The Suffering of the Saints

St. John Chrysostom (d.  407AD) in a sermon offered an explanation for why God’s chosen saints suffer in the world.

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

Eight Explanations: 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 man 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.

The seventh is to remind us that the Saints were men like ourselves. So if they, sharing our mortal 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.

It is important to establish the root of these explanations in the Scriptures, so that they not be suspected of being an invention of human reasoning. Now we shall see how the basis for each can be found in Scripture. That tribulation served the purpose of the Saints can be heard from David the Prophet, who said: ‘It is good for me Lord, that I have been in trouble, that I might learn thy statutes.’  Paul said, ‘I was caught up into the third heaven, and transported to Paradise. Lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me.’ By ‘messenger of Satan’ Paul does not refer to particular demons, but to men serving the devils: unbelievers, tyrants, heathens, all who constantly troubled him. ‘God,’ he said, ‘permitted these persecutions that I might not be too much exalted.’ Although Paul, Peter and others like them are holy and wonderful men, yet they are but men, and require much caution lest they should allow themselves to be too easily exalted. Nothing is as likely to cause one to presume a high state for himself than a conscience full of good works and a soul that lives in unquestioning confidence.” (Afflictions of Man, O LOGOS Publications,  pp 3-4)