Abbot Tryphon · December 26, 2011
Elder Ambrose of Optina Monastery said:
We should not forget that in our age of sophistication, even little children are spiritually harmed by what they see and hear. As a result, purification is required and this is only accomplished through bodily suffering. You must understand that paradisal bliss is granted to no one without suffering. A person has salvation, not only by his good deeds, but also by his patient suffering of various griefs, illnesses, misfortunes and failures (Luke 16:19-31, Mark 8:31-38, Romans 6:3-11, Hebrews 12:1-3).
Jesus Christ gives us the power which is needed for transformation and prepares us to live with strength under the most difficult conditions, preparing us for the peace that is eternal.
Heaven and hell are a condition of relationship with God that is either theosis or perdition. The lake of fire and heaven occur within the same realm, both being not about places, but about relationship. For one who hates God, such a place as in the presence of God will be eternal suffering.
The Orthodox Church teaches that heaven and hell are in the same realm and that hell is not a separation from God, symbolically or physically. Hell is a place chosen.
Without suffering we cannot join ourselves to the cross and when we do take up our cross in suffering, it is with our co-suffering savior. Sickness and suffering are not given to us by a wrathful and punitive God because we have sinned, but rather allowed by this loving God who co-suffers with us.
It is Western juridical misconceptions concerning sin which have tended to distort a proper recognition of suffering, and its connection to sin.