‘No good deed goes unpunished’

21 June 2022

If you do something in accordance with the will of God, you will certainly meet with tribulations. Because every good deed is either preceded or followed by tribulation’ (Abba Dorotheos).

When we do something good in our life, we often feel that we’ve made trouble for ourselves. Our good intentions aren’t enough. They aren’t appreciated, often not even by the very people we’ve done good to, because deeds don’t last and there are always other needs. The people who asked for something then ask for more, so they’re not content and, in the end, feel annoyed and disappointed with the person who helped.

And sometimes, if you do good, you upset other people who were hoping to profit by the difficulties facing someone and so their interests and wishes have been thwarted. In such cases, if you help, you also acquire enemies. And then again, people with whom we have dealings might be assailed by bad thoughts. We give something to one of our children and the other one’s jealous. We’re sometimes so dismayed at the attitude of others that we’re troubled when we do good, but when we do something bad we either don’t care or we’re at peace with ourselves about it. The wicked prosper.

Christ said that the path of those who seek the kingdom of God, love, sacrifice and benefaction is strait and narrow. The ascetic tradition of our faith interprets this in practice as meaning that if you do something that’s in accordance with the will of God, you’ll certainly be met with tribulations. Because the devil first attacks those who are in a position to worry people of God on false pretenses. They have controlling or antagonistic thoughts or they take the good done to another person as an affront to themselves. And even if we abandon our secular will and follow the will of God, which comes at a cost, tribulation arrives to sadden us and engenders dissatisfaction. Our trials are not merely to do with being deprived of life, health  and material things, but are also related to being deprived of love, a feeling of abandonment and loneliness. These are what people who do the will of God experience on their path through life.

Is the answer to reject good and keep ourselves to ourselves, purely and simply because tribulations will either precede or follow?

Obviously not. Love requires effort. Love costs. We have to persist, especially when we know that the will of God lies in people’s salvation, in the avoidance of crushing them, in bearing their cross, as if we were all Cyreneans. Evil prevails only temporarily. The will of God will be manifested conclusively when we all meet our end. If we recollect the parable of the rich man and poor Lazarus, we’ll see that the rich man wasn’t condemned by God because he had money, but because he didn’t love, he didn’t contribute, he didn’t support his fellow man. We have to be steadfast in tribulation after that which God wants has come to pass. When the truth has become clear. The key is to be able to sleep with a clear conscience in the knowledge that we’ve helped, we’ve listened to the Gospel and applied it in our life, and that we’ve prayed for those who have wounded us. And we should teach this to our children.