Letter to a prisoner
“Why does a living God allow such misery?”
Lessons from the Count of Monte Cristo. “It does not matter”
Dear in Christ …..: I am getting behind again, so I hope to get some letters done. I was disappointed you were on lockdown, but “that’s baseball”. It was just as well. I had a ton of stuff to do before I went to our diocese celebration of “Prokrov”, the “Protection of the Mother of God”, which we celebrate every year with the gathered clergy, with Archbishop Peter, on Oct 14 (Oct 1 on the church calendar).
I am glad you are writing once in a while. I will listen. I will pray. If my prayer was like that of Elias, who could bring rain, you would get better faster, but I am what I am, so I pray the best I can. I consider this task to be a great privilege. I do not have anything wise to say to you. The suffering soul does not need words – it needs healing, and only God can do that. When we are defeated, depressed, demoralized – rational arguments do not help much. So there is prayer.
I remember a scene in the Count of Monte Cristo that has always stayed with me. It is why I pray. The priest was dying, after many years of unjust imprisonment. Edmond Dantes was planning an escape, and was very near to making it, and he had talked to the priest about killing the man who put him in prison. There was this dialogue:
Abbe Faria: Here is your final lesson - do not commit the crime for which you now serve the sentence. God said, Vengeance is mine.
Edmond Dantes: I don't believe in God.
Abbe Faria: It doesn't matter. He believes in you.
This is very powerful for me. We go up and down, wax and wane. We believe, and we do not believe. Through all of our changes, God is. He does not change. He always desires our salvation. So, regarding your statement that you no longer pray, and no longer read the scriptures, I answer: “It does not matter. God believes in you, and I believe in you, and I will pray for you”.
I am listening, I hear you. I do not have any advice right now, but you are in my heart, and I feel your pain.
I will try, in a poor way to answer your question: “Why does a living God allow such misery?”
That is a question for the ages, and many have tripped over it. There is no answer. One can talk about “free will” and many other things, and form a plausible explanation, but mortals cannot know the mind of God. We cannot know the answer to these hard questions.
I have learned that as the heart opens to God, it begins to understand. This understanding is not cognitive. It is really, just comfort. God is present, and in His light we are happy. The more a man experiences God, the less he is troubled about anything else. It is not without reason that the Holy Spirit is called “Comforter”. We mortals need much comfort. I pray that you will find comfort.
I am writing general letters now, and have a bunch of stuff I just included in a letter to ….., but I think, maybe what I have said is enough for now.
I will be there …... I hope to see you. Maybe we will have some time to talk in private. I can listen. God bless you.
Priest Seraphim Holland 2016 This and other Orthodox materials are available in from: St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas, https://www.orthodox.net/
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