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The Psychology of Trials by Jimmy Lin

The brilliant mind of Fyodor Dostoyevsky wove philosophy and psychology into his most significant writings. The Brothers Karamazov and Crime and Punishment are Dostoyevsky’s two most prominent novels, and he is also the writer of noteworthy works like The Idiot, The Possessed, Poor Folk, The House of the Dead, and Notes from Underground. In these great works of literature, Dostoevsky explored deep questions using intellectual reasoning in unique and profound ways, with insight that he gained through life experiences.

Dostoyevsky experienced a variety of very trying times in his days on earth, yet through his written works he pointed out the joy that is found within the hope of Christianity. To him, God was a shelter through the troubles in life and the Giver of great hope: “Faith in [God] is the refuge for mankind…as well as in the hope of eternal bliss promised to the righteous.” Despite a life that swayed between worldly treasures and Christ, spiritual truths gleam through the writings of the Russian writer.

Born in Moscow, Russia, on November 11, 1821, Fyodor Dostoyevsky grew up surrounded by family members involved in theology, seminary, and priesthood. He was taught the Bible, learned its stories, and studied its pages for many hours even as a boy. This grounding in the Russian Orthodox Church prepared Dostoyevsky for the pain and suffering that would shape his thinking, and ultimately his writing, later in life. His father pointed Fyodor towards engineering, but after completing a degree, the young man pursued his passion of writing.

Taking up the pen, Dostoyevsky became published with the highly acclaimed Poor Folk. But much like the rest of his life, the success was soon met with trouble. Because of the fear of revolutions, Dostoyevsky was arrested after being found to be a part of an underground intellectual group. He and the other members of the group were sent before a firing squad. With certainty of death likely ingrained in their minds, the group was pardoned, and instead, exiled to Siberia for four years, followed by five years of service in the army.

In prison, the Bible was the only book that Dostoyevsky had access to. This helped shape his future writing. Following his imprisonment, the Russian writer battled financial trouble, the death of his wife, and epilepsy. Surely, these hardships had a significant effect on Dostoyevsky’s perspective of life. But they did not match the joy that could be found in Christ. He wrote, “If someone proved to me that Christ is outside the truth and that in reality the truth were outside of Christ, then I should prefer to remain with Christ rather than with the truth.”

It is difficult the know Dostoyevsky’s heart. Some of his troubles were a direct result of disobeying the Lord. For example, he became an excessive gambler at one point in his life. It is clear that he intellectually emphasized the truth of the gospel. Whether or not his heart exercised spiritual growth is another matter. However, it is not up to us to know Dostoyevsky’s heart, because the Lord knows the heart. What is clear is that his philosophical works had influence on Christians, and his Christian writing, Dostoyevsky’s work and calling, brought glory to God.