During stressful times, when unpaid taxes still lie on the table, the children argue upstairs, and images of war flash across the news, hope and patience seem hard to come by. Worry seems inevitable. But how much can we really gain from our furrowed brow? Consider this quote: “Worry is like a good rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you anywhere.” Another way to think of the futility of worry is to imagine someone carrying around a suitcase of old junk that he doesn’t use. If he complained to you about his aching back, wouldn’t you suggest he drop the suitcase?
But we tend to do the same thing, feeling troubled, tired, and pulled off-balance. We hang on to our burden because (we think) something bad might happen if we let it go. But the answer is so easy. If we simply let go—if we trust in the Lord—we suddenly feel lighter.
We hear this same message from the Lord’s own mouth when He says to His disciples, “Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them…. Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these” (Luke 12:22–24).
If we try to take the Lord’s command seriously, and avoid the habit of worrying, we can make a distinct difference in our inner nature. In the Heavenly Doctrines given through Emanuel Swedenborg, the book Secrets of Heaven 8474 describes the type of people who worry about the future: “They are not content with their lot, do not trust in God but in themselves, and have solely worldly and earthly things in view, not heavenly ones. These people are ruled completely by anxiety for the future….”
The passage goes on to describe, on the other hand, the kind of people who trust in the Lord: “Those who trust in the Divine are altogether different…in that they are not anxious, let alone worried, when they give thought to the morrow… They know that for those who trust in the Divine all things are moving toward an everlasting state of happiness….”
Whenever worry enters our minds, another emotion tends to tag along with it: impatience. Often we grow impatient by worrying that life won’t turn out the way we think it should. We may unconsciously say to ourselves, “The Lord can’t handle it, so I’m going to worry for Him.”
Consider the following Biblical story, where King Saul becomes impatient with the Lord’s command, and relies on his own judgment instead. The setting is this: the Philistines have accumulated a huge army, and Saul is waiting for Samuel to offer sacrifices so he can go into battle with the Lord as his ally. “[Saul] waited seven days, the time appointed by Samuel. But Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and the people were scattering from him. So Saul said, ‘Bring the burnt offering here to me, and the peace offerings.’” As soon as he had finished offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came” (I Samuel 13:8–11). When Samuel shows up, he’s not happy with Saul. He says, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the command of the Lord your God, with which he commanded you. . . .now your kingdom shall not continue” (I Samuel 13:8–11, 13–14).
Just as Saul—when facing his enemies—worries about the risk of patiently following the Lord’s orders, we tend to feel the same way when we’re under pressure. We worry that if we follow the Lord’s way, it won’t turn out the way we want it to. Because of this impatience, worry, and lack of trust, Saul lost his kingdom. We also may lose out when we become impatient. Specifically, we lose:
Enjoyment of the situation. We think about being somewhere else or being with someone else, so we lose the delight of that moment. Infidelity thrives on this notion. Consider this quote: “A happy marriage is not about finding the right person. It’s about being the right person in the relationship.”
Forward spiritual progress. If we aren’t thinking about the present, we’re either worrying about the past or the future. We get concerned with time, and this skews our perception. We think physical, lower thoughts, and we forget higher matters. Worry can’t change our past or future, but it can ruin the present. When we dwell on the past or future, we lack motivation to make progress now.
Trust in the Lord. We begin to think the Lord isn’t managing the universe very well. Just as Saul lost the kingdom because he trusted his own agenda, when we trust in our own ideas, we make poor decisions. Scholar Christopher Syn wrote, “Anxiety springs from the desire that things should happen as we wish rather than as God wills.” This causes us to lose the kingdom—the happiness—the Lord wants us all to have.
So how can we achieve real patience, and gain back these things we’ve lost? First, we can make an effort to find contentment with what we have, and focus on being that person who is kind and loving rather than looking for that person elsewhere. Second, we can strive to make the best of our present situation, looking for opportunities to use our talents and reach out to others. And, finally, we can trust the Lord to bring good out of every situation, believing that what He says in His Word is true.
In his work, Secrets of Heaven (3827), Swedenborg explains how we can rise above impatience to an angelic state of love and acceptance, where time no longer matters: “When you are in a state of love…you are in an angelic state, that is to say, as if not in time…. For impatience is a bodily affection, and insofar as you are in it, so far you are in time…. By the affection of genuine love, we are withdrawn from bodily and worldly things, for our mind is elevated toward heaven and thus is withdrawn from things of time.”
In other words, if we focus on the fact that we’re not enjoying something, it becomes tedious. A student squirming in a class believes there’s somewhere else he needs to be. As soon as that bell rings, his whole world seems to change. But has it? We live in the world of our mind, our heart, our thoughts. A bell doesn’t change that world, but what we attach to that bell—our attitude—can change. Patience comes from being withdrawn from worldly things. When we learn to love and accept the situation we’re in, we find the power to change—not the situation—but our perspective. Because when we love something, we’re not paying attention to time.
Life is often compared to a journey. We can shuffle our feet and mope about the path we’re taking, but anxiety and impatience don’t change our speed or route. Instead, we can enjoy the scenery, confident that the direction of the stream of Divine Providence will steer us toward a more beautiful vista. So don’t waste today worrying. Cast your burden on the Lord. Take a glance at the flowers, or listen to the birds, and remember that the Lord is taking perfect care of each one of us, in every single moment.
The meaning of food varies from person to person. Like religion and politics, food can be topic of conversation not easily mentioned in a social context. It can touch on some raw emotions whether you happen to mention junk food, meat-eating, the long food chain, child malnutrition, factory farming, or genetically engineered crops.
In his book A Greedy Man in a Hungry World Jay Rayner writes about the industry of self-help books, magazines and cookbooks focusing on weight-loss. He says this serves ‘a desperate mixture of fear, guilt and shame’ about how fat we look.
With the growth of meat-eating and bio-fuels together with an ever growing world population, the price of grain for human food has shot up on the world’s market. And so in contrast to over-consumption in the West, we find food poverty in some other parts of the world: in parts of Africa eating non-nutritious food makes one dangerously non-resistant to such things as malaria and pneumonia.
Yet obesity-related disease is a major health problem in some Western world countries one example being the dramatic rise in the rate of type 2 diabetes in the UK.
‘More die in the United States of too much food than of too little.‘
(John Kenneth Galbraith)
And so food is something that is important to many of us. This raises the question about your relationship to what you eat. What does hunger mean to you? What is the emotional meaning of food for you?
Not every act of eating has a deeper meaning. Yet what we need and what we want are not always the same thing. We may have engaged in some form of comfort eating or have struggled with appetite. It can be hard to put one’s finger on what food symbolises for us personally. Trying to uncover this meaning of food you might want to think about any words, sensations or memories you associate with your favourite food. For some people, spicy food might possibly represent for them a longing for excitement, a sense of adventure, or a fiery spirit trying to assert itself within the confines of a more structured life.
For others, the richness and creaminess of ice cream may possibly represent envelopment and safety offering a feeling of physical and emotional fullness and speaking of warm summer days.
When trying to overcome a craving for food one needs to ask about what one is really hungry for. I suspect some or all of the following is in some sort of way relevant to me.
The trouble is emotional hunger isn’t satisfied for very long by eating. Despite the few moments of being lost in the euphoria of a favourite comfort food, one usually ends up feeling similar to the plate — empty!
Arguably, we need to watch out to see if food might be acting as an illusory substitute to meet an inner hunger which we need to learn to deal with more honestly. In other words mindless eating, if a regular habit, not only misleads us away from dealing with our inner emotional state but over time can add pounds to body weight.
In contrast, mindful eating is being more connected to oneself: more aware of when you are hungry and when you are full: not allowing your eating to be determined by the amount of food available, what others are eating, or by your emotions but rather being mindful of what’s right for your body in the moment.
I would like to suggest that from a spiritual perspective, it is okay to enjoy food as something for a healthy body and as a focus for a social occasion. However, to crave food is not spiritually healthy. It means indulging the stomach, and making the height of pleasure to consist in what you eat. Is this not being externally-orientated? In contrast, food for the mind meets our need for factual knowledge and comprehension, sustaining our appetite of curiosity. And food for the soul meets our hunger to know and gain insight into what is deeply true about life e.g. about principled ideas that connect with useful action.
This reflects what Christ said:
“Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matt 4:4)
According to spiritual philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg, in the next life, although other senses are sharpened, our sense of taste will be dimmed. He points out that food is not something physically needed for its own sake; the afterlife being a spiritual and not a material realm. However, food for the soul is needed in the sense of love and wisdom feeding the ethical and spiritual side of our personal life: for example nourishing the growth of good sense, sincerity, caring attitudes and other good qualities of character.
“Spiritual food, …consists in everything that is of use, and everything that is conducive to use. That which is conducive to use is to know what is good and true; that which is of use is to will and do what is good and true.” (AC 5293)
Copyright 2013 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems
The multitudes of diet books for sale attest to the fact that we humans have developed poor eating habits. Eating involves more than satisfying one’s appetite, it also partakes of judgment. We constantly have to judge between eating what gives us the most pleasure and what food will do us the most good.
But is there a food so healthy for us that eating it will turn us into angels and get us all the way to heaven? The answer is “yes.”
Of course, eating your way to heaven does not mean merely switching your dessert from a seven-layered devil’s food cake to angel cake. Heaven is not a physical world, so it requires a steady diet of special, non-physical foodstuffs.
In my previous post I brought up the idea of a more rarefied aliment that is especially suitable to our species. Humans also have an appetite and a thirst for knowledge. The human brain and mind are actually the digestive system of our spirit. Everything the physical digestive system does with terrestrial food has its analog with what the mind does with information.
For example, we chew and ruminate on ideas. This mental activity lets us find out whether ideas or concepts are savory to our personal tastes and worthy of being “swallowed.” Next, our mind churns and rolls these ideas around so that they can be broken down further into their constituents. The mind then scrutinizes this mental material more deeply. In this way our discernment and judgment act as mental digestive enzymes (the acid test). If these constituents are judged as agreeable, they are finally absorbed and enter into the very fabric of our inner being (otherwise they are jettisoned as “crap”).
Like physical food, there are ideas which can seduce our thinking and bring us lots of pleasure, but are not necessarily going to do us the most good. This is why we need to reflect on all our compulsions. This is also why we need a higher form of nutritional guidance and wisdom to help our judgment.
God’s Holy Word is actually a Divine Diet Book. The whole cosmic drama of Adam and Eve was based solely on what to eat and what not to eat. In the same way that physical food is metabolized and becomes part of our spiritual being, information is metabolized in a way that it can become part of our inner or spiritual being. Therefore, both types of “eating” represent appropriation. We can accept God and religion or reject it.
Now the phrase “you are what you eat” takes on a more critical and eternal meaning. When one sheds his or her physical body after death in this world we are left with our spiritual fabric, which was formed out of the ideas, concepts, and belief systems we developed a strong appetite for. We then gravitate to either a world of compulsions or an unselfish world of wisdom.
It is not hard to imagine that a world where compulsive behavior runs rampant will be populated by individuals who seek to satisfy only themselves. This creates an environment of hatred and sets up a condition whereby there can only be eternal frustration in people’s never-ending hunger to dominate others and have things their own way. This frustration is the eternal “fire” of hell.
On other hand, those in heaven have developed their spiritual bodies to be able to metabolize and act according to God’s love and wisdom. I hope I have made these ideas easier for you to digest.
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Do you sometimes feel you lack something you feel you need? It may be a more satisfying job, bigger house for a growing family, or a better car. However, you may also feel you lack something less definable, something you can’t easily put your finger on but which may be an answer to your troubles: perhaps something which could provide comfort when you are disappointed, lift your spirits when you feel down, and engender a positive frame of mind when everything seems negative. Something we might call food for the soul.
From time to time I feel a sense of inadequacy in myself, in my own ability to get moving again when I find myself static, or to find solutions to the ordinary lesser and sometimes bigger problems of life that confront the average person. These times I’m obliged to have to admit to myself I know so little and understand less. I thought things were going along fine and now I find I can’t always cope. This state of mind can get a bit depressing. There is always something round the corner that seems to set me back — it is as if I am being taught a lesson. If you know what I mean, you may also feel humbled by life and, when you are frustrated, tired or feeling uninspired, that you too need something extra to restore your inner life.
A scientific perspective is that without natural nourishment we grow weak and feeble, prone to disease, lack energy and eventually wither and die. Recommended is a balanced diet that covers all the nutrients the body requires. From a spiritual perspective without inner nourishment we become “overwhelmed with duties, engagements and activities” ( H. T. Hamblin). For spiritual food sustains and revitalises our spiritual life.
I would suggest food for the soul is the insights and knowledge we can gain about what is good and true in life: such spiritual food meets our hunger to find out and value what is deeply true about life e.g. about principled ideas that connect with useful action. The following might be said to be examples of this: noticing the qualities in other people around us, the beauty in nature and the potential that various situations hold for something good to happen.
Is this higher knowledge not able to inspire and motivate us? To raise our minds above the petty aspects of the mundane side of things? To act as food for the soul? Just as we need a balanced physical diet, so we also need a balanced spiritual one. Not just intellectual ideas, but also insights into the needs of other people, an awareness of the various relevant views around a social issue, practical knowledge concerning how to support people in need of help, an intuition about the way to tackle interpersonal difficulty, a perception about what is good about what is going on around.
In other words I am suggesting the idea that if we see what is good and true then this can nourish our inner life. It gives us the chance to value what is important and if we do this then we acquire good sense and good intentions, and find meaningful principles, in which we can develop hope and trust, feel encouragement and comfort when things go wrong, and experience inspiration.
The words of Christ promise that spiritual nourishment will be provided as long as we have an active longing for spiritual food. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matt 5:6)
The spiritual philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg claimed to have mystical visions of heavenly life. He said that after young children have died they are brought up on the fringes of heaven and have a spirit body which corresponds to their character. This spirit body is said to grow in stature so as to eventually to take on the appearance of an adult heavenly person. The growth isn’t due to material food but rather is due to the food for the soul they are given which nourishes their understanding of what is true and wise discernment of what is good.
I would say valuing such insights and acting on them is the heavenly state of happiness. Something to which we can all aspire.
Copyright 2014 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems
Do you wish to honour the body of Christ? Do not ignore him when he is naked. Do not pay him homage in the temple clad in silk, only then to neglect him outside where he is cold and ill-clad. He who said: “This is my body” is the same who said: “You saw me hungry and you gave me no food”, and “Whatever you did to the least of my brothers you did also to me”… What good is it if the Eucharistic table is overloaded with golden chalices when your brother is dying of hunger? Start by satisfying his hunger and then what is left you may adorn the altar as well
A Sermon by Rev Frederick M ChapinJuly 24, 1994
Daniel and his friends were taken into Babylon as captives, through no fault of their own. Even though they were faithful and devote to the Lord’s commandments, they had to pay the price for Judah’s disobedience to the Lord’s commandments. Daniel was chosen to be specially trained to eventually serve as a counselor or advisor. Therefore, he and his friends were given special treatment and offered the fines food.
Daniel could have been bitter for being taken from his homeland through no direct fault of his own. Yet he remained faithful and obedient to the Lord’s law, despite the hardship and the adversity that he was called upon to do. When he was offered the king’s meat and wine, he requested that he would just eat vegetables and water. Many scholars believe that Daniel refused the king’s meat because it could have been forbidden food like swine, or it could have been dedicated to the Babylonian gods. Whatever the reason, we can see that Daniel remained faithful to the worship of Jehovah, even in a strange land like Babylon.
Daniel was in high esteem with the keeper of the eunuchs, whom Daniel was responsible for. He was afraid that if Daniel was weaker because he did not eat the king’s food, that it could cost the keeper’s life. Daniel showed compassion and understanding to the concern of the keeper. His devotion to the Law of Moses did not remove concern for others. Daniel suggested that they have a ten day trial period to see how he would look after eating vegetables for ten days. They tried this, and Daniel looked healthier and better than the others who ate the king’s food. Daniel also distinguished himself with the king as the wisest and most able of all his advisors.
In the same manner, we are to distinguish ourselves before others we come in contact with. We are to stand out for what we are capable of doing and that we will produce positive results. The wonderful thing is that we do not need to force distinguishing ourselves before others. As long as we have the simple devotion of simply obeying the Lord’s Word, we will stand out and distinguish ourselves for what we are able to accomplish. We will be regarded as honest and faithful in the performance of our duties. We will also show forth that from within we have a deeper and more orderly perspective on life that will leave an impression upon others. If we are honest, forthright, and productive we will stand out and be regarded in high esteem, just as Daniel was with the keeper of the eunuchs. Such was also the case with Joseph and the keeper of the prison.
Like Daniel, to distinguish ourselves in the right and positive way, we must properly nourish ourselves with the right food. We must desire that which will invigorate and refresh our minds. We will look for something to stimulate our mental and spiritual activities. If we hold to the belief that selfish pleasures will bringing refreshment, we will be like those who partook of the kings’s food. The king’s food, in the original language refers to delicacies or dainty dishes. This food was primarily designed just to please the sense of taste. The focus was not on the effects it would have on the health of the body. The taste was good, but it did not produce a healthy body. Likewise, if we indulge in just what pleases our senses, we will not have a healthy mind, but one that is unhealthy and being undernourished.
We must partake of spiritually healthy food if we are to have a healthy mind and a strong spiritual body. This requires that we focus on the Lord’s teachings about life. This is the thought and guidance that we receive from the Word that teaches us how we are to love, think, and act. Externally, this may not seem as stimulating as selfish pleasures are to the senses. But like the vegetables that Daniel ate, the spiritual food that is received and provided from the Lord, is designed to provide what our interior loves need to become spiritually strong. The vegetables that Daniel ate was not as tasty as the delicacies others feasted on, but Daniel’s food was designed to service the interiors of his natural body. Just for our natural bodies, healthy food like vegetables, are not as exciting to our sense of taste as is unhealthy food that can be sensually pleasing. But over time, if we have our main diet of the foods that are healthy, our natural bodies will be invigorated, strong, and energetic. The same holds true for our minds and spirits as well.