Everyone tries to make sense of the things that happen to us in our lives. We need the world to make sense, so we create it in our image of what’s fair and just. We forget that we can’t ever make a plan for the world that’s better than God’s.
This is the divine policy, and it is impossible for man to lay the foundation of a better plan and policy than that which God has instituted. (Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 107)
Can humanity conceive a plan and policy better and superior to that of God? It is certain that no matter how capable man may be in origination of plan and organization of purpose, his efforts will be inadequate when compared with the divine plan and purpose; for the policy of God is perfect. Therefore, we must follow the will and plan of God. (Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 127)
Often we forget that God’s ways are not the same as ours.
Blessed is the man that hath acknowledged his belief in God and in His signs, and recognized that “He shall not be asked of His doings.” (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 86-87)
He doeth as He doeth, and what recourse have we? He carrieth out His Will, He ordaineth what He pleaseth. Then better for thee to bow down thy head in submission, and put thy trust in the All-Merciful Lord. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 51)
God has a much bigger plan for both us and for the world, than we can ever imagine. Trying to understand it is like a painting trying to understand the painter.
The working out of God’s Major Plan proceeds mysteriously in ways directed by Him alone. (Universal House of Justice, Wellspring of Guidance, p. 133-34)
By thinking we know what’s best, our lower nature tricks us into accusing God. It lets us believe that God is unwilling or unable to help us, withholding some blessing from us while He seems to give blessings freely to everyone else.
We may believe that because we want something, it’s God’s obligation to give it to us. That kind of thinking is just idle fancy. Just because we want something doesn’t mean it’s what God wants for us.
We accuse God of withholding things when we think we know how things should be, for example, when bad things happen to good people.
For example, we might think it’s very unjust that the innocent should suffer. “Abdu’l-Bahá shows us how to look at this differently:
At first sight it may seem very unjust that the innocent should suffer for the guilty, but ‘Abdu’l-Bahá assures us that the injustice is only apparent and that, in the long run, perfect justice prevails. He writes: As to the subject of babes and children and weak ones who are afflicted by the hands of the oppressors … for those souls there is a recompense in another world … that suffering is the greatest mercy of God. Verily that mercy of the Lord is far better than all the comfort of this world and the growth and development appertaining to this place of mortality. (Dr. JE Esselmont, Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era, p. 96)
We might find ourselves asking:
If God loves me . . .
- why am I still sick?
- why did my child die?
- why am I being abused?
- why can’t I find work?
- why did I lose my house?
- why did my spouse leave me?
- why can’t I pay my bills?
- why does He let me continually break this law when I don’t want to?
- why didn’t I get the thing I was praying for?
Thoughts like these lead us to comparing ourselves to others, opening the door to fear (I must have done something truly bad to deserve this punishment); envy and jealousy (why do “they” always seem to get what they want?), fueling the fires of bitterness, causing us to descend into self-pity and allowing us to distance ourselves from the only One who can truly help.
When we can’t find answers or don’t like the ones we find, we stop believing that God cares about us or worse, we stop believing there is a God at all.
It’s our disobedience to God that opens the door to such thinking. Disobedience doesn’t have to be a big “sin” like lying (the most odious sin) or backbiting (the most great sin); or a social sin like drinking or having sex outside marriage. It could be something as simple as not reading the Writings morning and evening:
Recite ye the verses of God every morning and evening. Whoso reciteth them not hath truly failed to fulfil his pledge to the Covenant of God and His Testament and whoso in this day turneth away therefrom, hath indeed turned away from God since time immemorial. Fear ye God, O concourse of My servants. (Baha’u’llah, Lights of Guidance, p. 565)
We might be trying to adhere to all the Writings as best as we can, and still nothing seems to go our way. We still feel guilty, worthless and unacceptable to God. We might feel God is still mad at us for something we did decades ago.
For example, while in the process of going through a divorce, which I initiated, I read:
The partner who is the ’cause of divorce’ will ‘unquestionably’ become the ‘victim of formidable calamities’. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, in Extracts from the Bahá’í Teachings Discouraging Divorce, p.2)
I never knew if I was the cause of my divorce, but since I certainly had formidable calamities after it, I always thought that this was God’s wrath coming down on me, but in fact, it was just the consequences of my actions. All of this changed when I was able to take responsibility for my part in the failure of the marriage, forgive myself, ask God for His forgiveness and believe it had been given.
If we believe that we are praised and chosen by God, the accusation of all the creatures will cause no loss to us:
Man must seek to gain the acceptance of God and not that of the different classes of men. If one is praised and chosen by God, the accusation of all the creatures will cause no loss to him; and if the man is not accepted in the threshold of God, the praise and admiration of all men will be of no use to him. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of Abdu’l-Bahá v1, p. 158)
God does not accuse us, so if we are feeling accused, it’s coming from outside ourselves (from others) or inside ourselves (from our lower nature). Judgement and condemnation attack us at our weakest, most vulnerable spot. They might even use quotes from the Writings to punish us, but if we’re hearing this, it’s not from God. God’s voice is always gentle, even when He’s correcting us. When it’s coming from that broken record within, no amount of being obedient or repentant will cause it to go away.
How can we know whether inspiration is coming from God or from our lower nature?
The question arises: How shall we know whether we are following inspiration from God or satanic promptings of the human soul? Briefly, the point is that in the human material world of phenomena these four are the only existing criteria or avenues of knowledge, and all of them are faulty and unreliable. What then remains? How shall we attain the reality of knowledge? By the breaths and promptings of the Holy Spirit, which is light and knowledge itself. Through it the human mind is quickened and fortified into true conclusions and perfect knowledge. (Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 22)
God wants us to like ourselves, and show our true selves to the world:
Thou art even as a finely tempered sword concealed in the darkness of its sheath and its value hidden from the artificer’s knowledge. Wherefore come forth from the sheath of self and desire that thy worth may be made resplendent and manifest unto all the world. (Baha’u’llah, The Hidden Words, Persian 72)
And to see ourselves as He sees us:
Rejoice thou with great joy that We have remembered thee both now and in the past. Indeed the sweet savours of this remembrance shall endure and shall not change throughout the eternity of the Names of God, the Lord of mankind. We have graciously accepted thy devotions, thy praise, thy teaching work and the services thou hast rendered for the sake of this mighty Announcement. We have also hearkened unto that which thy tongue hath uttered at the meetings and gatherings. Verily thy Lord heareth and observest all things. (Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 245)
O thou beloved of my heart! Verily, my soul longs for thee, for the lamp of the love of Bahá’ is lighted within thy heart and I love to look upon thy face, for it is glittering with the light of guidance among the creatures. Glory be to Him who hath united hearts together! (Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of Abdu’l-Bahá v1, p. 129)
Moreover, although these insignificant amounts are not worthy of mention, they are well pleasing, since the donors offer them for the sake of God. If the offering be but a single grain it is regarded as the crowning glory of all the harvests of the world. (Bahá’u’lláh, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 490)
Our lower nature wants us to be isolated and alone.
God created us to be in relationship with Him and with other people. We need Him and we need each other.
In his life and being cooperation and association are essential. Through association and meeting we find happiness and development, individual and collective. (Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 35)
Our lower nature counts on the fact that we will believe negative thoughts about ourselves, God and others, and starts to agree with them. So the question is: whose voice are we going to listen to?
Shall we not free ourselves from the horror of satanic gloom, and hasten towards the rising light of the heavenly Beauty? (Bahá’u’lláh, Kitáb-i-Íqán, p. 38)
We need to take “sufficient care to sift fact from fiction” (H.M. Balyuzi, E.G. Browne and The Baha’i Faith, p. 6)
For more articles in this series:
Fault-Finding, Blame and Accusation . . . :