June 10, 2011

The Grateful and the Ungrateful In the Sight of God

By St. John, Metropolitan of Tobolsk

Thankfulness during grief distinguishes the good from the evil and clearly shows who is who. Bells, prior to being lifted to their height, are tested by blows from a hammer and when they give out an unpleasant sound they are discarded. Such is the will of God: He does not lift His chosen ones to the heights prior to testing them with frequent crosses and grief in order to see the fulfillment of their endurance and what kind of and how pleasant a sound they emit. At one time God tested His great “bell” Job. The hand of God touched him. Would you like to know the tool He used? The hammer of the world, that is, the devil. But what sound did this “bell” emit? "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord!" (Job 1:21). What a pleasant sound! But Job was still further subjected to beating. He came under the power of the devil, and his whole body was struck down; from head to toe pus and worms covered him, and he sat in his discharge. Do you hear what blows he received? But now hear what his voice gave forth: "Shall we not receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?" (Job 2:10). Oh, what a strong voice! Oh, what a sweet sound! Who, being asleep, is not awakened by it? (Blessed Augustine, Discussion on Psalm 97). Blessed be this “bell” emitting such a blessed sound! This is the indication of a good man, a man grateful to God. And here is the sign of an ungrateful man: if some misfortune comes upon him, he complains, laments, opposes, grieves excessively, praises his own deeds and proves his innocence (St. Antioch, Discussion 117). What more is there to say? The good and the evil are like two full dishes, one filled with precious aromas, the other with evil-smelling matter (Blessed Augustine, Letter 111: To Theodorus). Thus the good and the evil are being frequented by misfortune without distinction, but by this affliction itself, one is being separated from the other by the all-wise providence of God. The good, when any misfortune befalls them, offer their thanks to God Who deigns to punish them; but the arrogant, sensual and money-loving blaspheme and grumble at God saying, “O God, what evil did we do that we are suffering so?”

Source: The Royal Way of the Cross of Our Lord Leading to Eternal Life, trans. Vera Kencis (Wildwood, AB: Monastery Press, 2002), pp. 149-150.