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Letter to a Spiritual Daughter by Igumen Nikon (Vorobiev)

Peace be with you, sister!

Why are you writing such despondent letters? Are you the only one there who is encumbered with difficulties? The point is not in external difficulties — I think you understand that yourself —but in your spiritual constitution. No matter where you may go, you can’t hide from yourself or the enemy. All that is yours will go with you and elsewhere will cause you even more suffering than here. You must not forget that the spiritual law states that 'We must through much tribulation enter into the Kingdom of God' (Acts 14:22); 'If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me' (Matt. 16:24); 'The Kingdom of Heaven is taken by force' (Matt. 11:12); 'In your patience possess ye your souls' (Luke 21:19); 'He that endureth to the end shall be saved' (Matt. 10:22); 'In the world you shall have tribulation' (John 16:33); 'The world hateth you' (John 15:19); 'If you desire to labor for the Lord, prepare your soul for temptations'; etc.

The Holy Fathers express this same thought in a short but powerful way: "Give blood and receive the Spirit.” This is common law for all who seek salvation. If you turn to examples, you will find in the life of every saint confirmation of this law. An example for all has been given by the Lord Jesus Christ, the apostles, martyrs, confessors and the righteous. These are shining examples known to all. In a less striking way, all who wished to live piously in Jesus Christ were persecuted, insulted, endured illness and sorrows — both external and internal. Besides this, you should know the prophecy of the ancient fathers, that in the last times monastics will be saved not through spiritual feats (podvigs), but through the endurance of sorrows. To such an extent is this true and needful that the surest sign of God’s favor and God’s love for a person is the multitude of sorrows and sicknesses which befall him. And conversely: if a man considers himself a believer, and has no misfortunes or illnesses, then this, according to the Holy Fathers, is a sign that he has not found favor with the Lord.

Now apply all this to yourself. The Lord, loving you and desiring your salvation, is sending you the means indispensable for all men without exception — sorrows. And what do you do? You do not understand this; you think that sorrows are useless for you, even ruinous. They are ruinous — not for your soul but for your sinful fallen nature; they are deadly for the fallen man but salvific for the “new man.” The enemy knows this, and confuses you; he gives false thoughts, impatience, despondency, judgment of others — their lifestyles, authority, etc. You must understand the devil. According to the Word of God, sorrows and sufferings in the earthly life of a Christian are not only not evil, but they are God’s gift: 'Unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake' (Phil. 1:29).

The sorrows necessary for a man’s salvation maybe accepted with varying degrees of difficulty or ease, depending on one's outlook. If a man accepts on faith the word of God concerning the necessity and unavoidability of sorrows for salvation, if he acknowledges his countless sins in word, deed and thought, he will consider himself fully deserving not only of those sorrows which are sent, but also much greater ones, and he will humble himself before God and man. Then the sorrows will become easier to bear and later will give rise to that which is more precious than the whole world with all its earthly joys. In the words of the Apostle Paul, 'Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him' (I Cor. 2:9)….

If you wish to find peace of soul, happiness and sure salvation, humble yourself beneath the mighty hand of God and He will raise you up. This means: accept all that happens to you as from the hand of God and not from men, for indeed, nothing which occurs to us can happen without God’s will. People and circumstances are only God’s tools, and often they do not understand what they are doing. The Lord Jesus Christ told everyone that His forthcoming sufferings on the Cross were not the work of people — the Pharisees, scribes, Pilate, Judas; they were only instruments: "The Cup which My Father hath given Me, must I not drink it?” The cup of suffering was given to Jesus Christ not by men but by the Father in Heaven for the redemption of fallen man. And to all of us who desire to be saved, it is the Lord Who will give us the cup of suffering, and not people. If the Lord suffered for us, then how, tell me, can we not suffer for our countless sins which, moreover, we do not even see. One must beg the Lord, "Grant me to see my own faults.” If we receive this gift of seeing our sins, if we feel their weight and recognize the full irreconcilability of God with sinful man, the necessity of seeking forgiveness for these sins from the Lord and the cleansing of our leprous soul by the power of God — then we will fall before the Lord; we will weep before Him like the sinning woman and will cry out from our whole soul like the publican: "God, be merciful to me, a sinner, forgive my sins, cleanse my leprous soul, do not deprive me of Thy Heavenly Kingdom, do not give me into the hands of my enemies — the demons. ”Humble yourself before God; that is, like the wise thief say from your whole heart: "I have received as I deserve according to my deeds. Remember me, O Lord, when Thou comest into Thy Kingdom.”…. The Lord has done everything for our salvation; He wants salvation for all sinners — and we must toil for our own salvation, force ourselves to live (i.e. think, feel) the way our Lord Jesus Christ did and how He taught in the Gospel.

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