“If you want to serve God, prepare your heart not for food, not for drink, not for rest, not for ease, but for suffering, so that you may endure all temptations, trouble and sorrow. Prepare for severities, fasts, spiritual struggles and many afflictions, for “by many afflictions is it appointed to us to enter the Kingdom of Heaven” (Acts 14,22); ‘The Heavenly Kingdom is taken by force, and the who use force seize it.’ (Matt 11:12) - St. Sergius of Radonezh
Many of the saints talk about the importance of being prepared for suffering and struggles in this life. The quote above is so very different from American cultural Christianity and the prosperity Gospel that infects our thoughts like a disease. We largely see suffering and loss as a sign that we've lost God's favor, that nothing good can come from it. It seems almost impossible that suffering could be turned to something good.
Fr. Roman Braga, a survivor of torture in Communist prisons, shows us in this short clip from a talk he gave how the experience of the prisoners helped them to find God inside themselves.
"God is not in books. I learned this lesson in prison. God bless the communists because they put the priests in prison.
The priest needs a little imprisonment because it is a wonderful experience there. Father said that I was in a solitary confinement for almost 3 years. So, I was just by myself in a small cell, surrounded by 4 walls, I didn’t have anything to look at. For 11 years I didn’t see a pencil, a piece of paper, because communist imprisonments are not like American prisons with TV, library and champagne on New Year’s day. They wanted, especially the intellectual class, to be destroyed, to become beasts, like animals and they didn’t give them anything to read. But that is the mystery: instead of becoming like animals we became ourselves.
When you are free you are the slave of the books, so many books, I have to read all of them… you don’t have time to be yourself because you are made out of quotations…
And there is no book, nothing else… you have to go somewhere… you don’t have any perspective to look at, the windows are very high, you couldn’t even touch them, they were very small… and you have to go somewhere… and you go inside…"