“A helper in troubles, which have found us exceedingly” Ps 45:3). Many are our troubles, and in every one of them we should flee to God; whether it is trouble in our families or with our health, or danger to our loved ones, or about things needed to sustain this life, a Christian should have no other refuge than his Savior, than his God: he will be strong when he flees to God. A Christian will not be strong in himself, will not be his own strength; the one who has become his refuge will be his strength. But, my dear brothers and sisters, among all the troubles of the human soul none is greater than the consciousness of sin. For if there is no wound there, if that inner realm that is called conscience is sound, wherever else he may suffer troubles, he can flee there and there find God. But if there is no rest there because of an abundance of sins, and because God is not there, what is one to do? Where shall he flee if he begins to suffer troubles? He will flee from the countryside to the city, from the city-streets to his home, from his home to his bedroom, but his trouble will follow him. From his bedroom he has nowhere to flee except to his inner bedroom. But if there is disquiet there, the smoke of wickedness, the flame of sin, he can’t flee there either. He’s driven out from there; he’s driven out from himself. And see: now he finds the enemy to be the very one to whom he had fled. Where can anyone flee from himself? Wherever he flees, he drags himself behind, and wherever he drags such a self, he tortures himself about himself.
These are the troubles that find a person exceedingly, and there are none harsher; the less inward troubles are, the less harsh they are. Notice, beloved: when trees are cut down and are being planed by carpenters, sometimes they seem damaged and rotten on their surface. But the carpenter looks at the inner marrow (as it were) of the tree, and if he finds the inner wood sound, he can promise that it will last if used in a building, and he won’t be overly concerned that the outer part is wounded if he thinks the inner part is sound. Now, nothing is more inward than one’s consciousness. And what use is it if what is external is sound while the marrow of one’s consciousness has rotted? These are the intense, quite disturbing troubles, the “exceeding” troubles the Psalmist speaks of. But even for them the Lord has become a helper by forgiving sins. For only forgiveness heals the consciences of sinners. (Augustine, En in Ps 45, 3; PL 36, 515-16)