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Trials and Temptations

“What is the danger of being astonished when such a trial comes? Let’s go back to the Last Supper that Jesus had with his disciples. Peter is sitting down for a Passover meal as he had done so many times before. He has misunderstood and disregarded Jesus’ forewarnings of His Passion. He is comfortable with the familiar ritual and pleased that he can celebrate it with his Master. But when Jesus begins to speak of his betrayal his mood changes. He becomes uneasy. He protests that he would never do such a thing. Jesus warns him that before morning, Peter will betray him three times. To be surprised at the ‘fiery trial” ahead is to be caught off guard like that. When things do not happen as expected, we are often at the mercy of our impulses. The accusation of a lowly servant girl ambushed Peter as he waited outside in the courtyard while Jesus was tried inside. Despite Jesus’ warning, Peter’s fearful impulse overtook him. From then on, his fright controlled him.” (Fr. Basil)

“When tested by some trial you should try to find out not why or through whom it came, but only how to endure it gratefully, without distress or rancor….When a trial comes upon you unexpectedly, do not blame the person through whom it came but try to discover the reason why it came, and then you will find a way of dealing with it.” (St. Mark the Ascetic, St. Maximos the Confessor)

“…God isn’t impassioned, punitive or vindictive. If He were so, He’d have to be evil. But there’s not a trace of wickedness in the divinity. Every trial’s a divine lesson and a form of asceticism, which we’ve otherwise voluntarily removed from our lives. Our loving God tries in a variety of ways to bring us close to him. Before God, we’re all strivers.” (Elder Moisis the Athonite)

“We have to admit that even at this holy season, we don’t have a sense of God’s infinite love for us. We don’t experience it as the most shattering event in the history of the world and in our own life. We don’t return the love of the Lord with our own. It may be the greatest failure of our life that we don’t feel God’s love for us and don’t love Him in return. And so, our life as Christians is moribund, it’s not an intermingling with God, nor an admixture of our created being with Him Who is uncreated. When we experience the mystery of God’s love, we can be deeply joyful even in the most adverse circumstances of life and can face death itself with hope. Holy people throughout the ages have felt, in the depths of their being, how much God loves us and they themselves loved Him completely. This is why they patiently endured every kind of pain, deprivation, torture, ascetic effort and trial: for the love of God.” (Archimandrite Georgios Kapsanis)

“Refiners throw pieces of gold into the furnace to be tested and purified by the fire. In the same way, God allows human souls to be tested by troubles until they become pure, transparent, and have profited greatly from the process. Therefore, this is the greatest advantage we have. So then, we shouldn’t be disturbed or discouraged when trials happen to us. For if refiners know how long to leave a piece of gold in the furnace, and when to draw it out, if they don’t allow it to remain in the fire until it is burnt up and destroyed, how much better does God understand this process! When He sees that we have become purer, He frees us from our trials so that we won’t be crushed and defeated by them.” (St. John Chrysostom)

“But how was it that the Incarnate Son of God could take our nature to Himself when He is divine? To explain how the Son of God could share our frailty, St. John Chrysostom says that the Lord assumed our “sinful flesh.” He writes about the Lord’s humanness, “In nature, it was the same with us, but in sin not… the same”…In other words, the nature that the Son of God assumed was our fallen nature, and therefore He was subject to all the trials and temptations that we face (Hebrew 5:2).” (Fr. Basil, St. John Chrysostom)

“We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22). St. Paul lists the many trials and tribulations he suffered as a faithful servant of Christ (for example see 2 Corinthians 11:23-29). He warned us that is the way to the kingdom of God. Those words are not welcomed by those who prefer the prosperity gospel. However, in saying them Paul is being faithful to what Jesus Christ also said and told us to remember: “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also.” (John 15:20) (Fr. Ted Bobosh)

“We can expect that suffering for the sake our faith will be unexpected. Tribulations won’t announce themselves saying that now your faith is going to be tested. But trials will come upon us before we are aware of it. Therefore, we must be ready to face these challenges. We should pray that the Holy Spirit would nurture a strong and steady faith in us. And for our part, we should cultivate the practices of patience, endurance, and peace of heart and mind.” (Fr. Basil)

“There are some who, even though they have begun to develop a taste for divine things, nevertheless are disturbed and hassled by the adversary, so that they are surprised (still lacking experience) that after the divine visitation, they should still harbor doubts about the mysteries of the Christian religion. Those who have grown old in them are not surprised at all. As skilled farmers from long experience, if they have had a year of bountiful harvest, they do not live without some planning, but they foresee the time of dearth and tight times. On the contrary, if famine and penury hit them, they do not become despondent, as they think positively about the future. It is the same way with things in the spiritual world. When the soul falls into various temptations (Job 1:1), it is not surprised nor does it lose all hope, because it knows that by God’s permission it is being exposed to trials and is being disciplined by evil. Nor does it forget other circumstances when things go well and there is consolation, but it expects the time of trial.” (6th Century Syrian Monk)

“…misfortunes of life by trial also produce spiritual maturity, that both poor and rich may be tried by difficulties, and each is rigorously tested by patient endurance. Such trials prove, especially in times like this, whether the afflicted one is philanthropic, aware of community identity, thankful, not blaspheming the reversal by letting life’s turbulence turn their thinking upside down.” (St. Basil the Great)

“Christ the Word of God pushes His disciples to get into the boat and go out onto the sea which He knows will become stormy. Christ doesn’t spare His disciples such trials and temptations, something we wish He did. Rather, He uses these trials and temptations to help strengthen their faith and trust in God. The stormy boat ride was a means to help prepare them for the trials they would endure when they went into all the world to proclaim the Gospel.” (Fr. Ted Bobosh)

“Without humility, it is impossible for a person to attain spiritual “perfection.” We learn by trials, and without them, no one can acquire true humility. That acquisition necessarily involves a “broken heart” and ardent prayer. Such humility allows those who love us to draw near to us and to manifest that love. However great the trials and temptations, they can always become, by the grace of God, the means by which we attain genuine humility and thus gain the Kingdom of Heaven. Those trials may involve our inner life: assault by corrupting thoughts, or surges of pride (which is so often a manifestation of our shame and woundedness). They may also involve attacks against our body: illness, old age, neglect on our part or the part of other people. Sometimes they come, too, from overt attacks by others: by abuse or abandonment. In any case, such trials are needed, in order to lead us into a state of true humility.” (Fr. John Breck)

“The dismissal hymn for the feast of the Holy Forefathers, says: ‘You [i.e. Christ] justified the forefathers in faith, and through them betrothed Yourself, in advance, to the Church taken from out of the Gentiles’…God foreordained them, called them and stayed with them, so that He could boast of being their God. They received His promises directly and spoke to Him in person…despite the certainty of the promise…they earned their godliness, devoutness and focus on God in general through a heavily-laden cross, that is sorrows, pains, persecutions and tribulations, to the extent that they almost departed this world before seeing any of the things God had promised, except as symbols and the occasional insight. Do you see the mystery? In this vale of tears, God’s promises are partially seen, partially understood and partially revealed. This is precisely what is meant by ‘Who is wise, and will observe these things, and understand the mercies of the Lord?’ (Ps. 106, 43). This is how we who are called through faith must stand fast and implement our commitment to the Lord and to His promises. Interpreting faith through limitless patience, long-suffering and endurance, throughout our various trials and temptations, we, too, will be made perfect, as will all His children.” (Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi)

“To distinguish between trials and temptations takes wisdom…Wisdom understands the nature of trials. Trials are adversities that put one to the test…Temptations are also a test. In fact, the Greek word that is most often translated as “temptations” in James 1:12 can mean either trials or temptations…the tests are temptations when they are the enticements of our wayward inner desires….Yet the apostle teaches that for the faithful, trials should be nothing but joy. The wise welcome them not so they can show their strength in overcoming them. But those who rejoice in affliction know that going through it produces “patience.” The Greek word means literally “to abide under”…Thus, instead of complaining, blaming, or becoming discouraged, the wise bear the burden of every hardship with a peaceful mind and a trusting heart, drawing strength and comfort from the knowledge of the mercy of God.” (Fr. Basil)

“Pray for strength and endurance in sufferings, for trials and temptations are encountered on the spiritual path. (St. Peter of Damascus)

“… “this world” is not evil in essence, for it is God’s creation. But what is going on in this current time is evil. The forces of wickedness in this world are causing pain, sorrow, and misfortune...The trials of life remind us not to get too comfortable with the affairs of this world…“Seek not honors, seek not glory, seek not authority, nor revenge but bear all things…The aspirations of this life distract us from our hope. They are like the trivial things in a backpack that are not essential for climbing up a mountainous trail. These burden us with an extra but needless load of care.” (St. John Chrysostom, Fr. Basil)

“People these days do not value things that last. But when the trials of life come, they realize that they have taken the good things of life for granted, and what is valuable has slipped away from them. Then, they begin to seek something that endures.” (Fr. Basil)

“Unshakeable faith is not something we develop overnight. Christ uses the mustard seed many times in the Gospel as a metaphor for the type of faith He says we need to acquire. St. Ambrose reminds us that for the mustard seed to grow from the tiniest of seeds to one of the largest of all plants it first must be bruised or crushed. It is through the trials of life where we experience suffering that we are bruised or crushed but not defeated. The daily prayerful choice to have faith, especially during our worst times, is what enables our faith to grow over time into something unshakeable that will both sustain us while attracting others to Christ.” (Sacramental Living Ministries)

“People in a state of depression often like to think that nothing and nobody can help, not even the Lord revealed in the sacred scriptures….They would find in Jesus Christ the answers to their problems, consolation and healing of their spiritual afflictions, healing of their sorrows and anxieties. It’s all so possible, even when things go horribly wrong. Consider the life’s trials of St. Paul who wrote that formula for joy. He is always filled with optimism and hope, regardless of the trials he had to endure. Read the list of his sufferings: “countless beatings, and often near death. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and in nakedness” (II Corinthians 11:23-29). Yet he never allowed himself the luxury of self-pity. He had optimism to spare for his disciples and those he had brought to the faith in the One Who conquered death and Who lives in us, ready to come to our aid and take us to His heavenly Father.” (Fr. Vladimir Berzonsky)

“Hope becomes our support in times of sorrow and of trials, of pain and failure. Hope urges our tired footsteps forward, illumines the dark and uncertain path of life and expels confusion, stress and turbulence from our heart. Naturally everywhere we turn our gaze around us, or even within us, everything’s a disappointment. But the hope of the faithful isn’t groundless. It’s not utopian (utopia= nowhere). It’s founded on an unshakeable place. That place is the love of God, which is always there, even if it’s hidden behind the trials of life. The faithful see through to this love of God, as if it were the sun behind clouds of sorrows. In overcoming their frustration, they acquire strength for their struggle. It is precisely this confidence in the love of God which is fortified by hope.” (Pemptousia Partnership)

“My experience has been that it is what I did with the time prior to any trial or suffering I faced that prepared me for it. The routine of daily prayer, Bible study, faithfully going to church, all of which did not always feel inspiring, and even mundane and repetitive sometimes, is what enabled me to withstand the fiery storms and trials and grow from them. Not that it was easy, nor did I fully realize how prepared I was while these sufferings were happening. But coming through them both whole and transformed gave me a retrospective understanding that God was with me and guiding me even when I was failing and flailing miserably. And the perception of Him I did have during the trials, albeit very limited at times, was just enough to help me endure.” (Sacramental Living Ministries)

“Christian teachers have emphasized that growing in maturity involves becoming attuned to the spiritual realities that underlie the commonplace, from our family relationships to our daily routine, from our inner thoughts to our deepest desires, from our lying down to our waking up. God is part of all these experiences, yet often we fail to perceive His presence until our eyes are opened.” (Robin Phillips)

“…dispositions and habits can be inscribed in our unconscious if we regularly repeat routines and rituals that we fail to recognize as formative “practices.” If you think of love-shaping practices as “liturgies,” this means you could be worshiping other gods without even knowing it. This reductionistic view of the human person is then mirrored by a failure to see cultural practices as liturgies—as habit-forming, love-shaping rituals that get hold of our hearts and aim our loves…in the formation of your loves is your religious and spiritual identity, which is manifested not only in what you think or what you believe but in what you do—and what those practices do to you…We become what we worship because what we worship is what we love.” (James Smith)

“In our society, changes continually interrupt the comfort of our routine. We prepare for them as best we can. But the scriptures are concerned about two things that need our urgent preparation. The first is the sudden return of the Lord in glory. The second is the likelihood that we will be called to stand up for our faith and even to face trials that will test our inner strength. The best preparation is “watchfulness” that comes from constant prayer. By continual prayer, we grow so strong in faith and love that we are ready to greet the Lord when He appears as Lord and Judge. Moreover, we will be able to withstand any and all evil that might come upon us.” (Fr. Basil)

“To guard a nation against attack requires constant surveillance and early detection. The armed forces of our nation remain ready for deployment at any time, but without the gathering of intelligence such preparedness is of little value. The same is true of our life in Christ. Prayer, worship, and the sacraments help us but little unless we are trained in the use of these spiritual weapons, employ them regularly, and stay aware of developments around us.” (Dynamis 6/2/2020)

“…if we can learn to live with low expectations…then the number and intensity of the temptations in our life will dramatically decrease…However, low expectations of ourselves and of our experience in this world are only helpful if we have high expectations of God. When we look to God to be our help and to save us, then difficult times will no longer be trials, a diminution of the smooth sailing that most people expect their life to be; but rather the bumps and failures and difficulties of life will be nothing more than just life, life for a sinner in a fallen world. Moreover, every difficulty will for us be yet another opportunity to draw near to God to be saved, another chance for “patience to have its perfect work” in us (as St. James puts it in his epistle).” (Fr. Michael Gillis)

“Spiritual joy goes together with spiritual suffering. It is wrong to think that joy comes only at the end when the suffering is over. Joy in Christ goes together with suffering in Christ. They co-exist and are dependent on each other for their power and strength. As blessed mourning over sin is the mourning that comes with the joy of salvation, so suffering in the flesh, in this world, is consonant with—and in a real sense is even caused by—the unspeakable joy of salvation. Thus Saint James can say that Christians should “count it all joy” when they “meet various trials,” knowing that the “full effect” of their steadfast faith is that they may be “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (Jas 1.2–3).” (Father Thomas Hopko)

“If you take God as your hope, He will be your help in the time of your anguish; “for anyone who comes to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who search for him” [Heb 11:6]. These words were written for us, that we may believe in God and do battle, great and little, by fastings, prayers and other religious practices…“joyfully put up with every trial. For if you knew the honor that results from trials you would not pray to be delivered from them, because it is preferable for you to pray, to weep and to sigh until you are saved, rather than to relax and be led off a captive.” (St. Pachomius)

“Paul admits that he has great anxiety for the churches in the religion of Colossae. He is worried that false teachers will lead the believers away from their faith in Christ But note that Paul does not pray that the deceivers will suddenly disappear. Nor does the Apostle pray that the believers will find arguments to refute their tempters. Paul only prays for the faithful to be encouraged amid this temptation. You see, the trials of their souls allowed them to grow in their faith: to love one another more closely, to believe more confidently, and to understand more deeply.” (Fr. Basil)

“There was a time in my life when my first reaction to any trial, temptation, and suffering was to pray to be delivered from it ASAP. Then my reaction changed. I still pray for deliverance, but I also pray for God to open my heart and grant me understanding of what He is trying to teach me through any of these struggles, and to submit to His will and timing in all things. I also pray to see the bigger picture beyond just myself of what the Lord is accomplishing for me and others. It’s not easy but it is in alignment to truth. If nothing happens apart from God’s will, then He can take anything that happens to us in life and use it for our growth and salvation. So rather than strictly pray from a position of total control, I found it better to surrender my false sense of complete control, still be rationale in seeking not to struggle and suffer, but also be faithful and trust God is with me amidst the storm.” (Sacramental Living Ministries)


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