The Weakness of a Saint
Abraham said, "I did it because I thought, 'There is no fear of God at all in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.'"
The Weakness of a Saint
Although Abraham is full of faith, nevertheless in this instance he fell through weakness and feared for himself. . .. In the first place, this fear was a sin; and, as usually happens, this sin results in the other one. He lies, and he instructs his wife to lie. . .. Why does God allow such sins to be committed by His own? Why does He permit His own to stumble in this way? The most appropriate answer to this question is given on the basis of the outcome. God permits it to happen this way in order that He may have the opportunity to achieve many good results. The saints do not fall in order to perish; they fall in order that God may bestow rich blessings on them by heaping greater benefits on them, as is written (Romans 8:28): "We know that all things work together for good for the saints," and a gloss to this passage adds: "Even their very failings." . . .
But, as I have said above, not only the passive evils that are inflicted on us result in good, but also the active ones, that is, the evils which we ourselves do. "How can this be?" you say. Because when a godly person is aware of his fall, he becomes ashamed and is perturbed. Thus his fall leads first to humility and then also to fervent prayer. It is for this reason that Solomon says (Proverbs 24:16): "A righteous man falls seven times in a day and rises again." For they do not persist in their sins; they groan and grieve.
Moreover, the evil which remains in our flesh is like a spur which urges us on, with the result that we are angry with ourselves, condemn ourselves, and cry out with Paul (Romans 7:24): "Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from the body of this sin?" Lord, take away and crucify our flesh! Thus faith grows by reason of our failings, the seeds of which remain in our flesh. Therefore God leads His saints in a wonderful manner, as the psalm (4:3) states. "With the pure Thou dost show Thyself pure; and with the crooked Thou dost show Thyself perverse" (Psalm 18:26).
But these statements should not be understood as though we maintained that a failing is something good. For a failing remains something intrinsically evil; but in the case of the saints it becomes the occasion for something good, according to the statement (Psalm 18:25): "With the blameless man Thou dost show Thyself blameless." Whatever the saints do is sanctified; that is, even if those fall who are saintly or justified or believe and fear God, their faith is nevertheless disciplined and increased. To this extent God is wonderful in His saints.