On Hope in God Alone and On Confidence in Him

 Martyr Nectan of Hartland

Martyr Nectan of Hartland

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,

[Source: Unseen Warfare as edited by Saint Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain and revised by Saint Theophan the Recluse]

Although it is very important not to rely on our own efforts in this Unseen Warfare, at the same time, if we merely give up all hope of ourselves and despair of ourselves without having found another support, we are certain to flee immediately from the battlefield or to be overcome and taken prisoner by our enemies. Therefore, together with complete renunciation of ourselves, we should plant in our heart a perfect trust in God and a complete confidence in Him. In other words we should feel with our whole heart that we have no one to rely on except God, and that from Him and Him alone can we expect every kind of good, every manner of help, and victory. Since we are nothing, we can expect nothing from ourselves except stumblings and falls, which make us relinquish all hope of ourselves. On the other hand, we are certain always to be granted victory by God, if we arm our heart with a living trust in Him and an unshakable certainty that we will receive His help, according to the Psalm: "My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped" (Psalm xxviii. 7).

The following thoughts will help you to be grounded in this hope and, thereby, to receive help:

a)     That we seek help from God, Who is Omnipotent and can do all that He chooses, and therefore can also help us.

b)     That we seek it from God, Who, being Omniscient and Wise, knows all in the most perfect manner, and therefore knows fully what is best for the salvation of each one of us.

c)     That we seek help from God, Who is infinitely Good and Who comes to us with ineffable love, always desirous and ready from hour to hour and from moment to moment to give us all the help we need for complete victory in the spiritual warfare which takes place in us, as soon as we run with firm trust to the protection of His arms.
And how is it possible that our Good Shepherd, Who for three years went in search of sheep that had gone astray, calling so loudly that His throat became parched, and following ways so hard and thorny that He shed all His Blood and gave up His Life; how is it possible, I repeat, that now, if His sheep follow Him, turn to Him with love and call for His help with love, He should fail to turn His Eyes to the lost sheep, take it into His Divine Arms and, placing it among the Heavenly Angels, make a welcoming feast for its sake? If our God never ceases to search diligently and lovingly for the blind and deaf sinner (like the woman for the piece of silver in the Gospels), how is it possible to suppose that He would abandon him now when, like a lost sheep, he cries out calling for the Shepherd? And who will ever believe that God, Who, according to the Revelation, constantly stands at the door of a man's heart, and knocks, wishing to come in and sup with him (Revelation iii.20), and bestow His Gifts upon him, who will believe that this same God, should remain deaf and refuse to enter if a man opens to Him the door of his heart and invite Him in?

d)     And the fourth method of bringing to life a firm trust in God and of attracting His speedy help described in the Scriptures. These instances, which are so numerous, that no one, who put his trust in God, was ever left confounded and without help. 'Look at the generations of old' says the wise Sirach, 'and see; did ever any trust in the Lord, and was confounded? (Ecclesiastes ii. 10).

Armed with these four weapons, enter the battle with courage, my brother, and wage war watchfully with the full conviction that victory will be granted you. For with their help you will most certainly acquire perfect trust in God, and this trust will never fail to attract God's help and invest you with unconquerable power. These two together will in the end make complete distrust of yourself deeply rooted in you. I omit no occasion in this chapter of reminding you to distrust yourself, for I know no one who has no need to be reminded of it. Self-esteem is so deeply rooted in us and so firmly enmeshed in us, making us think that we are something, and something not unimportant, that it always hides in our heart as a subtle and imperceptible movement, even when we are sure that we do not trust ourselves and are, on the contrary, filled with complete trust in God alone. In order to avoid the conceit of the heart and act without any self-reliance, led only by your trusting in God, take care always to preserve an attitude in which the consciousness and feeling of your weakness always precede in you the contemplation of God's Omnipotence, and let both alike precede your every action...

"...If disbelief in oneself and trust in God, so indispensable in our spiritual warfare, remain alone in us, only shall we never gain victory, but we shall fall into still greater evil. For in addition and accompanying them e must practice works of a special kind and perform exercises of mind and will.

The mind should be freed and guarded from ignorance, which is most harmful, for it darkens the mind and prevents it from knowing the truth, which is its proper object and the aim of its aspirations. For this reason it should be exercised, to make it clear and lucid, able to discern correctly what we need to purify our soul from passions and to adorn it with virtues.

There are two means by which we can acquire such clarity of mind: the first and most necessary is prayer, by which we must implore the Holy Spirit to pour His Divine Light into our hearts. This He will surely do, if we seek God alone and sincerely strive to obey His will in everything, willingly submitting in all affairs to the advice of our experienced Spiritual Fathers, and doing nothing without asking them.

The second method of exercising the mind is always to examine things and probe deep for knowledge of them, in order to see clearly which of them are good and which bad. We should judge them not as the world and the senses do, but as they are judged by right reason and the Holy Spirit, or by the words of the divinely inspired Scriptures, or that of the Holy Fathers and teachers of the Church. For if this examination and deepening of knowledge is right and proper, it will quite certainly enable us to understand clearly that we must with all our heart regard as valueless, vain and false, all that the blind and depraved world loves and seeks.

In particular, we shall see that the honors, and pleasures and riches of this world are nothing but vanity and death to the soul; that the slander and abuse, with which the world persecutes us, bring us true glory, and its afflictions--joy; that to forgive our enemies and to do good to them is true magnanimity--one of the greatest traits of likeness to God; that a man who scorns the world shows greater strength and power than a man who rules over the whole world; that willing obedience is an action, which shows more courage and strength of spirit than subjugating great kings and ruling over them; that humble self-knowledge should be preferred to call other kinds of knowledge, however high; that to overcome and kill one's own evil tendencies and lusts, however insignificant, is more worthy of praise than the capture of many fortresses, or the defeat of powerful and well-equipped armies; more even than the power to perform miracles and to raise the dead.


"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom


With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George