Augustine on the sufferings of this life

Of the miseries and ills to which the human race is justly exposed through the first sin, and from which none can be delivered save by Christ’s grace

“Who can conceive the number and severity of the punishments which afflict the human race – pains which are not only the accompaniment of the wickedness of godless men, but are a part of the human condition and the common misery – what fear and what grief are caused by bereavement and mourning, by losses and condemnations, by fraud and falsehood, by false suspicions, and all the crimes and wicked deeds of other men? …

“What numberless casualties threaten our bodies from without – extremes of heat and cold, storms, floods, inundations, lightning, thunder, hail, earthquakes, houses failing?…  What disasters are suffered by those who travel by land or sea? ... God, who permits [it] all teaches us hereby to bewail the calamities of this life and to desire the felicity of the life to come.

“From this hell upon earth there is no escape, save through the grace of the Saviour Christ, our God and Lord; and He saves us especially from passing out of this life into a more wretched and eternal state, which is rather a death than a life. For in this life, though holy men and holy pursuits afford us great consolations, yet the blessings which men crave are not invariably bestowed upon them, lest religion should be cultivated for the sake of these temporal advantages, while it ought rather to be cultivated for the sake of that other life from which all evil is excluded.

“Therefore, also, does grace aid good men in the midst of present calamities, so that they are enabled to endure them with a constancy proportioned to their faith.”

Augustine of Hippo

City of God

Book 22, section 22

Translated by Marcus Dods

Modern Library Edition