To Guard One’s Heart

The heart is a precious thing. The term can sometimes be confusing for people reading Orthodox writings. On occasion it almost sounds synonomous with the soul. At other times, it is identified with the nous, that organ of perception by which we know God. The Scriptures use the term (especially in the Old Testament) but never clearly define what it means. Some number of the Fathers make a literal identification with the physical heart while preserving its function as an organ of perception. Biology aside, the heart is a way of speaking about that which is deepest within – the seat of the self that is most truly “who we are.”

Christ speaks of the heart in a variety of ways. There are dangers that reside in the heart:

But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.(Matthew 15:18–19)

When a group criticized Him for healing on the Sabbath, while a man with a crippled hand stood in need, we read:

And He looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. (Mark 3:5)

More positively, however, Christ promised:

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matt. 5:8)

A very powerful take on the coldness of the heart can be found in the sayings of St. Seraphim of Sarov:

“God is a fire that warms and kindles the heart and inward parts. Hence, if we feel in our hearts the cold which comes from the devil—for the devil is cold—let us call on the Lord. He will come to warm our hearts with perfect love, not only for Him but also for our neighbor, and the cold of him who hates the good will flee before the heat of His countenance.”

The heart is subject to injury. The traumas and the contradictions of our lives easily wound the heart. Our fears, our anger, our shame, our darkened memories and such, all contribute to the heart’s coldness. And, reflecting on St. Seraphim’s words, we know that those elements are intensified by the actions and whisperings of the adversary. All of the actions of asceticism – fasting, vigils, etc., have the single purpose of cleansing and healing the heart. Sadly, we often give greater attention to what we are eating (or not eating) than the things that are eating at our hearts. St. Basil said, “It does you no good to abstain from meat and to then devour your brother.”

We are lulled into a form of complacency by our culture’s exaltation of “objective” knowledge. We fail to notice that, even in very mundane things, dark musings, such as anger and resentment, can affect our performance. Driving angry can be as distracting as texting. We are not compartmentalized beings – with some objective monitor operating independently of the state of our heart.

The healing of the heart can be a difficult work. It’s wounds can be quite old and deep. Resentments can easily grow from mere insults into a world-view. The handful of commandments given to us by Christ easily serve as a short guide to mending the heart.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

This, I suspect, is the form of theosis that not many imagine. The love of enemies is not a moral matter – rather, it describes a state of being. It is nothing less than a crucified life. As Christ forgives His enemies from the Cross, He reveals the full depth of His divinity. Just as the Father makes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, so Christ shines the light of His love on the whole of humanity (“who know not what they do”). There is no union with the crucified Christ that is not also a union in such love. The same observation can be made regarding Christ’s teachings on generosity and kindness. In His person and in His teachings, we see revealed the very heart of God.

St. Silouan was famously told, “Keep your mind in hell and despair not.” That came to him in the context of demons distracting his prayers. We face the hell of our own heart. St. Macarius wrote:

The heart itself is but a small vessel, yet dragons are there, and there are also lions; there are poisonous beasts and all the treasures of evil. But there too is God, the angels, the life and the kingdom, the light and the apostles, the heavenly cities and the treasuries of grace—all things are there. (H.43.7)

We should make no mistake – the great competition and battle takes place within the heart. In the life of St. Silouan we see not just the mystical word of Christ, but Silouan’s own embracing of the “whole Adam,” all of humanity. This is the fruit of love – of unwaning forgiveness and a radical generosity.

All of this is overwhelming when we consider such a battle. We should take heart, however, knowing that the grace of God within us is able to do all things. We cry out, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner!” It is the cry for Christ within us to do what we cannot. Do not refuse His help.

“Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.” (1 Jn. 4:4)

 

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present and the Glory to God podcast series.



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44 responses to “To Guard One’s Heart”

  1. Eliot Rausch Avatar

    Moved to tears.
    Thank you!

  2. Robert Avatar
    Robert

    The heart itself is but a small vessel, yet dragons are there, and there are also lions; there are poisonous beasts and all the treasures of evil. But there too is God, the angels, the life and the kingdom, the light and the apostles, the heavenly cities and the treasuries of grace—all things are there. (H.43.7)

    You’ve quoted this so many times. In this context a question came to mind. Forgive me if this may have been answered in one of those previous posts.

    Does this apply to everyone? Could it be said that those in our lives who are cruel or disruptive are more in tune with the treasures of evil? If so then isn’t there always hope they might one day engage the treasuries of grace?

  3. Anne Avatar
    Anne

    Thank you Father Stephen. I have at times dreamed of moving to where you are. Then I realized it’s the spirit of Christ that I love.
    Much love,
    Anne peugh
    Please pray for me my home is on the market and I need a new church home. It’s stressful, moving so im going to let go of more things once again.

  4. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Robert,
    It is, indeed, one of my favorite quotes.

    I think that in some general sense it is true of everyone. Obviously, there are formal means (sacraments) that intensify the work of grace within us. I base this on Acts 17:26 ff (from St. Paul’s sermon to the Athenians).

    “And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us;for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, “For we are also His offspring.’” (Acts 17:26–28)

    There is always hope.

  5. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Anne,
    For what it’s worth, as I am now retired, my local ministry is greatly diminished. I concelebrate on Sundays, and fill in when I’m asked (usually if there is sickness or the Rector is away). I’m a happy presence in coffee hour and enjoy being with the people of the parish. The bulk of my ministry these days is either online, or in my travels and speaking. I’ve set a limit of one outing per month, unless something really presses me to do more. It helps me keep a decent pace, but without creating too much stress. Travel these days, particularly air travel, is inherently stressful, though I find ways to enjoy it. Mostly, I enjoy landing safely – and the amazing views out the window of the plane!

    May God give you grace in your moving!

  6. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Robert, I am beginning to understand that the state of someone else’s heart is impossible to comprehend. When I try, I invariably lapse into judgement. At best I can barely discern my own need for repentance.

  7. Robert Avatar
    Robert

    Michael,

    Thank you for that. There was much nuance and many disclaimers I could’ve made but then the question gets bogged down. I agree. Really Fr. summed it up at the end. There is always hope. Which was kind of where I was going. I think I wanted a reminder. Hope for me as much as anyone else. We can become harmed by the negativity of others and judge them or no, they can still impact us. Hope. That’s what I needed to hear.

  8. Brandon Avatar
    Brandon

    Father – what do you think about the sort of false enlargement of the heart wherein people claim different definitions of love that are supposedly broader than an Orthodox. I completely agree that in the saints such as Silouan we witness the proper ‘enlargement’ which embraces all of humanity as you describe, a true universality. While the former view, being short fallen of true universality – since it rejects Christ’s commandments and the life giving boundaries of the Church and her dogma, yet thinks it as more encompassing (since it has no dogma or restrictions) But in truth, it can’t account for its own lack of perception since it factors neither dangers of the heart nor the influence of passions whereas the Orthodox view considers such watchfulness the only way to true perception, true freedom.

    the view of the pure in heart who see God is obviously clearer and in a sense “higher” in that it can see the place of the other limited type of vision (that of the clouded heart). All hearts are injured but only in Orthodoxy can they be fully healed to see clearly as possible in this life.

    In today’s well noted crisis of attention, it seems like an understanding of why and how to guard one’s heart is the most important conversation that can lead to the path of prolonged and deep belief faith and trust, in the face of all we encounter in the world. Thanks as always for such enlightening descriptions of what is true.

  9. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Brandon,
    “Love” is probably the most abused word in our modern language. I presume (when writing on the blog) the Orthodox understanding of love – which is never anything less than the self-sacrificial love of Christ as seen in the Cross and as taught in His commandments. I do think about others who might read what I write and want to supply their own definition – they apparently don’t make comments in that I rarely see such things in our conversations.

    To a great extent, I want simply to pray for them and not worry over them. They are in the hands of God. Apparently they don’t know what they’re doing – which is a net that most of us live in most of the time. Thank God for the mercy we hear on the lips of Christ.

  10. Tim Avatar
    Tim

    Reminds me of this great quote of which most people only know the first part “But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?” – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

  11. Albert Avatar
    Albert

    I’m praying for Anne too. I understand and am in similar straits, at least in part. Thank you, Anne, for this: “Then I realized it’s the spirit of Christ that I love.”

    About the heart, I have difficulty going from physical to symbolic to theological, especially when soul and nous are included. But I’m not worried because I don’t need to understand. I’ll stick with what you wrote, Father Stephen, and what you reminded me that Jesus said. I mean I’ll keep trying to. And your ministry helps greatly. Grateful to God

  12. Andrew Avatar
    Andrew

    St. Macarius’s quote has always struck me as beautiful and insightful in an abstract sort of way. However, the older I get and the longer I’ve been under the therapy provided in the Church, the more real and personal it becomes. I see those wild and poisonous beasts fighting for dominance in me ever day. Another quote that often comes to mind and ‘hits the nail on the head’, so to speak, is St. John Cassian,

    “It is not an external enemy we dread. Our foe is shut up within ourselves. An internal warfare is daily waged by us.”

    Sometimes it’s not just daily, it’s moment to moment.

  13. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Andrew,
    The Macarian Homilies are rich material. Deeply embedded within them is this notion that it’s all in the heart: the Church is in the heart, etc. Indeed, there’s some criticism of them occasionally of perhaps overdoing that. For myself, I have not found it to be the case. Rather, it’s too often the case that those who only deal with the “outside” issues easily fall prey to the temptations of hypocrisy. If I am not worshipping at the altar of the heart, then what am I doing at the external altar. Ideally, they should be united – and that’s a daily battle, for sure.

  14. Andrew Avatar
    Andrew

    I need to check those homilies out. You reminded me of a quote I encountered some time ago that stuck with me. It’s from The Book of Steps (a Syriac work from the 4th or 5th century). I admittedly don’t know much about the book, or if it’s considered Orthodox in it’s content.

    “In the case of the church in Heaven, all that is good takes its beginning from there, and from there light has shone out upon us in all directions. After its likeness the church on earth came into being, along with its priests and its altar; and according to the pattern of its ministry the body ministers outwardly, while the heart acts as priest inwardly. … Our bodies become temples, and our hearts become altars.”

  15. Byron Avatar
    Byron

    Considering love, it is always good to remember that Love is not generic. It requires, as Father regularly reminds us, an “other” and is quite particular. The Israelites were chastised at any number of different times due to their love–because it was not love of God, but the improper love of worldly things. Love does not justify all things, but it is always necessary to rightly interact with others.

  16. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Byron,
    Yes, indeed. I think we fail to really understand the simple statement in Scripture: “God is love.” That doesn’t mean that “love is God.” Rather, it means that love is not just particular, but transcendently particular. Right love is nothing less than a participation in the life of God. One reason we are commanded to love our enemies is simply this: God loves them. If God loves them and we do not, then we are breaking communion with God.

    We get this elsewhere in St. John: “If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” (1 Jn. 4:20)

    So, “right love” (I don’t have a different term for this, but there probably is a better one), is nothing less than our participation in the life of God towards the world. It is life in the Divine Energies.

  17. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    The strength of words lies in their ability to describe the particular and the concrete.
    God has a unique particularity but only the Incarnation gives Him substance to which words can more easily apply. Thus the experience of the Living God is always revelatory and difficult to describe. That does NOT make it any less real. Shoot even St Paul, a craftsman with words, struggled doing it and got frustrated.
    His reality in my heart is too easily push aside by the world, my flesh and the temptations of the evil one. Yet He is persistent, patient and deeply real. In fact it is His reality in the still center of our being for which the evil one has answer.
    “Be still and know that I am God.”
    “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.”
    “Be of good cheer, I have over come the world” ….and more. His words have a substance to them beyond any false promises and temptations yet I fall into the unreal turbulence easily.
    Lord, have mercy on each of us and heal us each and every one of our sins.

    Lord forgive me, a sinner.

  18. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Michael,
    In that “in Him we live and move and have our being,” I know that everywhere I encounter anything and anyone that exists (which is everything!) I am seeing proof of God. It speaks to the essential goodness of all things. Even the adversary was created good (which is why his existence is not taken away from him – God does not take back His gifts). The adversary hates his own existence, and hates existence itself (because he hates God), but he cannot undo it.

    These things are cardinal principles for me. I ponder and question many things, but not that God is the ground of all being and the ground of all goodness. He is the Good. It is axiomatic for me (and keeps me sane).

    On good days and in good moments, the goodness of all existing things seems so palpable that it drives me into ecstasy. And, then, of course, I wander of and get confused or forgetful and think of things less sublime. Today I heard a bishop talking about the purpose of the Scriptures – and such. They are “anagogical” – that is – they lead us towards something. What they lead us towards, he said, is “Awe.” Awe is the beginning of the contemplation of God. Or, as is attributed to St. Gregory of Nyssa, “Only wonder understands anything.”

    Glory to God.

  19. Victoria Avatar
    Victoria

    Just what the doctor ordered. I ask your prayers Fr Stephen!

  20. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Joy is deep within each heart and seems to be activated by repentance. I have been blessed to experience how our Lord greets repentant sinners as they die. Also people like Fr. Moses Berry, whom I have known for 50 years, who triumph over all things by His Grace and Mercy. I have no reason to fear or complain–but I some times do any way. Lord, have mercy.

  21. Cladius Avatar
    Cladius

    Father Stephen ,

    My experience is as the scriptures say , that the adversary accuses my heart day and night of which there seems to be little relief . Does it get better ?

  22. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Cladius,
    One of the desert fathers said, “Prayer is a struggle to a man’s dying breath.” So, I don’t mean to suggest that there is no struggle. But, depending on a variety of things – it can indeed get better. There can be organic reasons for adversarial noises (such as OCD). Those can be helped medically. Also, toxic shame can be a source, and it can be attended to and lessened.

    But, I have found that it also good to have “offensive weapons” – to be able to push back against the onslaught of accusations. The simplest and best such weapon is the practice of giving thanks always and for all things. The adversary says one thing, but, we can respond with another – not arguing with him (he never tires), but simply doing the one thing he cannot bear: giving thanks to God.

    St. Paul counsels us: “…speak to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,”(Ephesians 5:19–20).

    It genuinely helps.

  23. Cladius Avatar
    Cladius

    Father Stephen ,

    I will admit that if nothing else works listening to the “My Mother’s Hymn Book” album by Johnny Cash always seems to help . Thankful for your reply and ministry .

  24. Drewster2000 Avatar
    Drewster2000

    Fr. Stephen,

    That photo makes you look like a saint. Was that on purpose or is God just unmistakably shining through? (grin)

  25. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Drewster, wouldn’t a saint either not show up on such a pic or look so ordinary few would notice?
    Whomever took the picture is an artist. Very difficult to pull off well even with digital cameras let alone the old SLR cameras.

  26. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Drewster, just an ordinary priest being a guide and guardian for us between the darkness and the light. I thank God for them. In 37 years I have only known one priest who was less than helpful. Being a parishioner in a Cathedral parish I have encountered dozens more.
    Fr Stephen is one of the better ones to be sure.

  27. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Drewster,
    I really don’t know. It was a candid shot taken at our diocesan assembly in Greenville, SC (St. John of the Ladder). It was in the photo dump from the assembly. It took several minutes to realize it was me (it’s not an angle I normally see). I think a sunbeam from one of the high windows caught me at Vespers. I might add – it’s not “what a saint looks like.” It’s what a human being looks like seen in a particular light.

    I’m just a priest who writes stuff.

  28. Leah Kirchoff Avatar
    Leah Kirchoff

    Father Stephen,
    Would you please elaborate on what you mean by “The love of enemies is not a moral matter – rather, it describes a state of being?” What do you mean when you say it is not a moral matter? I occasionally share your writings with my neighbor (who is not Orthodox) and this perplexed him. Thank you.

  29. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Leah,
    I certainly do not mean to imply that hatred of our enemies is not “immoral,” but that “moral” does not really touch the heart of the matter. One of the problems with “moral” thinking, as is done on a popular level, is that it only describes whether something breaks a rule. In our culture, if certain rules are broken, then people are punished. That model often gets transferred into Christian teaching and reduces the teaching of Christ to just a set of rules that God must enforce (by punishing us, etc.).

    In point of fact, as was alluded to in this article, the teachings of Christ are about how we rightly and truly exist. (Thus I was describing the love of enemies as a “state of being.”). “God is love,” the Scriptures teach us – which is far more than saying that “God loves us.” It equates love with the very being of God. When we love, we are not only doing something that is “right,” we are actually entering into the very life of God, and therefore beginning to truly exist.

    Christ’s teachings on love of neighbor, love of enemies, radical forgiveness, radical generosity, are all pointing towards living our lives with the same life as God. (cf. 6:36)

    “But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High.”

    This is much more than saying, “And you will be rewarded.” This is Christ saying that we will be “sons of the Most High,” that is, partakers of His very life.

    This is a much deeper treatment of the meaning and thrust of Christ’s commandments than most people have ever considered. Generally, all they’ve ever heard are “moral” explanations. Sometime, those explanations leave people thinking of God as a cosmic police officer. Rather, He is the God who loves us and means to give us His life – that He might dwell in us and we in Him. That is far more profound.

    This is a common way of writing and thinking among many of the Fathers, and is especially the case in the gospel of St. John. If God is love, then true existence for all of us, can only be found in loving others – even our enemies. To love God and to love our neighbor are the two great commandments. And these are not just commandments of how to behave, but are invitations to actually share in the life of God.

    I’m glad to answer more questions on this. It is perplexing at first, I’m sure. But it’s solidly grounded in the Scriptures and in Orthodox tradition.

  30. Mark Spurlock Avatar
    Mark Spurlock

    Father Stephen,

    I don’t think Jesus states anything more clearly or more often than what you express in your comment. It is the essence of the conflict with the Pharisees and. ultimately, therefore, why they seek his death.

    To this day, asking someone to forgive and love an enemy is to tread on the most dangerous of ground. I would say it is more difficult (and more required of us) even than being charitable.

  31. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Mark,
    Yes. I also think that it’s very hard to explain “morally.” Why is it wrong to hate an enemy? Whenever I’ve written on the topic, or discussed it, that difficulty always arises. In the “normal” flow of events, loving an enemy seems dangerous, fool-hardy, and emotionally suspect.

    What we have in this commandment is nothing short of the resurrection, I believe. What I mean by that is that only the true life of God working within us is capable of doing such a thing. It is a “contradiction” of the death that is at work in us – and the living, active power of God for a new life being made manifest. In my own life, the most I’ve managed is to be kind to an enemy – too much fear and such within me to do more. But I can see that calling on God to do in me what I cannot do for myself is the way forward.

  32. Dee of St Herman Avatar
    Dee of St Herman

    Father I appreciate your honesty about loving one’s enemies and asking for God’s help.

  33. Brandon Avatar
    Brandon

    St. Sophrony on St. Silouan: “he asserted categorically that he who has no love for his enemies is SEPARATED from God, does not know God. … where there was hatred towards enemies, he saw black depths, whatever the “service to God”, whatever prophetic pathos clothed the hatred.”

    This to me, is a great way to present this commandment as an ontological matter (as a state of being) rather than a mere moral matter. If as Fr. Stephen notes, God is just a policeman, there is no actual separation, nor are there black depths.. and one could still see God clearly and know Him, albeit with a red wrist. In the other view, in order to know Him with all one’s being, one must love one’s enemies as/since He does, thus there is no separation with regard to that aspect of His likeness in us.

  34. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Dee,
    I think love of enemies involves healing trauma (at least part of it). I can see some change in all of that – but I’m deeply aware of the stubborn presence of such wounds. That said, kindness is a good beginning. There have been times that a wound was so great that I could not pray for an enemy without re-experiencing the trauma. In such cases, I’ve often just offered a “generic particle” on the diskos – “for my enemies.”

    I’ve also suggested numerous times the simple prayer: “O Lord, do not hold this against them on the day of judgment on my account.” It’s love at a distance…

  35. Anne Avatar
    Anne

    For me loving enemy’s makes me cry or weap. Which probably means I don’t know how to love my enemy. Well I have a lot of work to do in a short amount of time. Lord have Mercy.
    Anne

  36. Byron Avatar
    Byron

    I’ve also suggested numerous times the simple prayer: “O Lord, do not hold this against them on the day of judgment on my account.” It’s love at a distance…

    Father, you have spoken, at times, of the need for distance in healing. The subtle requirement of boundaries, even in our love for other. True love recognizes that love does not justify all things.

  37. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Anne,
    Weeping is one the highest forms of prayer.

  38. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Wow, to here your description of an enemy, Father, I do not think I have ever had one. The closest we’re my father and my late wife, but we managed to love each other too at the same time.
    Even my first priest who was quite hurtful had been placed in an situation that made it almost impossible for him. Met. Philip (memory Eternal) did that.

  39. Dee of St Herman Avatar
    Dee of St Herman

    Dear Father thank you for these words.

  40. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Father, your comment above on the essential goodness of all things brought two things to mind: The first time I encountered the mystery of the Cross:Tony Campolo’s sermon It’s Friday and our Lord is hanging from the Cross — But Sunday’s coming!

    And the question of why we choose the bad over the good– Evil over Salvation. I do it even as I long for the good and pray in repentance for His Mercy (,closer than hands and feet).

  41. Anne Avatar
    Anne

    My enemies started at a young age 19. An elder told me I must forgive them. I’m in my late 60’s now and have just begun to weep or cry. Over enimies. My goodness I wonder what time is in God’s world. For me it’s a long time. I still hope I can forgive deeply. I guess a little progress is something. The next right thing is let God finish it for me. I’ve heard we all have different size crosses. 😌
    In Christ love
    Anne

  42. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Anne,
    I think that, on a certain level, the forgiveness of enemies is a greater work than raising someone from the dead. We often imagine it to be easier to accomplish than it is, and therefore condemn ourselves because we find it so difficult. I say that it is a greater work than raising the dead because it involves raising a certain part of ourselves from the dead (those parts that have been injured and traumatized by an “enemy”). And, because it is, indeed, a miraculous event, something made possible only by the life-giving power of God dwelling within us, it is not, strictly speaking, a “moral” event – something we achieved through an action of the will (such as being obedient). What we can do by our will, is to dispose ourselves to the grace of God, to yield ourselves, on some level, to His working within us. Thus – the power of tears.

    When I’ve wrestled with this in myself – I can sense the deadness of the heart within me. The trauma leaves me feeling numb (at best) are worse than numb. It’s as though, inwardly, just ignoring or forgetting the trauma is a means of protection.

    Again, the prayer I’ve suggested, “Lord, on the day of judgment, do not hold this against them on my account,” is a sort of “prayer at a distance.” It lets them go – but it does not yet reach into the dark corners of my own heart and quicken what has become dead. That is a harder and deeper mystery. May God give us grace in this.

    I might note that for some (for example, adults with ADHD), there is often something called “Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria” – which is a hyper sensitivity to rejection (which manifests in a lot of ways). It simply means that for certain people, all of this is even harder and more difficult than it is for others. But, even there, grace makes possible what would otherwise be impossible. May God, who “works in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure” heal our broken hearts and raise them from the dead!

  43. Anne Avatar
    Anne

    Thank you! I am grateful to make sense of my life through our Church. I am a sober women of alchol the last five years to enable forgiveness and for a greater understanding of trauma within myself. I appreciate the calm I am receiving in this sobriety. I am gathering in the prayer you shared with me in your response. I have done therapy such as EMDR And bi lateral music to aid in my healing. But nothing touches close to the Body and Blood of my Lord and God, Jesus Christ and his love. I truly am grateful at this time and believe me I have had very hard times.
    Love in Christ
    Anne

  44. Dee of St Herman Avatar
    Dee of St Herman

    Dear Anne,
    May God continue to bless you with His grace.

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  1. Father, you said, “I can enter the Church, remain in silence and yet see (and hear!) something other than the…

  2. The icon, More Spacious than the Heavens, spoke to me the first time I entered an Orthodox Church in 1986…


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