Testing Virtue

St. Mark the Ascetic, a fifth century Christian theologian wrote, “Do not claim to have acquired virtue unless you have suffered affliction, for without affliction virtue has not been tested.” Pain and suffering not only reveal to us the unseen layers of our brokenness, but it can be one of the important ways virtue is tested. I don’t mean a pass-or-fail kind of test. The kind of testing St. Mark has in mind is for the purpose of refinement or reinforcement. Like fire purifies tainted metal, affliction can refine our desires, stripping them of their vices and strengthening their virtues.