God has done all things for our benefit. We are guarded and taught by the angels; we are tempted by the demons so that we may be humbled and have recourse to God, thus being saved from self-elation and delivered from negligence.
-St. Peter of Damascus
…nothing can be accomplished. If laziness or depression is keeping us from a good beginning – or even another good beginning- then we should ask God for the grace simply to start. Then, with the action of grace within us, we can reap a great harvest!
“A certain brother asked an old man, “What shall I do about my negligence?” The old man said unto him, “If thou wilt root out this small plant, which is negligence, a great forest will come into being.”
The Paradise of the Fathers, #293, Vol. II, p. 65
The works of God are wondrous and unfathomable for our darkened minds, but as much as possible, we see from Scripture and our personal experience that the Lord sends sicknesses, sorrows, deprivation, droughts, wars, and revolutions either as punishment for our sins; or in anticipation, so that we do not fall into sins; or sometimes to test our faith. And so, we must bow in reverence before His all-wise Providence and give thanks for His ineffable mercy towards us.
Saint Macarius of Optina
As we being the Nativity Fast, let us ponder on the words of St. Theophan the Recluse:
“May the Lord give you the blessing of a strong desire to stand inwardly before God. Seek and you will find. Seek God: such is the unalterable rule for all spiritual advancement. Nothing comes without effort. The help of God is always ready and always near, but it is only given to those who seek and work, and only to those seekers who, after putting all their own powers to the test, then cry out with all their heart: Lord, help us. So long as you hold on to even a little hope of achieving something by your own powers, the Lord does not interfere. It is as though He says: ‘You hope to succeed by yourself -very well, go on trying! But however long you try you will achieve nothing.’ May the Lord give you a contrite spirit, a humble and a contrite heart.”
God be with you.
Just as our brains and bodies weaken and atrophy from lack of use, so too does the soul if it is not exercised through a life of prayer, devotion to God and the practice of the virtues and Commandments.
St. Mark the Ascetic agrees: “Often our knowledge becomes darkened because we fail to put things into practice. For when we have totally neglected to practice something, our memory of it will gradually disappear.”
And so let us not accept weakness, in this case. Let us not accept the darkness of an unpracticed mind and heart (nous). Let us instead prefer the Light of Life.
“The soul that loves God has its rest in God and in God alone. In all the paths that men walk in the world, they do not attain peace until they draw nigh to hope in God.”
(St. Isaac the Syrian, Homily 56, 89)