Saint John of Tobolsk took a pre-existing Catholic work and revised it to make it compatible with the Orthodox faith. The resulting book is called The Sunflower and focuses almost exclusively on answering the question of how to serve God’s will. Below are six excerpts that Saint John shares to help you identify whether you are following God’s will or not.

1. Do you pray before tasks?

The first sign of a unique quality of a true Christian is diligence to do everything eagerly, being careful that none of his actions be contrary to the commandments and will of God. Therefore, he never begins a deed without first calling on God for help. Every true follower of Christ will not dare to begin any work without appearing to God with at least a short but heart-felt prayer. If he is faced with a useful and important work that is difficult to complete, let him ask for God’s help not once, but many times, until God gives him wisdom and instructs him how to accomplish this work.

2. Do you have the proper disposition?

The second sign of true piety and eagerness to act in agreement with God’s will is a lack of fear when faced with afflictions or difficulties. Not mere a lack of fear, but cheerfulness, even eagerness, to suffer them. This eagerness is justified in the following way: the Lord God’s grace is closer to those who are in sorrows and afflictions than to those who wallow in luxury and know no deprivation. The Lord loves not only the poor and indigent, but He blesses those who act as their benefactors.

3. Do you hold onto your own opinions?

The third sign of the accord between the human and divine will is Christian humility, that is, the effacement in the self of any self-opinion, anything that goes beyond human, mortal, organic life. This virtue is particular to Christianity; it would hardly have even been known to the ancient idol-worshippers. Whoever is not infected by exalted self-opinion ascribes all the good he does not to himself or his mind, but to God’s goodness and power.

4. Do you trust God?

The fourth sign of agreement between our will and God’s is our complete trust in the Lord God in all things. Such trust makes it possible for us to remain internally calm even when someone publicly insults us. It humbles the naturally occurring thought to avenge one’s enemy. A trusting person thinks within himself, “God sees and hears this life, this insult. There will come a time that God will reveal the lies of the enemy and will turn it back on my enemy’s head.” In this way, the fully natural desire to avenge oneself is put down.

5. Do you suffer humbly?

The fifth sign indicating the accord of our will with God’s is endurance in humble-minded silence of universal dishonor, slander, and other accusations against our good name and deeds. There is no more sensitive wound for a righteous Christian soul than brazen insult and slander of his good intentions and actions, all done for the glory of God and the salvation, instruction, and benefit of mankind. However, a true follower of Christ will silently endure all such cruel blows, always gazing with his mind’s eye with reverence at the much-suffering Jesus, who remained silent during countless accusations and tortures, during the unjust judgment of the Jews and the Romans.

6. Are you enduring?

The sixth sign of a human will in concert with God’s will is readiness to accept all hardship and deprivation, to subject oneself to the worst dangers, to endure all sorrows and difficulties at the limit of human endurance, all for the sake of the glory of God and the fulfillment of His commandments, firmly trusting in God’s providence and help.


…the most clear sign of the accord between the human and divine will is courage in the face of troubles and sorrows, when we, willingly having rejected ourselves (i.e., our self-will), bear the Cross of Christ on our backs. In other words, we do not refuse to follow the dictates of the divine will along the difficult, narrow, and sorrowful path of a Christian life, courageously enduring all offenses, grief, diseases, and other misfortunes that God allows.

One of the most common problems I overhear among Orthodox is whether one is following God’s will or not. The Sunflower is essential reading to help resolve that.

Learn More: The Sunflower on Amazon

If You Enjoyed This Article, Support My Writing With A Credit Card Donation...


Loading new replies...

Could you elaborate on number 3 - holding your own opinions? Not sure I follow.

Reply 1 Like

Could you elaborate on number 3 - holding your own opinions? Not sure I follow.

I think in modern times St John's words would mean to be overly-opinionated and an "expert" on everything thanks to science and worldly knowledge, which precludes humility.

Reply 4 Likes

Very important topic, and at best, I am 3 for 6. Not good. I struggle with having patience and longsuffering, especially with bad drivers, rude drivers, and slow drivers when I'm in my car. Sometimes I will do well, and compliment myself, and then just seconds later encounter an even worse driver than the one I was patient with.

I keep reminding myself that we are not on earth for the purpose of maximizing our efficiency when running errands! But it's a struggle.

Reply Like

Great insight- goes along with your previous piece of suffering and struggle.
Thanks for the timeliness of this in our confused days. Doxa to Theo, John D

Fr. Seraphim Rose Why do men learn through pain and suffering, and not through pleasure and happiness? . . .

“Why do men learn through pain and suffering, and not through pleasure and happiness? Very simply, because pleasure and happiness accustom one to satisfaction with the things given in this world, whereas pain and suffering drive one to seek a more profound happiness beyond the limitations of this world. I am at this moment in some pain, and I call on the Name of Jesus—not necessarily to relieve the pain, but that Jesus, in Whom alone we may transcend this world, may be with me during it, and His will be done in me. But in pleasure I do not call on Him; I am content then with what I have, and I think I need no more. And why is a philosophy of pleasure untenable?—because pleasure is impermanent and unreliable, and pain is inevitable. In pain and suffering Christ speaks to us, and thus God is kind to give them to us, yes, and evil too—for in all of these we glimpse something of what must lie beyond, if there really exists what our hearts most deeply desire.”
+ Fr. Seraphim Rose, quoted in Father Seraphim Rose: His Life and Works

[…] this unwillingness to embrace suffering – at any cost of discomfort –is at the heart –or core of what ails us: “We seek easy and even painless solutions to problems that vex us, rather than cultivating stillness and asking God for mercy with a readiness for self-sacrifice out of love for Him Who sacrificed all for us. We desire rational, logical, and all too superficial solutions to existential, ontological, spiritual problems that can only be healed by a radical openness to God’s holy love, uncreated light, and divine grace, an openness to a process not devised by the human mind, but revealed by God Himself.” – To Understand the Cure We Must also Understand the Illness; Hieromonk Alexios [Trader] https://ancientchristianwisdom.word...the-cure-we-must-also-understand-the-illness/

[…] However, God in His wisdom has placed us here and now –at our parish at this time –as the best possible place for us to be for the working out of our salvation. Will we pick up our cross and follow Christ to Golgotha, struggle to acquire the “mind” of the Church – or will we ‘rely on ourselves’ in our decisions and action; will we ‘bear always in our heart a perfect and all-daring trust in God alone’ – or ourselves; will we ‘strive without ceasing’ or ‘remain constantly in prayer’ seeking God’s Will; or quit the “good fight’– or follow our own will and run away?
-my “Community” Letter and my reflection-and my reflection on your piece on suffering and struggle:
the Importance of Stability Struggle Suffering Enduring Difficulties and Adversity in Place God Put You Revised 61 pgs and the Hatred a True Christian will Confront St Nikolai Velimirovic and Bl Fr Seraphim Rose

Reply Like

click to expand...

Was this one about me? Because I ask myself this question all the time. I've recently taken to asking the Lord in my morning prayers for a sign that I'm indeed following what He has planned for me. And now you write this article about this book. I'll be reading the whole thing soon!

Thank you.

Reply 1 Like

Could you elaborate on number 3 - holding your own opinions? Not sure I follow.

I think in modern times St John's words would mean to be overly-opinionated and an "expert" on everything thanks to science and worldly knowledge, which precludes humility.

Recently, a coworker was asking me about a bumper sticker they had just seen. Apparently it said "Stop Bernie's Socialists!" So she asked me, "what's a socialist?" I told her the strict definition of it and nothing else. As the conversation kept going, she told me she was still new to reading into current events and politics. This was someone about 10 years younger than me. I told her that if she'd have asked me a few years or so ago, I would've told her that "Socialists are low-key Commies, blah, blah, blah"- but nowadays after seeing how people let politics(or rather, 'politics') blind themselves to some issues, I'm not so opinionated anymore. So I'll just tell you some basic definitions and let you go from there.

While I think that demonstrates some maturity about expressing opinion, perhaps that's not the best example of humility. But I wouldntve answered that way if I hadn't been humbled in recent years about my own political opinions, anyway. Hope that helps.

Reply Like

click to expand...

Hey Roosh, have you seen the documentary ‘Hell’s Bells’? It from an orthodox point of view I think about the dangers of rock and roll. Part 2 is way better 1.

Reply Like