“Early in The Brothers Karamazov, a wealthy woman asks Staretz Zosima how she can really know that God exists. The Staretz tells her that no explanation or argument can achieve this, only the practice of “active love.” He assures her that really there is no other way to know God in reality rather than God as an idea. The woman confesses that sometimes she dreams about a life of loving service to others — she thinks perhaps she will become a Sister of Mercy, live in holy poverty and serve the poor in the humblest way. …But then it crosses her mind how ungrateful some of the people she is serving are likely to be. They will probably complain that the soup she is serving isn’t hot enough or that the bread isn’t fresh enough or the bed is too hard and the covers too thin. She confesses to Staretz Zosima that she couldn’t bear such ingratitude — and so her dreams about serving others vanish, and once again she finds herself wondering if there really is a God. To this the Staretz responds with the words, ‘Love in practice is a hard and dreadful thing compared to love in dreams.’” 
“If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body …
if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.”
1 Corinthians 13:3
Moving From the Head to the Heart
- We often think of “God” and “love” in comforting ways. Dostoyevsky suggests that love is “a hard and dreadful thing” and that without such love, we’ll fail to know God as more than “an idea.”
- Have you even known God only “as an idea” – believing all the right things but not practicing this hard love which is God’s signature?
- You don’t have to join a convent or monastery to practice “hard love.” Who around you needs such love from you today?
Abba, I like easy not hard, superficial not real, and peace not conflict. Apparently, I also prefer illusion to reality. Lord, teach me to love.
The “Daily Riches” from RicherByFar are for your encouragement as you seek after God, and as he seeks after you. My goal is to give you something of uncommon value each day in less than 400 words. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it with others. I appreciate your interest! – Bill (Psalm 90:14)
Love is sacrificial.
Here is some more on Dostoyevsky:
“Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky”
Thanks Tim. It was good to read Yancey’s comments again also.