In the Gospel reading for the Third Sunday of Hatour, our Savior declared, “And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple” (Lk 14:27). From these divine words, we learn that suffering and tribulations in this world are part of the cost of discipleship and requirements for those who wish to bear the name “Christian.”
The letter reproduced below is said to have been written by a modern Russian Orthodox saint, Elder Seraphim of Vyritsa, to his spiritual son, a bishop who was in a Soviet prison at the time. Written in the first person voice of God, it is a powerful reminder of God’s work even in the midst of the most bitter tribulations.
Have you ever thought that everything that concerns you, concerns Me, also? You are precious in my eyes and I love you; for this reason, it is a special joy for Me to train you. When temptations and the opponent the Evil One come upon you like a river, I want you to know that this was from Me.
I want you to know that your weakness has need of My strength, and your safety lies in allowing Me to protect you. I want you to know that when you are in difficult conditions, among people who do not understand you, and cast you away, this was from Me.
I am your God, the circumstances of your life are in My hands; you did not end up in your position by chance; this is precisely the position I have appointed for you. Weren’t you asking Me to teach you humility? And there – I placed you precisely in the “school” where they teach this lesson. Your environment, and those who are around you, are performing My will.
Do you have financial difficulties and can just barely survive? Know that this was from Me. I want you to know that I dispose of your money, so take refuge in Me and depend upon Me. I want you to know that My storehouses are inexhaustible, and I am faithful in My promises. Let it never happen that they tell you in your need, “Do not believe in your Lord and God.” Have you ever spent the night in suffering?
Are you separated from your relatives, from those you love? I allowed this that you would turn to Me, and in Me find consolation and comfort.
Did your friend or someone to whom you opened your heart, deceive you? This was from Me. I allowed this frustration to touch you so that you would learn that your best friend is the Lord. I want you to bring everything to Me and tell Me everything.
Did someone slander you? Leave it to Me; be attached to Me so that you can hide from the “contradiction of the nations.” I will make your righteousness shine like light and your life like midday noon.
Your plans were destroyed? Your soul yielded and you are exhausted? This was from Me. You made plans and have your own goals; you brought them to Me to bless them. But I want you to leave it all to Me, to direct and guide the circumstances of your life by My hand, because you are the orphan, not the protagonist.
Unexpected failures found you and despair overcame your heart, but know that this was from Me. With tiredness and anxiety I am testing how strong your faith is in My promises and your boldness in prayer for your relatives. Why is it not you who entrusted their cares to My providential love? You must leave them to the protection of My All Pure Mother.
Serious illness found you, which may be healed or may be incurable, and has nailed you to your bed. This was from Me. Because I want you to know Me more deeply, through physical ailment, do not murmur against this trial I have sent you. And do not try to understand My plans for the salvation of people’s souls, but unmurmuringly and humbly bow your head before My goodness.
You were dreaming about doing something special for Me and, instead of doing it, you fell into a bed of pain. This was from Me. Because then you were sunk in your own works and plans and I wouldn’t have been able to draw your thoughts to Me. But I want to teach you the most deep thoughts and My lessons, so that you may serve Me. I want to teach you that you are nothing without Me. Some of my best children are those who, cut off from an active life, learn to use the weapon of ceaseless prayer. You were called unexpectedly to undertake a difficult and responsible position, supported by Me.
I have given you these difficulties and as the Lord God I will bless all your works, in all your paths. In everything I, your Lord, will be your guide and teacher. Remember always that every difficulty you come across, every offensive word, every slander and criticism, every obstacle to your works, which could cause frustration and disappointment, this is from Me.
Know and remember always, no matter where you are, that any pain will be dulled as soon as you learn, in all things, to gaze at Me. Everything has been sent to you by Me for the perfection of your soul.
All these things were from Me.