I was moved while reading some of the comments entered under Forward to Our Roots.
When Jesus warned us in Matthew 10:36 that the enemies of a man would be in his own house, we never imagine that we are going to experience that personally. And yet, how many good Christians I know are being persecuted by husbands, or wives, by brothers, or in their own local church. When I think of the iniquities that St Pio of Pietrelcina had to endure along with the physical suffering of the Cross, I wonder how his faith survived the ordeal. As years of trials piled up his spiritual gifts increased like fine gold pouring out of the crucible, purer and purer as the heat intensified.
I do not think there were any saints that had an easy, relaxed life. Even saintly men like John Henry Cardinal Newman who did not have to endure the stigmata or the Roman Circus, had to suffer a lot. He was the subject of the most refined psychological tortures. One can easily see in those few remaining photographs of him, the traces of years of pain endured with titanic patience.
Every Christian life worth living has those characteristics. “No pain, no gain. No Cross, no Glory.” In Matthew 11:12 Our Lord warns us also the we must do violence to our soul on the way to the Kingdom of the Heavens. This is a road, but it is also a battle. We get on board Peter’s barque to labor and endure the storms. Christian life is no pleasure cruise.
The best summation ever of this matter (in my humble opinion) is found in Ecclesiasticus Chapter 2:
My son, if you come to serve the Lord, prepare your soul for temptation. Set your heart aright, and constantly endure, and make not haste in time of trouble. Cleave unto him, and depart not away, that your lot may be increased at your last end. Whatsoever is brought upon you accept it cheerfully, and be patient when you are changed to a low estate. For gold is tried in the fire, and acceptable men in the crucible of adversity. Believe in him, and he will help you; order your way aright, and trust in him.
You that fear the Lord, wait for his mercy; and go not aside, lest ye fall.
You that fear the Lord, believe him; and your reward shall not fail.
You that fear the Lord, hope for good, and for everlasting joy and mercy.
Look at the generations of old, and see; did ever any trust in the Lord, and was confounded? Or did anyone abide in his fear, and was forsaken? Or whom did he ever despise, that called upon him? For the Lord is full of compassion and mercy, long-suffering, and very pitiful, and he forgives sins, and saves in the time of affliction.
Woe be to fearful hearts, and faint hands, and the sinner that walks a divided path!
Woe unto him that is fainthearted! for he did not believe; he shall not be defended.
Woe unto you that have lost patience! What will you do at the time of the Lord’s inspection? They that fear the Lord will not disobey his Word; and they that love him will keep his ways. They that fear the Lord will seek that which is well pleasing unto him; and they that love him shall be filled with the law. Those who fear the Lord have a good heart and humble themselves before him: “Let us abandon ourselves in the hands of the Lord and not in the hands of men, for just as high his majesty is, such is the depth of his mercy.” Ecclesiasticus 2.
This sounds almost like a formula for sanctity! When we decide to follow God, we have to prepare for a demotion. Humiliation is the best way to get rid of our natural impurity. The best thing that can happen to us is to be tested. And we will be tested in the particular fire that will burn our impurities. No exceptions. In fact, one should worry if suffering is absent from one’s life.
When faced with trials, what can we do but bear the fire with patience and let God take the impurities off our souls? I am sure we can exchange many horror stories of abuse, suffering, ostracism. In the end we can conclude that we have a simple list of things to do: praying; giving a good example; bearing the abuse with grace, and help others in their trials the best we can.
Now I realize why Christ suffered so much during his life on this Earth, he was made like us in everything except sin (Hebrews 4:15). From day one he suffer the vicissitudes of human life deserving none of them. Ah! but we do deserve them! We need to go through the fire to become saints. Only saints go to Heaven. No impure gold is accepted in the celestial jewelry store. See Revelation 21:15-21.
We have to let the Refiner work his magic. It takes faith to let him work on us. To use the words of C. S. Lewis in The Weight of Glory : “The blows of his chisel, which hurt us so much, are what make us perfect. The suffering in the world is not the failure of God’s love for us; it is that love in action. For believe me, this world that seems to us so substantial, is no more than the shadowlands. Real life has not begun yet.”
“They that fear the Lord will seek that which is well pleasing unto him; and they that love him shall be filled with the law. Those who fear the Lord have a good heart and humble themselves before him: ‘Let us abandon ourselves in the hands of the Lord and not in the hands of men, for just as high his majesty is, such is the depth of his mercy.'”