A counselor at a rescue mission once told me of their intake interview wherein they asked each man about his history. The stories, with little variation, involved mostly drinking and drugging, coupled with promiscuity. Later, when asked, “How’s your relationship with God?” – almost 100% of the interviewees answered along the lines of, “Oh! Me and God are tight! Yep. God and I are close.”
It happens to all of us: our “old man” [Eph.4:22] plays tricks on us, leading us to neglect the one thing needful and fill up our lives, though we long for God, with that which leads us far from Him.
Elder Paisios of Mount Athos writes:
“The one who neglects his prayer and duties unjustifyably and works all the time (building pyramids for Pharaoh) is estranged from God, becomes wild, constantly and cruelly hitting his guardian angel with kicks and disorder, until he finally drives him away. Then, he accepts the devil as his ruler, who immediately make the following changes: 1) abolishes the prayer rope, replacing it with worldly worry beads and 2) does away with spiritual study completely, replacing it with worldly magazines and newspapers. In the end, the devil conquers him and he suffers internally and seeks amusement as Saul did, when he was alienated from God and demon possessed (Epistles, p.218) .”
The temptations of contemporary society, not to mention the destructive forces of addiction, seduce us into believing them to be necessary to the point of excluding that which is necessary for our salvation (prayer, fasting, alms giving).
Truthfully, brothers and sisters, we’ve only got one chore:
“The thing that will move God more on the Day of Judgment is the work each one of us has done on his old man.
Certainly, we all have some discernment, but unfortunately most of us do not use it on ourselves but on our fellow men and we contaminate it with criticism, condemnation, and the demand for others to correct themselves. We should, rather, demand this only from ourselves who do not resolve to struggle fervently, cut off our passions, liberate our soul, and fly into Heaven” (Epistles, pp.150-151).