Discerning “the hidden ways of God”: His open invitation to repentance

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“It is always possible to make a new start by means of repentance. ‘You fell’, it is written, ‘now arise’ (c.f. Proverbs 24:16). And if you fall again, then rise again, without despairing at all of your salvation, no matter what happens. So long as you do not surrender yourself willingly to the enemy, your patient endurance, combined with self-reproach, will suffice for your salvation.

‘For at one time we ourselves went astray in our folly and disobedience’, says St. Paul. ‘. . . Yet He saved us, not because of any good things we had done, but in His mercy.’ (Titus 3:3,5).

So do not despair in any way, ignoring God’s help, for He can do whatever He wishes. On the contrary, place your hope in Him and He will do one of these things, either through trials and temptations, or in some other way which He alone knows. He will bring about your restoration; or He will accept your patient endurance and humility in the place of works; or because of your hope He will act lovingly towards you in some other way of which you are not aware, and so He will save your shackled soul.

Only do not abandon your Physician, for otherwise you will suffer senselessly the twofold death because you do not know the hidden ways of God.”
-St Peter of Damascus

“God has done all things for our benefit. . .”

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God has done all things for our benefit.

We are guarded and taught by the angels; we are tempted by the demons so that we may be humbled and have recourse to God, thus being saved from self-elation and delivered from negligence.

On the one hand, we are led to give thanks to our Benefactor through the good things of this world, by which I mean health, prosperity, strength, rest, joy, light, spiritual knowledge, riches, progress in all things, a peaceful life, the enjoyment of honors, authority, abundance and all the other supposed blessings of this life.

We are led to love Him and to do what good we can, because we feel we have a natural obligation to repay God for His gifts to us by performing good works. It is of course impossible to repay Him, for our debt always grows larger.

On the other hand, through what are regarded as hardships we attain a state of patience, humility and hope of blessings in the age to be; and by these so-called hardships I mean such things as illness, discomfort, tribulation, weakness, unsought distress, darkness, ignorance, poverty, general misfortune, the fear of loss, dishonor, affliction, indigence, and so on.

Indeed, not only in the age to be, but even in this present age these things are a source of great blessing to us.

-St Peter of Damascus

We have received from God…

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We have received from God self-control, forbearance, restraint, fortitude, patience, and the like, which are great and holy powers, helping us to resist the enemy’s attacks.

If we cultivate these powers and have them at our disposal, we do not regard anything that befalls us as painful, grievous or unbearable, realizing that it is human and can be overcome by the virtues within us.

The unintelligent do not take this into account; they do not understand that all things happen for our benefit, rightly and as they should, so that our virtues may shine and we ourselves be crowned by God.

-St Anthony the Great