. However, there isn’t another way to get to the mountaintop and to see the rising sun. There is no other way to achieve the salvation of your soul.
That is how one’s soul gets saved. That is how its beauty is preserved and multiplied. That is how it starts to blossom. Flowers bloom thanks to the scorching heat of the sun, thanks to the painful raindrops that hit their leaves, and thanks to the snow that freezes them. That is how nature works. That’s how this world works. That’s how God works. You can get saved only by overcoming sorrows and pain.
Fragment of a book by Archimandrite Andrew (Konanos)
titled “Marriage and Its Problems…”
Translated by the Catalog of Good Deeds