Whatever you do, Christ will certainly find you. Do you not believe in Christ? Be that as it may, but your intentions are good, ask Him to come to you. He will. Ask Him for that. Say, “God, I have heard that You exist. I have heard, but I cannot feel You, I do not believe in You. Yet I want You to come to me. I cannot, but You can, You must! How can I understand You? How can my limited mind comprehend the infinite God? How can my soul feel Christ, Who is above all our thoughts and actions?”
Initially, God took the first step. He was the first to love us. However, He needs to find a place in our soul to take this step now.
It is essential for a soul to seek, to chase Him, and to doubt also. It is the only way to find God.
Chase Him. He pulls away from us on purpose so that we would be even more eager for Him, so that we would want to find Him even more. Yet He pulls away, for the commitment to Him should be dynamic, not static. God is a Person. He purposely avoids the easy way, because we are used to having everything come easy to us, used to conveniences, used to turning to Him while sinning. In such cases God pulls away.
As taught by Saint Silvanus the Athonite, one evil thought is enough to drive Christ away; one evil thought, one feeling: jealousy, or hatred, or animosity, contempt, or a wry glance. Any item from this “list” is enough to alienate Christ. However, if you truly, sincerely wish to find Him, He will find you. Even if you still doubt, make mistakes, hesitate, even if sometimes you lose faith, the time will come, when He will come to you.
When you see Christ, when you gain personal experience, when you feel God’s touch as if another person has touched you, then you will understand that it is not a hoax. You yourself will be convinced of this, your soul will be convinced, ultimately convinced. You will develop something that is called benevolence. It is when a person wholeheartedly starts looking for Christ and really begins to see Him: genuinely, as He Himself wants to get closer to you.
I do not know which path God chooses in each particular case, but the impression will be so strong, indeed, that after that nothing will be able to shake your faith, no matter what anyone tells you. You will not listen to any arguments or opinions. It is like with spouses in love: if some outsider starts badmouthing one of them to another, they will not even listen to him: people in love live in another reality, live for each other, and their love and happiness are so great that they do not really care about what others think. You can also answer all the “reasonable” arguments like this, “I do not understand you, I do not understand your arguments. I will not argue with you. If my joy, my happy face does not assure you, then I, in turn, will not even try. You will understand it whenever you feel like it”.
Yet, of course, one can see Christ, understand and feel Him only through the attitude to other people. It is impossible to bypass your neighbor on the path to God. The way we treat others is very important. That is, if you maintain good relations with people, they love you, talk to you, you treat everyone with humility and indulgence without anger, asperity, and irritation, then in this case you are really paving the way to your life for Christ. Therefore, Saint John the Evangelist says in his epistle that it is impossible to love God and, at the same time, to hate your brother, who is near, who is your neighbor. After all, God is farther than neighbors. We do not even see God. How can you say that you have a living faith and that you love God, Whom you do not see, while aggrieving your brother, whom you see?
God says that He does not even want our prayer if we do not have peace among ourselves. “Go and make peace with your brother first”. You cannot bring gifts to church, bring candles, five loaves of bread, and Holy oil to God in the hopes of meeting Him if there is no peace between your neighbor and you. You will feel nothing. Nothing.
God cannot be bought. As cannot be bought the experience of communicating with Him. God wants us to love each other first. Only then He will accept our service and be ready to come to us.
That is why God reveals Himself to us through ordinary people. That is, it so happens that a person feels Christ through his neighbor and receives from Him an answer about where He is.
You might remember a parable about a woman who was looking for Christ. “God, – she once prayed, – come to me!” Then three strangers knocked on her door, but she did not let them in. When the evening came, the woman said, “Well, God has promised to come, but he never did”. “It was Me, – God replied. – I was that poor man. You did not let Me in”.
God reveals Himself to us through those who are near. You cannot come to like your neighbor, but at the same time you want to feel Christ’s presence, do you not? It will hardly happen. Therefore, Saint Silvanus the Athonite, a wonderful saint and beloved by many, teaches: the surest way to attract Christ is coming to love your enemies. You came to love an enemy: this is it. Hence, you will meet Christ soon. Of course, the best thing is not having any enemies at all. In fact, we do not know the real enemies, for our only main enemy is the devil along with selfishness. We have no enemies among people. God just lets them come into our lives to help us grow spiritually through resentments and sorrows. What is happening is not their fault. We are to blame for being angry and living with that anger, hatred, revenge, and envy. Bad people do not exist.
So, when we learn to love our neighbor, it will be much easier to bring Christ closer to us. Many achieve this, but those who suffer are the first to do so. In this case suffering may differ completely in nature. One person has a toothache, another has a headache, someone suffers from insomnia, and someone is seriously ill: they are in a hospital enduring injection, chemotherapy, radiation; or a woman has a difficult pregnancy, she has to stay in bed for several months.
Pain hinders movement. It paralyzes, depresses, and disturbs us: especially if one does not accept it with humility. Absolutely everyone suffers, there is no such person who has not suffered in this life. Meanwhile not everyone sees Christ. Suffering will not bear fruit unless it is accepted with humility as God’s gift. If you are hurt, but still you grumble, complain, resent (“Why me?”), and worry, then you will not see Christ. It is not said that all who suffer will be saved. Those, who endure pain with humility following God’s example, will be saved.
If suffering is perceived as an answer to God, then God will be revealed through this suffering.
Pain presents knowledge, Divine enlightenment, Divine experience. How many times God Himself, Holy Mother, the Saints, or Angels came to those who were in jail or in intensive care! God Himself came to these people in their suffering, because He saw how helpless and inconsolable they were. He came to comfort them, for God is the Comforter. Yes, the Comforter is not only the Holy Spirit. The whole Holy Trinity: both God the Father and God the Son are also the Comforter. God is the Comforter and He comforts.
Saint Silvanus the Athonite tells about two cases, when monks of mount Athos, being ill and suffering physically, saw Christ at a liturgy instead of priests and their spiritual fathers. I believe, these two examples are actually more or less natural, after all, the liturgy itself is a miracle, and to see a miracle in a miracle is quite possible. Yet just seeing God in one’s suffering is an incredible miracle, a fathomless paradox. When you see Christ at a liturgy, it is understandable. However, when you see Him while in intensive care, where you might think that all have left you and no one is around, it is an amazing miracle and great comfort.
Translated by Julia Frolova