The journey of grief

Dealing with crisis and grief

Are you having a hard time, and don’t know where to turn? Can’t seem to move past it?

Each of us has faced, or will face, a personal crisis in some form during the course of our lives. For some of us, it occurs when young, with the loss of a parent or other childhood trauma. For others, crisis comes in adult life. The precipitating event can be compared to the wake of a large ship that passes a little boat. The peaceful waters that were taken for granted now churn with trouble, threatening to overturn our lives.

The journey of grief

 by Rev. Clark Echols

 The teachings for the New Church explain that a belief in a God of love will carry a person through loss to a life that is not diminished, even if there is something missing.

Grief is a person’s spiritual, emotional, intellectual and physical reaction to loss, which can begin before the loss actually occurs and persists until the grief reaction is no longer noticed. People in the helping professions know that a person’s experience of grief is short or long, mild or disruptive, mental or physical, depending on both obvious and subtle influences. You have experienced grief. Perhaps a favorite piece of clothing wore out, you moved away from friends, or a parent died. Perhaps you experienced panic, or depression, or despair, or sadness, or nostalgia, or anger, or something else. Maybe you experienced foggy thinking, an absence of emotions, uncontrolled emotions, a loss of appetite, joint pain, or any number of other sensations.

Your experience of grief will be unique, even though it may include states others experience. That you experience your own grief is wonderful, actually, because the Lord is accommodating His divine love and wisdom to you in a way specific to your spiritual and physical needs. This is the first observation from New Church ideas that can help you. The Lord actively leads you through a process which is governed by His rules of love. This will progress to completion, and He will return you to a balanced state in which you can again experience joy.

As the New Church teaches, love creates and maintains a spiritual connection; the tighter the connection, the more the loss affects us and impacts our spiritual and natural worlds.

Perhaps you have experienced a sudden loss: a pet died accidentally, or you were fired without warning. The experience shocks you, spiritually and physically, disrupting thought and even movement. These effects of the shock of the loss are so significant that researchers found they can be measured in the brain. Perhaps the Lord wants you to stop everything for a moment rather than do something damaging to your process of recovery. Typically, a grieving person either does almost nothing for some time, or merely “goes through the motions” on emotional autopilot. During this static stage, your identity is protected, allowing you to continue through the process without requiring permanent changes to your personality in order to cope. The Lord preserves your eternal welfare, even though you have lost something integral to your spiritual life.

Grieving includes using coping mechanisms to deal with your loss. Not everyone cries, but everyone needs the sphere of love around them. Like many, you may turn inward, reflecting on a picture bigger than you have ever considered before. The Word explains that this happens because what is mortal is put right next to what you want to be immortal in your mind and heart. You sense your own mortality as a new reality. If you experience sudden loss, you may feel a new fear of the future—a worry that you could die tomorrow. You may feel anxiety that you have not become a good person or that you have not achieved your life’s goals.

This tension creates an emotional rollercoaster that comes from resisting the Lord’s care, His providence, which leaves us unsatisfied and weary. The ride only slows and levels out as you acknowledge the reality of the loss and give yourself permission to experience sadness, loneliness or helplessness. Your intellect may find it hard to believe, but the fact is that when you let go and grieve—an act of will—you let God carry you through the process to the end of the ride, when you can walk on your own in the joy of being on solid ground.

Many who grieve notice that the story of the loss runs around in their minds in bits and pieces. Perhaps you have experienced this. Some of the bits are accurate memories of what happened, and you can feel badly, even responsible, for the loss. Some of the memories are inaccurate and cause you unnecessary distress. One way to discover the difference, and to be able to put the story “to bed,” is to tell the story. Of course, there will be more analysis, and perhaps regrets and resentment. But when these are put in the context of your eternal life and the eternal life of your loved one (if that is what you are grieving), the Lord puts the pieces together in a way that helps you overcome any distress. Given time and cooperation, the Lord will finish the puzzle of your life, and you can enjoy a whole picture.

Forgiveness is an important stage of grief for most people. When you forgive another, you let go of a burden. When you experience a loss, it is common to have trouble forgiving both others and oneself. Jesus teaches that forgiving is a spiritual act. But He points out again and again that to the degree that you spiritually let go of any thought or feeling that keeps you from forgiving, to that degree you find security and joy. When you grieve, you can become immersed in the pain of anger, resentment, regret and recrimination. These are all tied to merely natural thoughts and feelings. It is important to face what you really think and feel—what you label good and label bad. When you do, you welcome the Lord’s forgiveness and can then find the strength of heart and clarity of mind to forgive yourself and others.

By letting go and forgiving, you can begin to rebuild your life. Your work now becomes finding your own meaning for your life. Many have a change in faith. Many lose the religious faith that they had held. Many find a new confidence in their faith. The teachings for the New Church explain that a belief in a God of love will carry a person through a loss to a life that is not diminished, even if there is something missing. People who have an inaccurate idea of God (for instance, that He punishes us for our wrongdoings) will not have this resource and will find other ways of processing their grief. Of course, many of these means will work to some extent. But many of them, like abusing alcohol, are not only self destructive, but do not allow the process of grief to proceed.

You can take any number of actions to find meaning in your life. Many people begin new hobbies or return to old ones. Others take on opportunities to be of service. Some become better at their vocation, confirming their delight in doing something they love to do. In this way a person participates in redefining life. Thankfully, the Lord has provided that your loss does not diminish who you are: your personality and your place in His kingdom. However, YOUR world HAS changed! Your place in it has changed. Like an intricate mobile that has lost one of its weights, you experience a jangling, jarring tossing until the new balance is found, and slowly the bouncing settles down. There is balance, but it is a new configuration.

The Lord designed your spirit to seek and eventually achieve this balance. His loving care is always lifting you, countering the depressing effects of your loss. The warmth of His love continually radiates in your spirit. The process of grief is designed to bring your consciousness out of the cold and dark of loss into His presence again. You again take on the responsibility to live your life to its fullest potential.

The stages of grief are predictable but not uniform. They vary among circumstances and people. You have at hand a number of resources. The New Church faith may help you understand what is going on and explain why you feel the anger, despair, sadness, emptiness and pain. The Lord, especially through His Word, allows you to experience the feelings even as He alleviates them. The angels in your life, the loved ones who walk with you, hold you up when your knees buckle. There are many books and pieces of music that salve our wounds. Use them all, and your particular and unique grief process will proceed to a conclusion the Lord has designed just for you in the time He has provided.


By Rev. Clark Echols, counselor and pastor of the Glendale New Church.

This website contains a wealth of information about the New Church, and a practical, spiritual path to happiness. Read more about the beliefs of the New Church.

https://newchurch.org/

Full issue

DAILY INSPIRATION

“Nothing is permitted unless some good may come of it.”

Arcana Coelestia 6574

The Hidden Agenda Of The Lord’s Ministry

Jesus was actually a double agent. All the time He was teaching, performing great miracles, and finally having to suffer on the cross, Jesus was also on a secret assignment from heaven.

This assignment was secret because it was kept hidden from our view. This secret part of His divine mission included dealing with special challenges both on earth and in the spiritual world. The Lord not only had to deal with disbelief and sin on an earthly plane, He had to directly confront the forces of evil coming from Hell.

Many Christian theologians believe that Christ took our sins upon Himself, gave his life as a ransom on the cross, appeased the Father through His death, and arose from the dead in order to broker a deal with the Father to remove our guilt—as long as we had the proper “faith.”

That is not how the Lord actually ransomed himself, or portrayed how He ultimately glorified the Father, and the Father, Him.

The Lord’s secret mission on earth can only be deciphered if one has access to the higher levels of meaning that are hidden within the literal words of Scripture. Thankfully, theologian Emanuel Swedenborg has provided us access to this rarefied knowledge.

You see, unbeknownst to most Christians, Jesus was actually Jehovah himself. The strategy of God taking on a human body was not just to provide the Romans with something solid to nail on the cross, but to strip hell of its power.

The forces of hell, while frightening, are still only finite forces. Nothing finite can ever challenge an Infinite God—unless God could take on a finite body giving hell a medium through which evil could attack. This required not only a physical body, it necessitated a body born of a woman. Hell attacks people through their inherited evils. Since God had no evil of His own, He needed to acquire humankind’s hereditary disposition towards evil by entering into the human gene pool.

The Lord did NOT gain “all power over flesh” by arising from death, but through a life on earth whereby He battled and successfully fought off all inclinations and sins of the flesh. It is this inner confrontation that is addressed within the deepest level of meaning contained within the literal words of Scripture.

This incarnation, furnished with real human genes, is how the Lord took the sins of humanity upon himself. The Lord conquered sin by resisting temptation from hell and subordinating his human essence to the will of the Father (the Lord’s heavenly essence) through a life of HUMILITY (called exinanition).

Crucifixion is designed for maximum humility. This was the Lord’s final and ultimate test of humiliation. If He had gotten off the cross to physically prove his authority and then demanded obedience, the flesh would have won. Jesus came into the world to serve us, not bring us to our knees through physical force. Giving up the physical force to compel people and sacrificing the human urge to dominate over others is what is meant by the Lord’s life being a ransom.

This battle between the Lord’s flesh and His divine spirit is even transparent in the literal words of Scripture describing Jesus’ agony in Gethsemane. Here is where the Lord is feeling so much pressure to go on with his deadly mission that he seeks a way out and begins sweating blood. Here, the big “squeeze” is being put on the Lord’s human nature. This is why Gethsemane means “olive press.”

By overcoming all these obstacles the Lord united His human essence (the Son) with His divine essence (the Father). In this “top-down” and “bottom-up” process, the Son glorified the Father and the Father glorified the Son. The Lord’s human was made fully divine.

But even this great event in history saved no one. The Lord came into the world to keep the possibility of salvation left open. Even traditional Christianity supports the notion that there is a caveat to salvation. A person is only saved if he or she has the proper “faith.” However, Swedenborg puts a different wrinkle on what constitutes proper faith. He maintained that only a faith conjoined with good works saves. Love is faith put into action. But this brings free will and human cooperation with God’s tenets into the equation of salvation.

Free will is given to men and women as a gift of God’s divine love. Love is meaningless without free will. And free will cannot be maintained unless a person can be kept in a balance between good and bad influences. The Lord appeared on earth at a time when human free will was being threatened by an overwhelming influence from Hell.

The Lord’s victory over the hells restored the cosmic balance between good and evil influences, and thus protected human free will.

Heaven is a choice.

Posted on

Posted in god, Inner growth, love, psychology, Reality, religion, spirituality, symbolism, unity | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , |Leave a comment

 

 

God; love; kindness; and world religions.

Christianity has not cornered the market on love. God’s love permeates all religions.

Love-and-world-religionsWhen Jesus came on earth He embodied love in a way that can transform anyone who follows the Way He taught.

Here are a selection of quotations that remind us of the love that is central to Jesus’ teaching and also show that this theme is found in other world religions.

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
–1 John 4: 7-8 “

Of how great importance it is to have a just (or proper) idea of God may appear from the consideration that the idea of God forms the inmost of thought with all who have any religion.”
–Emanuel Swedenborg, Divine Love and Wisdom 13

“Love is the mystery of divine revelations! Love is the effulgent manifestation! Love is the spiritual fulfillment! Love is the light of the Kingdom! Love is the breath of the Holy Spirit inspired into the human spirit! Love is the cause of the manifestation of the Truth (God) in the phenomenal world! Love is the necessary tie proceeding from the realities of things through divine creation!”
–`Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of `Abdu’l-Bahá v3[1]

“[Allah] is the Forgiving and Loving.”
–Qur’an 85:14

“Jehovah God is Love itself and Wisdom itself, or Good itself and Truth itself.”
–Emanuel Swedenborg, True Christian Religion 3

“Be fearless and pure; never waver in your determination or your dedication to the spiritual life. Give freely. Be self-controlled, sincere, truthful, loving, and full of the desire to serve….Learn to be detached and to take joy in renunciation. Do not get angry or harm any living creature, but be compassionate and gentle; show good will to all. Cultivate vigor, patience, will, purity; avoid malice and pride. Then, you will achieve your destiny.”
–Bhagavad Gita

“O give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his steadfast love endures forever.”
–Psalm 139:3

“Where love is, there God is also.”
–Mohandas Gandhi

“All major religious traditions carry basically the same message, that is love, compassion and forgiveness. The important thing is they should be part of our daily lives.”
–Dalai Lama

https://newchurch.org/

Full issue

 

Why do so many different religions exist in the world?

The clearer our picture of how to serve the neighbor, the closer to God we can become.

Q

Is there one “right” religion?

a

Yes, but it doesn’t exist simply with one group or one church. The right religion is simply this: to love our Creator and all the people He created. Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’ (Matthew 22:37-40). In other words the whole point of religion is to learn to love and serve God and the neighbor. At their core, all religions come back to the same thing: love and serve God and the neighbor. That doesn’t mean all religions are equally true or good. Some religions seem to have a clearer understanding of how to love and serve God and the neighbor while some lead away from this principle. The clearer our picture of how to serve the Lord and neighbor are closer to God we can become.

Q

Can people from different religions go to heaven?

a

Getting to heaven isn’t simply a matter of having the right beliefs, or doing the right rituals, or calling the Divine by a specific name. You can’t get to heaven without doing what God wills. A person who professes belief in Jesus as Lord but breaks His commandments really isn’t a follower of Christ at all. Is a Muslim who refrains from murder and theft because they are sins against God any different from a Christian who refrains from murder and theft because they sins against God? One says “Allah” instead of “Lord,” but aren’t they both following the will of God, the Heavenly Father of all of us? Anyone who refrains from evil because it is against God and does good because it is from God is following the will of God and has the Kingdom of God within him.

Q

Why do many religions exist? Is it on purpose or an accident?

a

The different religions are based on the different responses people have to God over time. Even in these different responses, certain universal truths are common among them. Truth, by definition, comes from God. Jesus said, “And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd” (John 10:16). New Church theology teaches: “When a religion has been implanted in a nation, the Lord leads that nation according to the precepts and dogmas of its own religion. He has provided that there shall be in every religion precepts like those in the Ten Commandments…. The nation that regards these precepts as Divine and lives according to them from a religious motive is saved” (Divine Providence 254). Mixed in with those true teachings may be many false teachings. The point is that the Lord is present and leads all people through the true teachings of their religions.


https://newchurch.org/

Rev. Barry Halterman is the Religion Department Chair at the Academy of the New Church High School in Bryn Athyn, PA (www.ancss.org). He is also Assistant Pastor at New Church LIVE (www.newchurchlive.tv).

Full issue

What does it mean to ‘take up our cross daily’?

Full issue

Many biblical passages are sometimes cited to support the common idea that the image of the cross refers solely to Jesus’ death on the cross and that this event took away our sins.

In Matthew, an angel appears to Joseph and tells him he must name the baby in Mary’s womb Jesus “for He will save His people from their sins” (1:21). In John 1:29, John the Baptist sees Jesus and exclaims, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” In John 3, Jesus likens Himself to the brass serpent that Moses lifted up in the wilderness which cured anyone who looked at it: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up” (John 3:14). He goes on to say, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (3:16). Some could interpret these and other passages to mean that Jesus took away our sins through His death on the cross.

Types of crosses

Take-up-our-cross-dailyBut in actuality, Scripture speaks of more than one type of cross. In Luke 9:22, Jesus tells His disciples what’s going to happen to Him at the end of His life: “The Son of Man must suffer many things,…and be killed, and be raised the third day.” Note that he says “killed,” not crucified. Jesus continues, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (9:23).

This interaction took place before Jesus’ death and resurrection. In this conversation, Jesus never told His disciples He was going to be crucified. Crucifixion was reserved for only the worst criminals. There is not a chance the disciples would believe that Jesus was going to be crucified. So what is this cross? Jesus invites us to follow Him in bearing it. He must not be referring to a physical cross, because the disciples had never seen him carrying one. And Jesus says we are to take up our cross daily. How many times can you be crucified physically? Not more than once. So what does it mean to take up our cross daily?

We must allow for two crosses: the physical cross that Jesus died on at the end of His life and some nonphysical “cross” that Jesus was already bearing every day when He made the statement in Luke, and which He invites us to bear as well.

How are we to bear our cross?

Paul says in Galatians, “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another…. Those who practice [the works of the flesh] will not inherit the kingdom of God…. [While] those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:16, 17, 21, 24). This passage is talking about crucifixion not as a physical thing but as a spiritual thing, and not as something that Jesus alone went through, but something we have to go through if we are to follow Him. Bearing the cross is the pain of dealing with the burden of our lower nature and warring against its passions. We need Jesus, because we have no power against hell on our own. And yet we have to repent and cooperate in bringing our lower nature into order. That we can do daily.

Jesus’ death was not about redemption; rather, it was His life that redeemed us. Jesus makes this clear when He tells the Pharisees in Luke 13:32, “Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I shall be perfected.” The time when he was casting out demons (meaning conquering sin) and performing cures was “today and tomorrow,” meaning during His life; His death, meant by the “third day,” was not about casting out demons; that was a process through which He was perfected and became fully Divine.

In John, Jesus prays to the Father saying He has “finished the work” the Father gave Him to do (17:4). He’s not dead yet, and yet He says He’s finished His work. Redemption is the work that He had finished, that He accomplished during His life. His work of redemption was conquering the hells through bearing His spiritual cross. It was the inner work He did every day of His life. This work gave Jesus the power to take away the sins of the world. We draw on that power when we practice repentance. By a life of repentance we take up our cross daily and follow the Lord.


The Rev. Dr. Jonathan Rose is a minister in Bryn Athyn, PA. He is the series editor and a translator for the New Century Edition of the Theological Works of Emanuel Swedenborg. For more information: jsrose@digitalwave.com.

https://newchurch.org/

Full issue

 

Religious superstition — Is that all religion is?

To go to heaven do I have to be religious?

Spiritual Questions & Answers

Discovering inner health and transformation

Go to heavenWhen it comes to the question of whether you will go to heaven, like Woody Allen, you might want to keep your options open.

“I don’t believe in an afterlife, although I am bringing a change of underwear.” (Woody Allen)

And you may wonder if there really is a heaven, is religion of any relevance? You ask “Can’t I get to heaven my way? Why should my beliefs make any difference to my fate?” If you haven’t killed anyone or done anything really bad why worry about it?

Inner character needed to go to heaven?

As a child I used to believe that whoever does more good things than bad things will go to heaven. So I wanted to keep a tally of right and wrong things that I was doing. However, later I came to understand that the afterlife is not a reward or punishment for the kind of life one lives on earth:  instead one’s eternal destiny can be thought of as the fulfillment of what already has begun to grow in one.

In other words inner personality is defined by the intentions behind behaviour; the motives that have grown through life and come to rule the heart. It is not necessarily what comes into your mind what reveals this true character but rather what you do with those thoughts or would like to if you could. The conclusion to this line of thought is that this spiritual state is what determines whether you are suited to go to heaven  — suited to a heavenly life consisting of mutual goodwill and fairness is personal dealings.

And so those who can enter into the heavenly sphere after death are those who have allowed the heavenly state to come into their lives on earth: who, perhaps unknowingly, have been undergoing a process of spiritual growth by being liberated from their self-centred materialistic tendencies.

Religious beliefs needed to go to heaven?

If what one feels with the heart and does with the hands, is at least as important as what one believes with the head, then religious belief can be seen as only one dimension to religiosity.

Jesus Christ claimed “I am the way and the truth and the life.” (John 14:6)

And I happen to think that praying to my personal deity helps my spiritual orientation to life. For me, religion points to an aspect of life that rises above the usual preoccupations with individual self, transcending worldly needs and desires, when we look at things from a broader, less self-centred, more universal perspective. It has the perspective of eternity. It offers me an understanding of the deeper problems around with meaningful answers to questions concerning suffering and evil that point me to a heavenly supernatural realm of being beyond our ordinary experience — in other words to go to heaven when I die.

Jesus also suggested that religious belief is insufficient for heaven. In his sermon on the Mount, he said:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matt 7:21)

According to Swedenborg you are already in heaven in the spiritual, subconscious level of your mind when you recognise and acknowledge what is Divine. Consciously, you may have taken on all sorts of beliefs and yet have a kind of inner perception and following of spiritual principles which means you have not been hateful, selfish, nor lived in other bad ways. A rational humanist or an agnostic may live a better life than those who are affiliated with a religion. Swedenborg wrote that after death, for those who are willing to learn, and this is their free choice, there will be a time of preparation when mistaken religious and notions can be amended by what is more deeply good and true so that they can see in heavenly light. Then one can go to heaven.

“I am not sure exactly what heaven will be like, but I know that when we die and it comes time for God to judge us, he will not ask, ‘How many good things have you done in your life?’ rather he will ask, ‘How much love did you put into what you did?” (Mother Teresa) 

Copyright 2011 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

 

Posted on18th November 2012CategoriesMeaning of life, ReligionTags, , , , , ,, , , , , , , Leave a comment