Pain is Opportunity for Spiritual Growth

From The Mystical Marriage: Spiritual Life according to St. Maximos the Confessor:

“If it is the devil who is harassing you, he can strike you, cover your body with bruises, afflict you with sickness, or take away your possessions. People can do the same thing: they can cause you physical pain, either by taking things away from you, or by making your life difficult, or by reducing you to poverty, hunger nakedness, as well as many other things. We could say that they impose constraints or limits on you, so that when you are feeling deprived and diminished you want only to resist and react, and so lose your feeling of peace with God.

If, however,m you succeed in rising above pain, in the sense that you no longer consider it as something evil but rather as something good; if you consider every difficulty, burden, privation, and pain as a divine visitation, then you will live and be beyond temptations. No one will be able to trouble your spirit. But to the extent that you want to fight back, or want to triumph over your troubles, conquer your pain, struggle to regain the things that were lost or taken from you, then you cannot have a relationship with God, because this is the very thing that is disrupted by your self-will and resistance. Let’s say, for example, you don’t have enough to eat. You will learn to say with St. Paul: ‘I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.’ If I have something to eat, I will eat. If I don’t have anything to eat, I won’t eat. Am I in good health? I will say: ‘Glory to God.’ Is my health poor? I will still say: ‘Glory to God.’ But the moment I become anxious about my health, wishing only to get better, running around to doctors, taking different kings of medicines, traveling frantically to foreign countries for experimental procedures, I have lost God. I have become like a top spinning out of control.

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The same thing happens when i’m unable to understand that I don’t need the things that I don’t have. Someone took some of my clothes, or my things, or my money. None of these things is necessary and may be replaced. In different forms, deprivation, privation, and pain constitute basic elements of the spiritual life. A person who resists difficulties, or who is afraid of pain, or who cannot endure to lose or be deprived of his possessions, has lost God. For such a person, God is dead. Conversely, the person who is committed to spiritual struggle must learn not simply to accept physical pain and other difficulties, but must learn to see and understand them as blessings and opportunities for spiritual growth and sanctification.”

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