Holy Scripture gave us the roadmap to God, and specifically, calling us to always have a penitent and humble heart, that prays and calls to God in all things.
There were two families living next to each other. Both families had one boy each. The boys were of the same age, five. The Ivanovs were pious and strict, and their boy Pavel was obedient, pious, and eager to learn. Conversely, the Popovs, though pious and hardworking had no time for their boy, Yakov. Being left to his own devices, Yakov was unruly and disinterested.
Pavel’s parents were hard at work, but spent time with their son to educate the boy to be prayerful, to be respectful of all elders, to acquire an appetite for reading and writing, and to be conscientious. Pavel did not simply listen when his parents were around, but his heart was one of surrendering his own will to that of his parents, because he trusted in the best judgment and wisdom of his parents.
Conversely, Yakov’s parents had no time with him, and he hated reading or writing, and was often rude to his own parents and relatives, and even scolded or beaten elders without his parents bothering to intervene. Yakov did not listen to anyone, and his will overrode his parents’, who were powerless to do much with him.
Twenty years later, Pavel graduated from a top university as an engineer, and was employed in an international corporation, and was soon to marry a lady who was pious and hardworking. Pavel remained obedient to the wishes of his parents, and more importantly, he always kept his faith and complete trust in God.
However, Yakov was not having a good time. He dropped out of school against the wishes of his parents. When he was fourteen, he joined a gang and caused much heartache to his parents. He was caught by the police trying to rob an establishment, and spent his youth in prison. When he was released, he could not find a job and stayed with his parents. But yet he did not learn his lesson, and his parents aged terribly trying to give in to his needs. Eventually, his father died from a stroke and his mother soon after.
6. True Repentance – Saint Seraphim of Sarov instructed us to have a humble and penitent heart always (Psalm 51:19). When a heart is full of humility and repentance, it is not just a constant whipping of oneself over sins and sinking into deep depression, but a surrendering of one’s will to God completely. The devil is adept at twisting our emotions and passions, and depression is one of the tools of his trickery. But when we surrender our entire will to God as a prostration of our submission out of love, God takes the burden of inner hell from us. It does require us to, out of true humility, bare our raw inner hell to God, and say meekly to Him, “Lord, I bare my true sins, a burden of hell too painful for me to carry. Please take this from me.” God, in His unmistakable infinite mercy, takes our burdens and sins away because we allow His will be done.
God’s love is a constant bright sun, that gives us warmth when we release our wills and burdens to Him out of love, and in turn, His light of love permeates throughout our bodies and spirits, and we find incredible comfort and peace. Conversely, if we stubbornly choose to fortify our own wills and sins and stand defiantly against Him, then His infinite love will seem to burn through our bodies and spirits as if we are in hell. His love and grace is the same, it is merely us who need to make an active step towards Him to experience His love as He intends it to be.
7. All in good time – God is infinite, and not bound by time and space (Romans 8:18). Conversely, due to our limited spatial perception and lifespan, our perception of time and space are very myopic. All too often, we are obsessed by our own passions, that we become blind to His everyday mercy in subtle and not so subtle forms. We keep wondering why our passions and desires are not fulfilled, even as we “pray” frequently. However, it is not God’s plan to satiate our every desire, but rather, He will fulfill a greater Divine plan to draw us closer to Him in salvation and eternal life. Therefore, what we want (as a function of lust) is totally opposite to what God want for us (as a function of love and salvation).
Saint Seraphim also advised us, to take all insults, humiliation or injustice in silence, and only confess our pains to God (St Luke 6:30). This is not easy, and for many of us, almost impossible to swallow. Christ, the Perfecter of our faith in God, did not lead us on an easy and wide path. He told us certainly, that the path to God is a narrow and difficult one. After all, if one can fight tooth and nail over mere gold and silver, what would one expect of the priceless gifts of salvation and eternal life? Therefore, when Christ asked us to love God and others, the premise is love. If you can love someone truly, you would never see insults or shame, but counsel and wisdom.
“Humble yourself and you will see the glory of God within yourself” – Saint Isaac the Syrian.
8. Keeping our hearts safe – The Book of Proverbs gave us lots of wisdom to daily life, including that of keeping our hearts safe from the assaults of the evil one (Proverbs 4:23). Although we sometimes hear of suppressing our evil and unclean thoughts as they surface. However, our strength is feeble, and our wills weak, so let us remember our greatest defense against such thoughts – surrendering ourselves to God’s will, through the prayer of the heart.
As we pray unceasingly unto Him, layers and layers of grime and dirt fall away, revealing more and more of Him within us. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (St Matthew 5:8).
The evil one will gnaw at us at all times, in many guises. He can come as tempters in physical form, or he can tempt us from within. The more we safeguard our hearts in a pristine prayer and nothing else, the less he can assault us with his tricks. In a still lake frozen in permanent prayer, there is nothing the evil one can do. But if our hearts are tumultuous in evil thoughts and sins like a raging sea, there is much he can tempt, much he can steal, and much he can destroy.
Let us pray, beloved, out of a pure heart, wishing nothing except the rest from God,
“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us, sinners”.