Why God Requires Saints to Endure Affliction

St. John Chrysostom wrote:

“I have eight explanations of why God requires Saints to endure affliction.

The first is to guard against their great works and miracles resulting in their developing too high of a self esteem.

The second is so that others may not take them to be gods instead of men.

The third is so that the power of God might be made more evident through the efforts of men who suffer.

 The fourth is so that their sacrifices demonstrate to others their dedication to the service of God and their undiminished love for Him, even in the midst of suffering so many evils.

The fifth is to help reinforce in men the belief in the doctrine of resurrection. To see a just and virtuous die in bondage, without earthly reward, strengthens in men a belief in an afterlife, when men receive just reward for their labors.

The sixth is to encourage all men to accept their suffering with patience, as they realize that far more virtuous and worthy persons than they have experienced even greater suffering.

Martyrdom of St. Stephen

The seventh is to remind us that the Saints were men like ourselves. So if they, sharing our moral frailties, still could endure suffering for their beliefs, we should be no less able to do so.

 The eighth is to help us to distinguish between those whom we call blessed as opposed to those who are not blessed.”

(St. John Chrysostom, Afflictions of Man,  O Logos Publication,  pg.3)

Lazarus and the Rich Man

Luke 16:19-31 –

“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’ He said, ‘Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’ Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ He said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

St. John Chrysostom wrote:

“Just as, when God expelled Adam from paradise, he settled him opposite the garden in order that the continual sight might renew his suffering and give him a clearer awareness of his fall from the good, so also He settled the rich man opposite Lazarus in order that he might see the good of which he had deprived himself. ‘I sent,’ he says, ‘the poor man Lazarus to your gate to teach you virtue and to receive your love; you ignored this benefit and declined to use his assistance toward your salvation. Hereafter you shall use him to bring yourself a greater punishment and retribution.’ From the poor man we learn that all who suffer curses and injustice among us will stand before us in that other life.

Indeed Lazarus suffered no injustice from the rich man; for the rich man did not take Lazarus’ money, but failed to share his own. If he is accused by the man he failed to pity because he did not share his own wealth, what pardon will the man receive who has stolen others’ goods, when he is surrounded by those whom he has wronged? In that world there is no need of witnesses, accusers, evidence, or proof; the deeds themselves just as we have done them appear before our eyes. ‘See the man,’ He says, ‘and his works: indeed this also is theft, not to share one’s possessions.’ “ (Daily Readings from the Writings of St. John Chrysostom, pg.43)