From the unshakeable truths derived from experience, it follows that pain and affliction are the most essential medicine for the soul which is ill with sin. At the same time, they are also excellent teachers for the spiritual uplifting of the soul which has sullied its beauty in sin and moral darkness and has thereby acquired morally evil habits.
Pain, in the various meanings of the word, becomes the skillful cultivator that takes a sinful soul that is like a wild olive tree and grafts it onto a good olive tree. Sin hardens the heart of the sinner and renders him unfeeling; nothing moves him, because God, Who has feeling and sympathy for people, is missing. However, what does God do—He Who loves mankind, Who “came to seek and to save that which was lost”? 1 He draws up a plan of salvation through pain, and especially through illness, for the soul which has gone astray.
You see, for example, a youth in his prime, puffed up because of his strength and behaving arrogantly, forgetting about God and his soul —then suddenly he lies prostrate on a bed of pain. Then, as a most experienced and skillful doctor, pain begins its surgery. First, it operates on the heart by removing its hardness little by little, and thus it softens the soul. He who was formerly hard of heart becomes soft and calm in his feelings. He commiserates with his fellow patients, and he who was formerly unsympathetic speaks with sympathy. And once his heart has been prepared through these and various other feelings brought about by the instructive rod of pain, then the ears of his previously deaf soul open, and he accepts, retains, and attentively listens to the word of truth, the gospel of salvation.
Then he who was formerly indifferent to God and to his soul becomes zealous in reading various religious books and periodicals. He begins to recall his sinfulness with genuine contrition and feeling. Thus he learns to pray with compunction and soon becomes an eloquent preacher of the benefactions of the excellent doctor, pain, proclaiming that it alone cures the illness of being far from God.
1 cf. Lk. 19:10
From the book
Councels from the Holy mountain
Selected from the letters and homilies of Elder Efraim of Arizona
Selection of passages by Silviu Podariu
Pain cures the illness of being far from God