“The only way is to unite with the pain, accept it, swallow what you can’t fix, and understand that you will pass through this path, as the entire human race have passed.”
Archimandrite Andreas Konanos
When pain knocks at the door of your home, when pain is not just in books, sermons and talks, but comes and strikes your home, your family – that’s what we’re going to talk about. In Greece we say an expression “I want you here, my friend!” Talking is nice, talking is nice, but the question is when the pain knocks on my neck, what do we do. How can we endure, how can we stay on our feet and not bend? This is very difficult and for many people unattainable. You understand the benefit of pain not in the hour when it hurts, but after 2-3-5 years have passed, and you look back on your life. Then you will see that something very beautiful has come out of those difficult years in your soul – I strengthened, I loved, I forgave, I cried. Some have cried for the first time in their lives when they experienced pain.
Who among us has never said “why” to God even once in his life? We all say at some point “why my God?” And we don’t need to despair if we say this because we are human and we will say it. Prophet and king David in the psalms says many such prayers – why, my God, have you forsaken me ? Why did you forget me? Why do you strike me, don’t you pity me, what kind of God are you? When in the moment of pain someone comes to preach to you, their failure is certain. In the hour of pain, one does not want a sermon, nor much advice, nor much words to be spoken, because you make the situation worse. In the hour of pain, find someone by your side, just to sit and cry with you. Someone told me – I would go to the home of someone who was in mourning. What should I say to him, father, give me some good advice, a good suggestion. I told him: don’t say anything. Sit there and let him talk, let him tell you his pain himself. Some people say harsh words in the moment of pain. I’m not saying they’re doing well, but they have a justification as they are very hurt. There are people who, in the hour when they experienced great pain, lost their faith, their life was shaken, because they believed in one God, where they thought that He would arrange everything in an ideal way for them. They told me: I entered the Church and after three years my beloved person died. What is this God doing for me? I admit that I am confused with you, and I am thinking with you, and I am knocking on God’s door with you and turning my pain into a prayer, my tears into a prayer to God and I say to Him: My God, if possible, give me an explanation . I can’t explain how these things happen.
Last Saturday I went to the funeral of an acquaintance of mine who had helped with frescoes in the church, a very nice family and children, a blessed man. He woke up in the morning, went to drink some water, his wife told him to put on his jacket because it was cold. He came back, lay down and died. The woman did not understand what was happening. I went to the funeral and when I saw him, I had this bewilderment – why is there so much pain in this life? How do you explain why a 60-year-old person passes away, how do you explain why a child gets sick, what should this mother say to her child who is 4 years old, with leukemia, with diseases, worries, problems, his hair falls off, to not be able to eat, to cry, to be in pain? What should the child say? What will the mother say? What shall we all say?
I don’t know if you have realized it, but pain is present in our lives. He who thinks he will live a lifetime without pain is deceiving himself. Everything in this world moves between joy and sorrow, pain and pleasure, smile and cry, happiness and worry. There is no other way in this world. Nature has been moaning and struggling. The whole world is groaning and in pain. In order for a flower to sprout, the bud first bursts, and this bursting is pain. For a baby to be born and to rejoice, you scream in pain. Pain and joy always go together. There is nothing in life that does not have this trait of pain. The only way is for a person to befriend it, to come to terms with it, to swallow what he cannot fix and to understand that pain will pass, as it passed for my father, my mother, my grandfather, my grandmother, the whole human race. Everyone has experienced pain, and I will experience pain, and I have. You felt pain too. And we will experience pain again. The point is for something good to come out of it after all, and not to feel pain in a fruitless way without bringing out something good for our soul. Just to hurt and cry, which leads nowhere. The point is for something beautiful to come out, to love each other through the pain, to unite through it, to make friends with those we don’t talk to through the pain.
I had neighbors who didn’t talk to each other. One of them died and now I look at the other one who lives with his wife, they walk down the road and inside I feel like asking him – are you satisfied now? When the other one died? You haven’t spoken in all these years. The man died. I mean, what’s left in the end? You have failed all your life to achieve the great secret which is called love, unity, befriending, embracing, kissing, that is the secret. As one woman said about her husband – my husband was the worst man in the world, the sharpest, the most nervous, the most short-tempered, until a major illness came and slowly turned him into a sheep. I loved my husband all over again because he loved me all over again through his pain. The pain subsides.
However, pain can also make you tougher. It depends. Someone experiences pain and becomes sharper and cooler, another experiences pain, but softens from it and becomes like a child. It’s a secret. Every soul is a secret. I don’t know about yours, for me pain crushes me, humbles me, mends me, to a certain extent. There is no answer to the question of why pain exists. The point is that something good should come out of it. And so don’t be angry with people when they say bad or unpleasant things in their pain, let them say what they want in that hour and sit by them, love them and support them.
No one is exempt from life’s sorrows. You understand that you are also part of this world and part of humanity. And then you begin to love Christ more easily. Because Christ suffered, was crucified, there is nothing worse you can do to Him. The worst happened to Him. He was crucified, he suffered, he died for us. Why do saints attract us? Because they have suffered. That’s the secret. Pain attracts you and unites you with other suffering people. Pain connects us to others.
It is a great blessing when you are in pain to have company and not be alone. Having someone say two words to you. To listen to you. To say something. A man said something to me: Father, I am a sick man, I have no one, I have only one puppy in my room, and because no one talks to me, I sometimes tell him about my problems. Although a puppy, it gives him comfort. You can’t stand being in pain and being alone, it’s tragic. You are a martyr. That is, if you don’t have one person to listen and support you, it is astounding how you endure…
Whatever pain comes in our life, deep inside our soul emits a message to God to send us some small test in order to progress, sanctify and mature spiritually. That is, pain is something our soul needs. Sanctity, blessing, joy and maturity of man are fertilized in pain. Let me give you an example. When you pray and say: “My God, please help me to become holy, help me to enter Heaven, to have joy in life”, as if you are saying to God – My God, train me – don’t punish me – but train me, that is, help me to learn, to progress. A student at school cannot say to his teacher: I want to become an excellent student! And the teacher starts stroking him. From the moment you say train me, it’s like you’re saying to him – use any way you think is right to progress, to take steps, and the steps are God sending you a person who will make you sick. Why? This is the answer to your prayer. However, this is not a punishment. Here is a big mistake that everyone makes. We think that God is punishing us, that he is taking revenge on us, you think that you are a bad person, that you have done something and now God has sent you some pain to be punished and to pay. That `s a mistake. God does not punish us, because very simply, he cannot punish, He is love and only loves. He has no “psychological problems” to punish, get angry and take revenge. These are our problems. God only helps and says – through this ordeal of pain something good will come out. And you say: what are you talking about, can anything good come out of this? Can something good come out of a disease, from cancer, from leukemia? And God answers: Not today. I am not looking at your life today, you will live for many more years. I see your life in the distance. You will change through this, you will strengthen yourself, you will mature, you will become a mature and spiritual person. There is no other way. We need to know that whatever we ask for, God will give it to us in His way, which eventually surprises us.
God does not play with us, we are not pawns in His hands to play with us. This, unfortunately, is a great delusion that has also passed into the Church, where we think that God is punishing us. Too many people feel guilty when they feel pain when their child gets sick and say: I caused it, because of my sins the child got sick. God is not that kind of God. God does not play with people’s pain. You are not to blame for what is happening, it is not your fault. If we understand this, we will relax, calm down, take a deep breath and say: My God, if I am not guilty, at least give me a little explanation, a little strength to endure what has come into my life and the pain I feel.
Learn to stand on your own two feet; through the pain you will stand on your feet. There are people who have experienced great pain and become strong through it, and then they say – whatever happens to me, nothing can bend me, after seeing sickness, death, other things, whatever happens in my life , I can meet it coolly and soberly. You grow stronger through pain and understand the strength you hide within yourself. We all have a lot of power. It’s just that in Greece we are hypersensitive, we complain a lot and think we can’t handle it. But you can, you have great power, and you said many times – if something happens to me, I will go crazy, I will die, I will kill myself, but here you live, although what you said happened. The pain came, but you lasted. Therefore you have power. If we understand this, we will stand on our feet and gain confidence in the name of Christ and you will say: I am not a victim in life, I will manage, I have a God who will strengthen me. I have Holy Communion, I have confession, all this will strengthen me. I can handle it.
We are very afraid in the midst of pain, and because we do not value ourselves properly, we do not trust the grace of God that is in us, and we suffocate. We drown in a spoonful of water, too many people drown in a spoonful of water. Naturally, some drown in more serious problems. Well, those who drown in serious problems, I excuse them a little, but some drown in a spoonful of water. I don’t know if you should be so afraid as long as life has shown that you also have gifts, you have abilities, but it has to do with the way we grew up, were we supported when we were children so that we could endure in life. Some of us didn’t grow up with strong parental support, and we came out into society scared enough. That is, if a child has not repeatedly heard from his mother the words “my joy, my boy!”, good words, not selfish, to strengthen his soul, to feel that I am valued, that I can, that I have gifts, this child will come out scared in life. At the slightest thing that will happen to him – pain and worry, he will collapse. Therefore, see in yourself also what education you have received – have you heard good words and do you speak good words to your children to encourage their souls?
Do you want to help your family? Help yourself. When you do that, you also help your loved ones. When there are sick people in a house, and the mother is spiritually sober and calm, this is the greatest help to that home. If you’re nervous, you can’t help it, you make things worse with nerves. It gets worse with the yelling and screaming. Therefore, we must process our soul in these points of trust in God, of the tranquility of our soul, to calm down and thus distinguish real problems from imaginary ones.