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