Chapter 57

On our own Weakness and the Trials of This Life

THE DISCIPLE. Lord, I confess my sinfulness,(Ps. 32:5) and acknowledge my weakness. Often it is but a small matter that defeats and troubles me. I resolve to act boldly, but when I am assailed even by a small temptation, I am in sore straits. From a trifling thing sometimes arises a strong temptation; and when I think I am secure, I am almost overwhelmed by a mere breath.

Consider my lowness and weakness, 0 Lord, for You know all things. Have mercy on me, and raise me from the mire, that I may not stick fast in it,(Ps.25:16; 49:14) nor remain prostrate. It is this that often defeats and confounds me in Your eyes - that I am so prone to fall and so weak in resisting my passions. And although I do not yield to them entirely, yet their assaults trouble and distress me, so that I am weary of living constantly at conflict. My weakness is apparent to me, for evil fancies rush in on me more readily than they depart.

Most mighty God of Israel, zealous lover of souls, I pray You remember the toil and grief of Your servant, and support him in all his undertakings. Strengthen me with heavenly courage, lest my old and wicked enemy the flesh, not yet wholly subject to the spirit, prevail and gain the upper hand. For against this I must fight while breath remains in this troubled life. Alas, what a life is this, where trials and sorrows never cease, and where all things are full of snares and foes! For when one trial or temptation departs, another takes its place; and even while the conflict rages, other troubles arise, innumerable and unexpected.

How can we love life, when it holds so much bitterness, and is subject to so many sorrows and calamities? How, indeed, can that be called life, which breeds death and pain in such full measure? Yet it is loved, and many find great delight in it. The world is often blamed for its falseness and vanity, but it is not readily abandoned: the desires of the body exercise too strong a hold. Some things cause us to love the world, others to hate it. The desires of the body, the desires of the eyes, and the pride of life(1 John 2:16) all draw us to love the world; but the pains and sorrows that justly ensue cause us to hate and weary of it.

Alas, a perverted pleasure overcomes the mind that surrenders to the world, and counts it a delight to lie among the brambles,(Job 30:7) for it has neither seen nor tasted the sweetness of God and the inner joy of holiness. But they who perfectly despise the world and study to live under God's holy rule know something of that heavenly sweetness promised to all who sincerely forsake the world. They see most clearly how sadly the world goes astray, and how grievously it is deceived.

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