Words of Wisdom from Abba Dorotheos of Gaza
Abbot Poemen used to say very accurately that the signs of a true Christian make their appearance in time of temptation. 1 For a Christian, truly setting out to serve Our Lord, must be wise enough to prepare his soul for temptations 2 lest he at any time become estranged (from the Lord) or be overwhelmed by what comes upon him. And he must believe that nothing happens apart from God’s providence. In God’s providence everything is absolutely right and whatever happens is for the assistance of the soul. For whatever God does with us, he does out of his love and consideration for us because it is adapted to our needs. And we ought, as the Apostle says, in all things to give thanks for his goodness to us, 3 and never to get het up or become weak-willed about what happens to us, but to accept calmly with lowliness of mind and hope in God whatever comes upon us, firmly convinced, that whatever God does to us, he does always out of goodness because he loves us, and what he does is always right. Nothing else could be right for us but the way in which he mercifully deals with us.
If a man has a friend and he is absolutely certain that his friend loves him, and if that friend does something to cause him suffering and be troublesome to him, he will be convinced that his friend acts out of love and he will never believe that his friend does it to harm him. How much more ought we to be convinced about God who created us, who drew us out of nothingness to existence and life, and who became a man for our sakes and died for us, and who does everything out of love for us?
Suppose a man for some reason dives into the sea: if he knows the art of swimming, what does he do when a great wave comes along? He ducks under until it goes past and then he goes on swimming unharmed. But if he is determined to set himself against it, it pushes him away and hurls him back a great distance, and when again he begins to swim forward another wave comes upon him, and if again he tries to swim against it, again it forces him back, and he only tires himself out and makes no headway. But if he ducks his head and lowers himself under the wave, no harm comes to him and he continues to swim as long as he likes. Those who go on doing their work this way when they are in trouble, putting up with their temptations with patience and humility, come through unharmed. But if they get distressed and downcast, seeking the reasons for everything, tormenting themselves and being annoyed with themselves instead of helping themselves, they do themselves harm.
As the Apostle Paul says, “God is faithful and will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able (to endure).” (1 Cor 10:13) But we are men who have no patience and no desire for a little labour and (no desire) to brace ourselves to accept anything with humility. Therefore we are crushed (by our difficulties). The more we run away from temptations, the more they weigh us down and the less are we able to drive them away.
Based on “Dorotheos of Gaza – Discourses & Sayings”
1. PG 65: 325B
2. Wisdom 2:1
3. 1 Th 5:18