The Endless Knowledge of God

How often are we brought up short, incapable of understand His will. His first and last thought for us. We do not easily abandon ‘our ways’ and with enormous difficulty search out ‘His ways’. The instant it seems to us that now I begin to see…He demonstrates how immeasurably distant He is. My soul is strained to the limits of her strength, my spirit fails. I am appalled at the endless profundities of the knowledge of God that stretch before me. I look for sustenance in the Divine word, and what do I come on? ‘Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven’. Why? ‘For the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain’ (Hebrews 12:26-27).

O Lord, I am weak. Thou knowest this.

In fear I seek the way to Thee. Despise me not.

Forsake me not in my fall.

Draw near even unto me, who am of no account, yet I thirst after Thee.

Take up Tine abode in me and do Thou Thyself

perform in me all that Thou hast commanded of us.

Make me Thine for ever and ever, in love unshakable.

The Elder Sophrony


I read such profound, intimate thoughts of a living saint, and wonder to myself, “What things in my life may be shaken?” I realize that almost everything in my life can be shaken and I feel like a man who built his house on the sand.

But this is only anxiety – it is a displacement of my daily confidence in the wrong things. It is the judgment of God. For only that which cannot be shaken is of true value. Thus I begin to ask myself, “What cannot be shaken?”

The Church, at least many superficial aspects of the Church can be shaken and are shaking at this very moment, and yet She abides. If the unspeakable horrors of Stalin visited on the Church did not destroy her, if the many betrayals by even hierarchs did not destroy her, how can the Church be shaken beyond her core reality – the True Body of Christ? So my heart should rest.

My parishioners whom I love and who are the daily prayer of my heart can be shaken and are often shaken to the very breaking point. And yet, the love of God in Christ Jesus for them cannot be shaken, and so my commitment to them above everything should not be shaken. This is a commandment from God.

My family is but flesh and blood, and children seem as vulnerable as the most ephemeral aspects of life. The vulnerability I feel is linked to the love, the uncontrollable love which I feel for each of them. I cannot make the world around them behave or protect them from the vicissitudes of this life. Thus what is unshakable remains only in the hands of God, to whom I must commit them and trust.

My own life is always fragile. From my state of mind on any given day, to the meager struggle against sin, all is fragile. To God alone everything must be committed, knowing that should a “shaking” come, it is only for my benefit and the salvation of my soul.

“O God, Thou hast promised to shake us and all the world.

Have mercy upon Thy servants and our weaknesses,

For only in Thee may we find safety. And our hearts are weak.”


About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a retired Archpriest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present: Christianity in a One-Storey Universe, and Face to Face: Knowing God Beyond Our Shame, as well as the Glory to God podcast series on Ancient Faith Radio.





11 responses to “The Endless Knowledge of God”

  1. nichole3 Avatar

    I used to be annoyed that my mother worried about me after I was already grown and married. Now…. I certainly understand how she felt. My children range in age from 29 to 33 and I still sometimes wish I could shield them from all hurts in life. In my personal life–there have been many shakings. I’ve faced cancer. I almost lost a child to death. I almost lost my husband to death. In those times I knew I had no resources but God. But that should always be our thought through all of our days because life is so uncertain. Only our faith in God is certain.

  2. Stephen W. Avatar
    Stephen W.

    First of all I must thank you for the work that you do in attempting, through the help of the Holy Spirit, to redeem the Internet and create an niche for those who are seeking to make their lives “One Story”. It is only through personal tragedy that I have begun to realize the dichotomy that existed in my own heart. Suddenly I realized that I had through time squandered many of my gifts and had failed to develop spiritual or noetic eyes, in which to view the world. Now I find myself in a place where, I must confess, the world mostly appears to me to be a great big mess of suffering, pain, consuming, competition, deceit, mistrust, ect. But somehow at the same time their is this feeling of quiet intensity giving me the desire to run towards Christ. This could be, what St. Theophan calls grace, the gift of another chance or maybe a first chance. I’m not sure that one can ever get all the answers needed to explain the suffering in this world but I must say that at least through the church and the saints we catch glimpses of what life is really about and to what we are called. These men and women are our co-sufferers. Their pain has been transformed or transfigured and now they can identify with the rest of us and teach us. I believe that it is only through suffering that we also can see the deeper calling and identify with the saints and fathers. Why else would the words of Elder Sophrony echo something that is in my very soul. oh, how I long to be transformed also! But for now I am caught up in my own sin, always feeling as if taking the first step, wanting to know how to love God but acting as if I love sin more (I believe that St. Paul writes about this). I desire to live in the light of the resurrection. I have so much more I could say but I need to find a place to stop. Anyway thanks for putting up these signposts that reflect the wisdom of the Church, giving us all ways to see ourselves as we truly are. Pray that God will give myself and others the strength to persevere. May God be the glorified through our weaknesses. Stephen W.

  3. Cepik Avatar


    If someone is interested in the faith, can they e-mail you to discuss? I understand if you are too busy, btw, I read your blog regularly and love it.

  4. Handmaid Anna Avatar
    Handmaid Anna

    Father Bless,
    I pray daily that God would teach and shake me on how to love others (St. Ephaim’s prayer) for I fail so miserably most of the time. Thankfully, I can go to Him in repentance to get better each time I fail. It seems I am shaken the most when I am aware of the distance between Him and me that I put there myself by my being more preoccupied with self. I am most joyous though when, by His grace, I do have moments when I truly know how to love others and that it is His glory that even makes it possible. May those that I hurt by my preoccupations please forgive me.
    By your prayers,

  5. fatherstephen Avatar

    I am always accepting of emails, and will privately discuss any matter. Such things are most welcome.

  6. Margaret Avatar

    I just needed to read this, thank you!

  7. fatherstephen Avatar


    I will pray for you and you will pray for me.

    It is true that suffering (not masochism or self-inflicted) is the way to God – not by some need of God – but because of the mess (as you so aptly describe it) we have created gives no option. We placed ourselves in the place of pain, and He united Himself with our pain that He might unite us to His healing (and joy and Life, etc.). As many as are Baptized into Christ have put on Christ. And to put on Christ means also to put on His suffering just as we will put on His resurrection.

    If I may make a small suggestion it is not to stay stuck on the question of your sin. He became sin that we might become the righteousness of God – thus even in our sin we are not separated from Him. Even in our sin we can pray (that’s how the Publican had to pray). There is no other starting place. Even if I descend into Hell Thou art there. So we can start anywhere. Begin to pray, and He will heal the sin from within. Grace works. Just a small thought but it has helped me get unstuck on several occasions (well, many, actually).

  8. maryc Avatar

    Father Stephen,

    Thank you so much. I can’t think of anything more appropriate for me to have read at this particular moment of my journey. May our Lord continue to bless you, your family and ministry.

  9. Patrick Avatar

    Was this also from “We Shall See Him As He Is?”

  10. Cepik Avatar

    Thank you for your reply Father,

    I feel a little silly, in that reviewing the site again (and again), I can’t find an e-mail address for you. I looked in the “About” section and over the front page. Am I looking past it?

  11. fatherstephen Avatar

    Yes, from We Shall See Him As He Is” p. 103

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