Joy In The Coming Of Our Lord
A Sermon by Rev. David C. Roth
“Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen
His star in the east and have come to worship Him …. And when they
saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy” (Matthew 2:2,10).
How often have we been in the same position as the wise men, or
maybe the same situation as the shepherds? We are in a position
similar to theirs when we are told of the Lord and the message of His
Word. As He did for the wise men and the shepherds, the Lord has
made Himself known to each of us in different ways, and now it is up to
us to respond. Both the shepherds and the wise men were told in
different ways about the coming of the Lord and then given guidance to
that special place where the Lord chose to be born. Although both were
present to see the newborn Savior, they received the message of the
Lord’s birth in different ways.
Most likely each of us has a favorite story in relation to the Lord’s birth.
We may even ask ourselves whether it was the wise men or the
shepherds who responded in a more favorable way to the
announcement of the Lord’s advent. But this question is not really very
important when we realize that the essential observation is the one that
points to the fact that both the wise men and the shepherds did
respond. They both heeded the Lord’s call, but in different ways, each
according to his own state – different states, yet states which were
acceptable to the Lord. How can we then apply the responses of the
wise men and shepherds to our own lives on this Christmas day? As we
examine the stories of the shepherds and the wise men, the spiritual
sense shows us clearly of their application to our lives.
The first thing, however, that we must understand is the importance of
the Lord’s birth. Without His coming we could not be in freedom to be
regenerated by Him. His coming has redeemed mankind; that is, He put
the hells back where they belonged, put the heavens in order so that
they could be safe from the attack of the hells, and began a new church
where people could love the Lord and their neighbors (see TCR 86). By
His birth and fulfilled life here on earth the Lord is now present with us
fully and powerfully in His Word; we are not left alone. It was this
message involving all this wonderful work to be done by the Lord which
the shepherds were told of, and which the wise men sought to see
fulfilled. As the angel of the Lord proclaimed to the shepherds, “Fear
not, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all
people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is
Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10,11). The message was clearly one to pay
attention to, one to be happy about. A Savior had come, of whose
kingdom there would be no end.
When we consider the call of the shepherds we see a unique response.
The shepherds at this time of the year lived out in the fields with their
sheep day and night, always keeping a watchful eye on their tender
flocks. Perhaps we envision it being cold and dark, with the shepherds
staying close to keep themselves warm. This is illustrative of the type of
world into which the Lord was born – cold from the lack of charity and
love, and dark because of the false understanding in which the world
had engulfed its minds. Yet even in all this cold and darkness there
were a few who possessed an innocence and a willingness to be led
and taught by the Word. We can see this in the story of the shepherds.
A shepherd represents one who teaches the truths and goods of faith. A
good shepherd, that is, one that guards and protects his flock, shows us
a picture of someone who is learning, protecting and storing up goods
and truths. This is a picture of a basically good person, yet one who
believes that life is his own, and that most power is from himself. He has
been working hard to learn the truths of the Lord’s Word; however, he
remains in a state of darkness as to how it all applies to his life, and how
it leads him closer to the Lord and away from self. But with this learning
of truth and innocent willingness the Lord is able to come to us and be
born in our hearts.
The first thing which the appearing angel said to the shepherds was,
“Fear not.” This represents a renewal of life, meaning that the Lord will
create a new heart within us, a heart that acknowledges the Lord as our
Savior and not ourselves. This actually can be a real cause for fear. We
read, “For all who come suddenly from self-life into any spiritual life are
at first afraid, but their life is renewed by the Lord” (AC 80). It can be a
difficult and scary thing to give our life over to the care of the Lord when
we feel so strongly that life is our own and that we have the power
ourselves to conquer evil. When the Lord draws near, the result is
temptation, and if we are good we will fear for the loss of good and truth.
His nearer presence makes it feel as if we are losing what good and
truth we have. But it is when we do follow the Lord, when we listen to
the angel’s good tidings, that He can truly care for us. The manger in
which the shepherds found the Lord represents spiritual nourishment. It
is here in the presence of the Lord that we are nourished and instructed.
The Lord does not lead us to Himself and then starve us; He will fill us
to overflowing. The Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes means first
truths, truths of innocence from the Lord’s Divine Love. When we come
to the Lord He nourishes and instructs us in those things which will
make us ready for His kingdom, a kingdom of innocence, love, and use.
After seeing the Babe, “the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising
God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them”
(Luke 2:20). This response by the shepherds signifies a true confession
and worship, which comes when we acknowledge in our hearts that
there is nothing of good in ourselves, and that we can do nothing of
ourselves – and, on the other hand, that all good is from the Lord, and
that the Lord can do all things (see AC 1210). The Heavenly Doctrines
say further of this response, “When man is in this acknowledgment he
puts aside what is his own, which belongs to the love of self, and opens
all things of his mind, and thus gives room for the Divine to flow in with
good and with power” (AC 1210). The shepherds heard the Lord’s call
and followed it. We can be like the shepherds ourselves when we make
the same sort of acknowledgment regarding the power of the Lord. He
will call us in His Word, but if we are looking to ourselves for strength we
will not hear Him. We may celebrate the Lord’s advent, but not with the
same conviction for the Lord as we would if we humbled ourselves and
gave glory to the King of Glory.
From this beautiful picture of innocence as seen in the story of the
shepherds we now turn to a different scenario: one of wisdom and
perseverance – the story of the wise men. The wise men seemed to
have a special quality about them. They knew about the advent of the
Lord because they had a knowledge of the Word and its prophecies. We
read concerning them, “The knowledge of correspondences survived
among a number of the Orientals, even until the Lord’s Advent, as is
evident from the wise men of the east who came to the Lord at His birth”
(SS 23), “and that they knew of His Advent by a star which appeared to
them in the east” (AC 10177).
It is interesting to think of the fact that those who were of the Jewish
faith who had the Old Testament Word and who should have known that
the Lord was to be born had no idea of it. When the wise men came and
asked Herod, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?” he
had no answer but called the chief priests and scribes together to help.
We can imagine that perhaps Herod was a bit embarrassed that he, the
king, did not know this, as well as being jealous of this newborn King.
The Word says that ” … he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. ”
Whatever the nature of the response, again it was quite indicative of the
state of the Jewish Church at the time. Not only was their knowledge of
the Word lacking and false but many, like Herod, had an all-out hatred
for the Lord. This is plainly shown in Herod’s plot to kill the infant Lord, a
plot which resulted in the slaying of thousands of innocent children in
The Jews at this time, it seems, were not looking for the Lord. And when
they did find out that He had come, there was no room in their hearts
nor their inns to greet Him. Yet, as with the shepherds, we see in the
story of the wise men others who were ready for the Lord. But we
observe a difference in their response to the Lord’s coming, the main
difference being that the wise men were actively seeking out the Lord.
They had seen His star in the east and had come to worship Him. They
traveled a long distance to see the star that had come out of Jacob, the
Scepter that had risen out of Israel, He who was to be born King of the
In the spiritual sense, the east represents love, and the star that went
before them signifies knowledge from heaven (see AC 3762, SS 23).
The wise men traveling eastward to the land of the east was
representative of those who in their life are moving toward the good of
faith. This, the Writings teach, is nothing else than charity toward the
neighbor, or a life according to the Lord’s commandments (see AC
3249). In this spiritual picture we can see that it is the knowledges of
good and truth found in the Lord’s Word, represented by the star, which
guide us to a life of charity or love, that is, which guide us to the Lord
Himself. This paints a beautiful picture for each of us. We see that it is
through the learning of the Lord’s truths and commands that we can be
led to Him.
Still, the most beautiful aspect of the wise men’s response to the Lord’s
Advent is seen when they departed from Herod for Bethlehem and the
star reappeared before them. “And behold the star which they had seen
in the east went before them, til it came and stood over where the young
Child was. And when they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding
great joy.” Exceeding great joy! What kind of a feeling did they have? It
must have been an overwhelming feeling of excitement and internal
peace over having embarked upon the last leg of the journey to their
Savior, the star’s reappearing to assure them that the Lord was with
them as they continued their trek. Can we ever have such feelings of
great joy in our religious life? We certainly can, and we must! Talking to
a person who has recently become aware of the wisdom and love found
in the Heavenly Doctrines can certainly emanate exceeding great joy.
Or a newly engaged or married couple show it to a certain degree.
Perhaps we can even relate it to the expression a young child shows on
Christmas morning. However, if we are raised in the New Church, do we
lose this excitement, or never let it show? If we do, how can we regain
this feeling or bring it out so that others can share it? One answer is to
be like the wise men, to seek out the Lord in His Word and then come to
Him when we see the star, that is, the knowledges from heaven
contained in the Word. We may not find the Lord right away. Even the
wise men thought they would find the Lord in Jerusalem, but He wasn’t
there. They could have given up, but they asked others where He could
be found. It is essential to talk to others about our beliefs and our quest
for the Lord. They can add to our understanding and love for the Lord,
and perhaps our picture then becomes clearer for us, which can
eventually lead us to Him. Notice, the star showed itself again until it
came and stood over where the young Child was. It led the wise men
right to the Lord. We need the truths and goods represented by the star
to lead us, and to keep leading us throughout life.
It is important to realize that truth will lead us to the Lord and make us
happy, but the real joy for us in our spiritual lives will be when we come
to the Lord offering gifts to Him, as the wise men did. These gifts of
gold, frankincense, and myrrh were more than just earthly treasures.
They represented testifications of the heart or will, the heart found in a
person that is truly thankful for all that the Lord has done for him, and
shows it by following His Word. These gifts represented things pleasing
to God, because their origin is in love and faith toward Him – the love
represented by gold, and our faith by the frankincense, and by myrrh is
represented our love and faith grounded in things external, which is a
life in obedience and love to the Lord and to our neighbor. These are
the gifts which the Lord is asking us to bear on Christmas day and
beyond. But more importantly to know, they are the gifts which He gives
us and wills to give each of us when we respond to His coming. So on
this Christmas day let us ask ourselves the following question with the
earnest desire to find the answer: “Where is He who has been born King
of the Jews?” Let us then search diligently for His star in the east and
come to worship Him, that is, live a life of charity and faith in Him,
because it is in this kind of a life where we too can share the vision of
the shepherds and the excitement of the wise men. “Where is He who
has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the east
and have come to worship Him … And when they saw the star, they
rejoiced with exceeding great joy.” Amen.
Lessons: Luke 2:1-20; Matthew 2:1-12; AE 661
“The peace that reigns in heaven is like spring on earth, or like the dawn.”
Arcana Coelestia 5662
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
[John 15:5 ESV]
In him we live and move and have our being.
[Acts 17:28 ESV]
Are we conscious that, as Jesus puts it, apart from me you can do nothing? Do we feel that, as Paul states, in [God] we live and move and have our being? Most people would probably answer that we do not have such a direct experience.
On the contrary all the evidence of our senses and everyday life is that we act in all things from our life within us.
We can see this very early on in the life of a new born baby. Initially the baby is completely helpless and totally reliant on those around. But gradually its sense of the outside world develops and then an awareness of itself. The baby learns to move, just small motions of eyes, head and limbs. Then the ability to reach out and touch comes into play and from sitting up crawling and then walking soon develops. And then as language begins miraculously to appear the small child starts to separate the people around into different people. However they refer to themselves they know they are a person in their own right. Our development from infancy through to mature adulthood is only achieved because we have a clear sense of who we are and an ability to direct our daily life as we wish.
But if we accept that there is only ONE life, the Divine life, and this is the source of all life and everything that is involved in living then none of us and nothing in the created world has a life of its own. Rather, we are all simply receivers of life. A simple analogy may illustrate this concept (or principle). Think of a light bulb which when working properly and connected to the mains glows brightly. We are all so familiar with how a light bulb works that it is hard to imagine how someone would view it from say 300 years ago. They would probably see it as a wonderful source of light that somehow existed entirely within the light bulb. To them the light bulb would seem to have light in itself. Yet we know that the light bulb is merely a receptacle and receiver of the power of electricity designed in such a way as to produce light.
We can see ourselves then as people created by God to be receivers of the Divine life but able to live in a way where we are not conscious of that fact. But suppose it was different. What if, instead of feeling that our life was our own, we were really aware at all times that it was God’s life within us from which we lived and moved and had our being?
We can perhaps glimpse what this might be like from our own experiences of growing up. As a child we are totally dependent on our parents for our food, clothing and a place to live as well as direction in what we should or should not do and ambitions for our future. In many ways we become an extension of our parent’s lives until the point comes in teenage years when we desperately feel the need to break free and establish ourselves as separate individuals. It is a painful process, but it is vital for our development. If we could really feel God’s life within us wouldn’t it be like a teenager yearning and fighting to be free, a puppet on a string unable to cut the parental cords? How could we develop our unique potential in such circumstances?
It appears that we have a life of our own despite the reality that our life is from God alone. It is because of this appearance that we are able to grow and develop and regenerate as spiritual beings.
Emanuel Swedenborg wrote extensively about the appearance that we live as if of ourselves. Here is a quotation from Divine Providence 156:
To say that we are led and taught by the Lord alone is to say that the Lord is the only source of our life, since it is the intentions of our life that are led and the intelligence of our life that is taught. This is not the way it seems, though. It appears to us as if we live on our own, when the truth is that the Lord is the source of our life and we are not. As long as we are living in this world, we cannot be given a palpable sense that our life is coming from the Lord alone. We are not deprived of our sense of living on our own, because that is what makes us human.
Every one of us is perfectly free to stay in this appearance and live thinking our life is our own. But this is not what Jesus calls us to do. He says: I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing [John 15:5 ESV].
Our Lord Jesus Christ longs for us to acknowledge that our life is from him and that, really, without him we can do nothing. Why? Not because he wants or needs our adulation. No. It’s because he wants us to abide in him so that he can give us his joy, not because we are forced to but because we want to return to him, the source of our life.
These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
[John 15:11 ESV]
We should live ‘as if of ourselves’, but at the same time fully acknowledge that our life is from the Lord alone.
by Rev. Amos Glenn
And Jehovah spoke to Moses, saying, “I have heard the complaints of the children of Israel. Speak to them, saying, ‘At evening you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread. And you shall know that I am Jehovah your God.’”
So it was that quails came up at evening and covered the camp, and in the morning the dew lay all around the camp. And when the layer of dew lifted, there, on the surface of the wilderness, was a tiny round substance, as fine as frost on the ground.
And Moses said to them, “This is the bread which Jehovah has given you to eat.” “This is the thing which Jehovah has commanded: ‘Let every man gather it according to each one’s need.’”
Every man had gathered according to each one’s need. And Moses said, “Let no one leave any of it till morning.” Notwithstanding they did not heed Moses. But some of them left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and stank. And Moses was angry with them. So they gathered it morning by morning, every man according to his need.
(Excerpted from Exodus 16:9-36)
The Lord wants us to have the peace and joy of heaven. Everything He does leads us away from misery and toward happiness. A willingness to follow the Lord’s instructions doesn’t come naturally to most of us, so we are unhappy at times. The children of Israel complained about their suffering in the wilderness because they trusted neither Moses nor Jehovah to take care of even their needs. Ironically, this very mistrust was the source of their misery.
Just as He cared for the Children of Israel, the Lord responds to our unhappy grumblings by sending two types of happiness: natural (meant by quail) and spiritual (meant by bread). The flavorful quail corresponds to the natural feelings of pleasure that come from doing a good deed—sometimes for selfish reasons. The Lord provides these positive feelings to motivate us, even when we aren’t feeling loving, to sustain us during times of struggle.
While sustaining us with feelings of happiness (quail), the Lord also offers bread, corresponding to unselfish, spiritual happiness. Tasting the bread corresponds to genuinely enjoying serving the neighbor, authentic good feelings not mixed with self-gratification. The bread is satisfying and nutritious; quail was tasty, but the bread was life-giving. The bread corresponds to the happiness of heaven, which the Lord provides each of us.
Here is the catch: you cannot generate these simple, good ideas yourself. The bread was impossible to store and it is impossible to provide ourselves with heavenly life. The test for the children of Israel was to collect only as much as was needed for the day and to trust that the Lord would feed them again tomorrow. Bread stored overnight became putrid and full of worms. This is a picture of what happens when we lack trust in the Lord and His Providence.
Happiness comes from the daily journey. We are filled with heavenly happiness when we gather true ideas from the Lord’s Word and make them part of who we are, when we do what the Lord teaches because we acknowledge Him as God. The Lord understands there are times when the bread is difficult to eat, when it seems tasteless, dry and unpleasant. In those times, the lower delights, represented by the quail, serve to motivate us to continue acting in a good way. These actions form a container into which the Lord can rain down the bread of life and its heavenly happiness.
“Whatever spiritual qualities a person acquires in the world remain with him or her after death.”
Heaven and Hell
Discovering inner health and transformation
. . . bad apples . . .
. . . bad avocados . . .
What makes these things so bad? Sure, a fruity disappointment is one thing, but human beings are so quick to describe something as bad. From a theological standpoint, what makes something “bad”?
Everyone has ideas about the difference between a bad thing and a good thing. Emanuel Swedenborg discusses this often in his theological works, where he talks about the impact of God’s love and how people can feel heavenly happiness in their own lives. But before things can go from bad to good, he says, we have to understand what makes those two things different from a spiritual perspective.
To be truly “bad,” Swedenborg says that beings must be free and able to choose rationally between things that will make them happy in good ways or bad ways. In this scenario, “bad” refers to things that are harmful to those around us (in Swedenborg’s theology, this is what evil means), but that we choose anyhow because it benefits us personally: selfishness, greed, riches—any love that serves the self more than other people.
Objects, however, can’t make that choice. A knife is great while it’s serving a constructive purpose. But when it’s used to harm someone, it is an awful weapon. Swedenborg says that objects cannot be inherently good or bad—they are good or bad depending on how people use them. People are the only things that can be good or bad, depending on the choices they make freely. Someone must decide, without being forced one way or another, to use something for good or bad ends—to either serve selfish loves or serve heavenly and neighbor-loving ones.
“Why, then, ‘tis none to you, for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” — William Shakespeare, Hamlet
Anyone who comes into contact with dogs knows that they make their own decisions—what their owner wants is not always as important as their own instincts. They see a squirrel, and they choose to either run after it and risk their fate to an owner-enforced consequence, or stay and miss the chance to catch that darn squirrel.
However, when a dog jumps up on the counter to eat some fresh-from-the-oven chicken pot pies (or twelve chocolate cupcakes, from personal experience), it’s hard to blame the cute little beast that just had a hankering for some food. Why is it so hard to blame them? Swedenborg writes that in order for one to truly be free to make a choice, they must also be rational.
Rationality is an important concept—it means that people are able to weigh decisions, looking at cost vs. benefit, taking in long-term effects, looking at impact on other areas of life, and being able to be more objective and look at the whole picture rather than just a snapshot. This is why some teenagers seem to make bad decisions. (“Don’t they ever think about the consequences of their decisions?!” says every parent in the history of teenagers.) People have to grow into their ability to consider options objectively and make decisions rationally. This is also why it’s hard to blame dogs for their decisions—they don’t have that rational, considerate type of brain.
Swedenborg asserts that human adults are the only beings that can look at situations and make entirely free and rational decisions. And even adults aren’t always reliable in the rational decisions department—look at most reality TV shows, where the rational brain tends to take a backseat to emotional outbursts. People are only human—prone to mistakes and assumptions. Dogs are not only not human, but tend to be prone to decisions that hurt the people (or squirrels) around them. They aren’t “bad,” just accident-prone, because they lack the rationality to make clear decisions.
Humans: This is the hardest part, because it involves freedom, rationality, self-awareness, choice, and perspective.
To figure out if a choice is working toward bad things or good things, Swedenborg says that human beings must look at the effects of a decision on their life and the lives of the individuals around them. This means that if someone’s goal is to get their own way in everything, their version of happiness would be to control or manipulate others, to advance their careers at the expense of others, to make money without worrying about the effects their business decisions will have on others. Swedenborg would call these hellish types of happiness.
Now, Swedenborg recommends personal goals that lead toward heaven, as the negative goals lead more toward separation from God and heavenly joy. If someone’s goal is to be “good,” they have to look at the decisions they make and see if the effects are good—does the decision make other people happy? Does it make people happy in good ways, positive ways that lead toward that heavenly happiness we talked about earlier? Does it add positive things to life, or does it tear down positive things?
Whether we chose the negative ends or the positive ones, the cycle is a never-ending one of regeneration—looking for truth, bringing that truth into our life, deciding what our goals are, and making decisions that lead toward those goals. This involves lots of rational ideas, like self-examination and looking at the true happiness of the people around us. No easy task!
However, Swedenborg states again and again that this hard process has the potential for so much love and happiness. People are able to be much happier because they can choose with freedom and rationality and continue to build on their choices to grow closer and closer to God. They can grow to have more and more heavenly happiness (or evil delight), which means they have the potential to be united with the Lord.
Looking back, it’s easy to see that:
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.
Not everyone is born with a sunny disposition, but commentators tend to suggest we can all learn how to bring more meaning and satisfaction into our lives. From an academic perspective you have some control over your own emotions because personal choice, genetics and life circumstances all interact. It seems to be generally agreed that as long as one’s basic financial needs are met, any increase in wealth is not an important factor in making you happy.
“Money can’t buy happiness, but it can make you awfully comfortable while you’re being miserable.” (Clare Boothe Luce)
So what does make us happy?
Who doesn’t like being well thought of by others. Take this to the extreme and you find vain people basking in the praise of others. For example there is the celebrity who craves the public gaze for the pleasure of being admired. There are those who are happiest when their ego is massaged in ways you might find objectionable like the inner-city gang leader who is pleased when followers show “respect” by kow-tow-ing and giving subservience.
“If your happiness depends on what somebody else does, I guess you do have a problem.” (Richard Bach)
Other people in the limelight recognise they need the esteem of others if they are to be successful: like film actors who are cast in productions because of their reputation and popularity. For some of them, the praise they get may simply be a means to an end, rather than an end in itself.
There are people who enjoy getting their own way and, in whatever walk of life they happen to find themselves, strive for a position of power over others. History is full of tyrants who have taken delight in being cruel, expressing contempt or getting revenge towards those who oppose them.
Yet, are there not also some politicians and leaders of industry who enjoy the power they wield mainly for the sake of getting useful things done?
“The day the power of love overrules the love of power, the world will know peace.” (Mahatma Gandhi)
Who does not enjoy good food and drink, sexual pleasure, rest and comfort? However an addiction to these pleasures can mean they no longer provide relaxation and refreshment for living one’s life to the full in valued roles. The enjoyment of the addict only lasts until the next fix.
The spiritual philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg comments that a deeper happiness that lasts does not come from external pleasures of the world which of themselves are lifeless and soon dull the senses. Instead it comes from doing something useful for oneself and for others. Unless this is part of one’s life, pleasurable leisure alone becomes empty and wearisome.
“True happiness… is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.” (Helen Keller)
Swedenborg goes on to point out that what makes us happy depends on what we most love – what we most want in life. In line with his writing, I would suggest there are four main types of motivation which can be thought of in terms of:
1. attachment to the physical side of life,
2. self-centred love,
3. concern for others
4. love of the Divine spirit of what is good and true.
By this Swedenborg means being worldly: setting one’s heart on wealth, excessive consumption, and neglecting loving commitment in favour of the pleasures of sexual infidelity, and sacrificing moderation in favour of greed. In Buddhism, ultimate happiness is only achieved by overcoming craving in all forms.
We might think we can be happy by thinking first about oneself: asking “What’s in it for me”. This might mean not caring about anyone unless they are your ally: not really being concerned about the business at hand except in terms of what one wants for oneself: helping others solely for the sake of one’s own reputation: and through self-pride failing to recognise the useful contributions of others.
A Harvard Business School study found that “spending money on others actually makes us happier than spending it on ourselves”. However, Swedenborg’s idea of concern for others is more general than giving to charity and also includes an interest in doing what is good and useful to the community for its own sake.
I would suggest that insofar as we are doing things for the sake of what is good and right for our community then we are being led by the Divine spirit. From the perspective of a religious person, the source of all that is human happiness is a God of love. And so such a person is interested in being led by God’s spirit rather than in being led by his own or her own inclinations. We might wonder if this is the reason why research shows that happier people are more likely to be religious.
I do believe that we cannot of ourselves create the kind of deep happiness that will endure all the hardships and difficulties of ordinary living. Happiness has to flow into us from its Divine source. But to receive it we have to face the right direction.
Happiness for the self-centered and worldly-minded person is a pale reflection of happiness experienced by the person who is concerned for others and is willing to be led by the divine spirit of good and truth.
My recommendation is that we face away from what we each know in our hearts is bad. In so doing we will be facing the right direction to receive the inspiration of creativity, hope, and discernment and thus the spiritual gifts of peace, contentment and joy.
Copyright 2014 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems
THE LORD IS WITH YOU WHEREVER YOU GO
A Sermon by Rev. Brian W. Keith
Preached in Glenview, Illinois
April 10, 1988
“Be strong and of good courage: do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).
Being alone, truly alone, is a terrifying experience. When there is no one we can rely on, no one whom we can call and even talk to, we feel cut off – as if we don’t belong anywhere. And when we feel that we are without friends or family, we know fear. We know fear because we feel helpless – as if no one cares, as if the hurdles we face are insurmountable.
The Children of Israel knew this loneliness. They had journeyed for forty years in the wilderness. Everything had been provided for them – the strong leadership of Moses, manna for food, and the Lord going before them in the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night.
But now their routine was coming to an end. They had reached the Jordan River, entrance to the land of Canaan. The Lord would no longer lead them openly as before. The manna would cease. And Moses, their patriarch, had just died. They felt terrified of what lay ahead, and all alone in the face of difficult struggles. Could they leave the old ways behind? Could they overcome their enemies? Would the Lord help them as before?
The Lord then called upon Joshua, and after renewing His assurance that they would inherit the promised land, charged him saying, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
They did not have to be worried. They did not have to feel desolate. They did not have to feel alone. For whatever happened, the Lord would be with them wherever they went. Or as the Psalmist wrote, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me” (139:7-10).
The Lord’s presence can bring comfort and courage. It can remove the sense of loneliness; for whatever may happen, the Lord will always be there. His love is so all encompassing that it will never be taken from us. It will never cease to be with us. And the Lord’s presence can strengthen our spirits, renewing our youth like the eagle’s. It lifts us up that we may have the power to do what is right, to speak what in true. We can be strong and have courage, be unafraid and hopeful with the assurance that we are never alone, for the Lord is with us wherever we go.
But how is the Lord with us? Where can we find Him? How can we sense His presence? Sometimes it is easy to feel His presence. Worship can do this for us (see AC 904). As we sing familiar hymns, say the Lord’s Prayer (and others), or sit quietly in church and reflect upon what is being said about the Lord, He can seem to be right next to us. It is as if by closing our eyes we can reach out and touch Him. And this is powerfully so when we are affected by the innocence of a child at his or her baptism, the love between a couple at their wedding, or the serenity of a holy supper service.
We can also feel the Lord’s presence in the Word (see AC 8652, 9378). As we read it, perhaps we are affected by the mercy of the Lord in the New Testament, the strong moral commands of the Old Testament, or the wonderfully reasonable explanations of the truth found in the Writings. We see and feel the Lord as we allow those ideas to flow into our minds, creating a magnificent picture of the Lord’s purpose for us – a heaven from the human race.
We might also sense the nearness of the Lord when we are at peace or feeling heavenly joy (see AC 9546). Perhaps after some frantic activity we sit outside on our porch, enjoying the solitude and beauties of nature. We are moved by what the Lord has created; it is marvelous in our eyes. We feel that He is there.
And the Lord’s presence is especially felt in all that is good (see AC 904, 2915). He is good itself, and resides in everything happy, productive, and positive. Our delight in justice – a good day’s work receiving a fair wage – is a delight in the Lord’s good. Our affection for our family, the time spent in the give and take at a meal, indicates the closeness of the Lord. And the joy we experience when we know something we have done has helped another reveals the Lord’s presence.
These are some of the ways in which we can feel the Lord is with us wherever we may go. But there are also many less obvious ways in which the Lord is constantly present with us. He is invisibly within, the source of all life (see AC 2706). He is the Vine; we are the branches. If He withdrew from us for even a brief moment, we would have no life at all.
His providence is also like a silent current, gently guiding us through the sea of life (see AE 25e). He foresees and is prepared for every least possibility. He leads us a step at a time that we may freely reject what is from hell, and receive what is from heaven. He knows how hard we need to be pushed, and how much mercy we require that our tender lives may flourish and grow.
And He sends His angels over us, to keep us in all our ways (see Psalm 91:11). Unbeknownst to us, His love directs them to be with us at all times (see AC 5992). They inspire a confirming certainty in the truths we know, and a desire to act charitably. They moderate our affections, attempting to turn us away from evil and to what is good. When evils confront us, they call forth our heavenly affections and our true ideas, setting them in array that we may fight against hellish influences.
In these, and numerous other obvious and hidden ways, the Lord’s presence is with us. We are never alone. We are never abandoned. We are never without Someone who loves us and takes care of us.
This was powerfully shown in the story of Elisha and the Syrians. The Syrians were attempting to invade Israel and entrap their army- Elisha perceived their military plans and revealed them to the Israelites. The Syrian king assumed that one of his inner circle was betraying him. Upon being told it was the prophet Elisha who was providing the information, he sent his soldiers to capture or kill him. They surrounded the city of Dothan, and Elisha’s servant was terrified to discover their hopeless situation. They were defenseless. They would die.
But was Elisha worried? Not at all. He said, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them” – an amazing statement. The servant could plainly see they were badly outnumbered. Then Elisha allowed him to see ‘the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around [him].” And when the Syrian army came down they were struck with blindness and easily led into capture.
Why did the servant not see the army protecting Elisha? He lacked strength and courage. He was afraid. He did not believe that the Lord was with him wherever he went. But Elisha knew that “nothing at all could harm people whom the Lord is protecting, not even if the whole of hell were surrounding them, both from without and from within’ (AC 968). The Lord’s presence affords Divine protection that stands against all, that defends against any problem.
Such protection is ours as we receive good into our lives (see AC 9049:6; HH 550; AE 556:8). To the extent that we are attempting to become better people, the Lord is nearer, giving us more and more protection against the hells. For ‘love to the Lord and charity to the neighbor has this effect, because they who are in this love are more closely conjoined with the Lord, and are in the Lord, because they are in the Divine which proceeds from Him; hence nothing of evil can reach them’ (AC 6370). Nothing of evil can reach them – the good protects them.
This is why the Lord said we are to turn the other cheek, for protection is ours if we do not respond with anger or hatred. It is only when we leave the Lord’s protective arms by being selfish and concentrating too much on worldly things that we open ourselves up to evil.
What this means is that we have nothing to fear! As we strive to do what is right, there is nothing at all that can harm us! Nothing in this world or the next can take away what is truly important or vital to our life or the life of loved ones. As the Lord is with us, we are immune to evil.
But does this mean that life will be easy? Of course not. Consider the Lord. Certainly the Divine was always with Him, but He suffered more than anyone else and eventually was crucified. Was this a tragedy? No. In spite of what happened to Him, He was protected from all harm. His life was victory, not defeat.
Think also of Joseph. The Lord was with Him. Yet he was hated by his brothers, sold into slavery, and unjustly cast into prison. He could have felt alone and given up. But by his following the Lord in the face of misery, the Lord was able to save the Hebrew people and lay the groundwork for the establishment of the Israelitish Church in the land of Canaan. The Lord’s presence and protection was then seen in hindsight, for it was always there.
And in our own spiritual growth, although the Lord is always with us, His presence will not prevent attacks from hell (AC 5036:2, 8227). In fact, the anger of the hells will be unleashed because they sense that the Divine is with us. They will inspire doubts. They will lead us to think we love evil. They will create natural and spiritual difficulties that may appear overwhelming.
Will the Lord’s presence and protection prevent this? No, but it will lead us through the problems that we may not be defeated. As the Psalmist said, “the steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down, for the Lord upholds him with His hand” (37:23, 24).
We can pray to have our eyes opened to all that the Lord’s presence is doing for us, even as the servant’s eyes were opened to see the horses and chariots of fire protecting Elisha, so that we feel “those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Although we may experience problems, the Lord is ever caring for us and guiding our footsteps. If we fall, we will not be utterly cast down. For nothing can harm those who trust in the Lord.
So let us be strong and of good courage. Let us not be aftaid nor dismayed. For the Lord our God is with us wherever we go. Amen.
Lessons: Joshua 1: 1- 19; H Kings 6:8-23; AC 5992
Arcana Coelestia 5992
The angels, through whom the Lord leads and also protects a man, are near his head. It is their office to inspire charity and faith, and to observe in what direction the man’s delights turn, and insofar as they can without interfering with the man’s freedom, moderate them and bend them to good. They are forbidden to act with violence and thus break the man’s cupidities and principles, but are, enjoined to act gently. It is also their office to rule the evil spirits who are from hell, which is done in innumerable ways, of which the following only may be mentioned. When the evil spirits pour in evils and falsities, the angels insinuate truths and goods, which, if not received, are nevertheless the means of tempering. Infernal spirits continually attack and the angels protect; such is the order.
The angels especially regulate the affections, for these make the man’s life and also his freedom. The angels also observe whether any hells are open that were not open before, and from which there is influx with the man, which takes place when the man brings himself into any new evil. These hells the angels close so far as the man allows, and remove any spirits who attempt to emerge therefrom. They also disperse strange and new influxes that produce evil effects.
Especially do the angels call forth the goods and truths that are with a man, and set them in opposition to the evils gnd falsities which the evil spirits excite. Thus the man is in the midst. and does not perceive either thc evil or the good, and being in the midst, he is in freedom to turn himself either to the one or to the other. By such means do angels from the Lord lead and protect a man, and this every moment, and every moment of a moment; for if the angels were to intermit their care for a single moment, the man would be precipitated into evil from which he could never afterward be brought out. These things the angels do from the love they have from the Lord, for they perceive nothing more delightful and happy than to remove evils from a man and lead him to heaven. That this is a joy to them, see Luke 15:7. Scarcely any man believes that the Lord takes such care of a man, and this continually from the first thread of his life to the last of it, and afterward to eternity.
EFFECTIVE HOPE AND EVERLASTING TRUST
A Sermon by Rev. J. Clark Echols, Jr.
Preached in Denver, Colorado, on June 26, 1983
“Wait silently for God alone, for hope is from Him … Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your heart before Him…” (Psalm 62:5, 8).
For what should we hope? In what should we trust? Obviously we should hope for salvation, and trust in God. And notice that we all have this hope now, and that leads us to trust in the Lord, even though hope applies to future things – what we would like later – and trust applies to the present – we want to trust the Lord now. We know this is true because as the Lord fulfills our hopes, we gain trust in Him.
Hope is commonly defined as a desire that we expect to be fulfilled. And trust is commonly said to be a confidence in someone or something. If this is so, why are so many hopeful people disappointed and hurt? And where is the evidence that our faith brings protection if we trust in it? And a final question: The Psalmist says that the Lord is “good to all and His tender mercies are over all His works” (145:9). What kind of mercy is it to let people’s dreams be destroyed by, say, a violent storm? What kind of mercy allows faithful, trusting people to suffer, not to mention allowing the innocent to starve, the young to die needlessly, the old to languish. There are answers to these questions in the Word, where we find that the hopes that are dashed and the trust that fails are not the hope and trust that are God-given. That is what the Word shows us: that genuine hope and trust are given to us by the Lord, not made up or manufactured by us.
What we are to do is to live according to the dictates of the Word at the same time as we are in the hope and trust that the Lord will save us. We are supposed to acknowledge that we do nothing good of ourselves at the same time as we feel assured by the hope that the Lord will grant us an understanding of truth from which we can live a good life. We are supposed to acknowledge that we bear the responsibility of the choice between good and evil at the same time as we trust that the Lord will lead us to do only that which is good and believe only that which is true.
Genuine hope is not simply the desire to have our expectations fulfilled. It is not a vague wish that things will go as we would like them to. That wish could be based on an evil desire; or we could be ignorant of what is best for us; it could go against what the Lord would have us hope for. When this kind of hopefulness is denied, it quickly fades, and we simply replace it with a new wish. It is a weak and temporary kind of hope. Genuine hope looks to what is eternal, so it never fades. It is given to us by the Lord, so it is most powerful. At the foundation of genuine hope for salvation is the promise the Lord has made that He will come to us and that He is in the constant endeavor to save us. That is His work. And we feel His work in us as a perception and assurance that the Lord helps us in our times of deepest despair – during combats of temptation.
We are not always conscious of it, but the Lord is very near us in states of spiritual struggle. If we continue to hope and trust in Him, and turn to Him, He can temper our despair with the hope of deliverance. Without Him there is no deliverer, no hope. He gives us hope in the realization that the purpose of temptation is that we will be saved and will receive heavenly happiness. Therefore, the hope we feel is His power working within us. Genuine hope is the Lord’s answer as He flows into us with the power of His glorified Divine Human. In so casting evil out of our minds, the Lord fulfills our hopes and earns our trust.
The danger in temptation, of course, is that we will lose hope and fail to trust. We do not readily feel the Lord’s help. In fact, we are most aware of the spiritual pain brought about by the hard choice before us. This mental, spiritual pain rules our thought, and anguish is our primary feeling. Yet in all this the Lord still maintains our ability to choose – that is His constant gift. It is His continual presence, in whatever state we are, that makes our freedom possible. We must make the choice – He cannot do that for us. Yet He does give us something of a perception of His presence. This perception is the hope He gives us, the hope He establishes. And it brings us consolation that our salvation is being wrought in us.
Now, the Lord wants to give us His hope, and He wants us to learn to trust Him. His Divine mercy will grant them to us when we have in us the vessels to receive them. These vessels are His truths, confirmed in our daily life. And so it is in His Word that we find the fulfillment of our hopes and the foundation for our trust. This hope continues with us to the farthest limits of despair; it is a hope that is not merely a desire for something we want; rather, it looks to our salvation and eternal welfare. In this hope we have a firm answer to doubt, despair, fear and death, for it is not limited by what we have or what we don’t have, or by the grave, but looks beyond it. It is not man- made, but applied to us by the Divine mercy of the Lord Himself.
Such genuine hope establishes real trust. Our hope for salvation, our hope for our future, establishes a trust in the Lord – that He is helping right now on our journey to heaven.
Consider for a moment trusting in the Lord to lead us to everlasting peace, joy and fulfillment. That has to be the greatest trust we can have. It is not simply confidence that our desires will be granted. It isn’t simply faith. if we believe that our faith alone saves us, our trust will be limited, and often too weak to stand up in times of natural or spiritual trial. When faith is not used in life, it is not saving; when it is, it becomes charity, which does save. We all must beware of the false sense of security merely having the faith can give us. If our trust in the Lord consisted merely in having faith in our memory, then all we would have to do is await salvation from the Lord, with our hands hanging down. This inaction does not reflect trust. In fact, such apathetic irresponsibility is what has led to the starvation, death and injustice that happens to the innocent and faithful that we wrongly ascribe to the Lord’s inaction.
Genuine trust in the Lord leads us to act from our faith. We trust that the Lord will guide our steps as we strive consciously to follow His path to heaven. Real trust is a faith that originates from charity in our will, from the sincere desire to do what is good. When we live according to the truths the Lord has shown us, then we are really placing our trust in Him. The ultimate of trust is to stake our eternal happiness on the truthfulness of what He says.
As we hope in the Lord, we uphold our responsibility to flee from evils and do goods, and we are given a lasting trust. This trust stays with us even in the midst of temptation. Like genuine hope, real trust is a force from within whereby we are able to resist evil. And notice the cycle here: as we become aware in ourselves of a willingness to submit ourselves to the Lord, even in temptation, He brings us victory and a perception of the security we have in Him. As we apply this perception of truth to our lives, He then inflows into our will with even more power, increasing our trust in Him. Therefore, every time we actually, with conviction, submit ourselves to our trust in the Lord, He comes with more and more power to cast evil out of our minds, to enlighten us, and to fill us with joy.
This trust endures throughout all the trials and tribulations of life on earth. We are taught that “for those who trust in the Divine, all things advance toward a happy state to eternity, and whatever befalls them in time is still conducive” to that eternal state (AC 8478). Such people do not blame the Lord for their temporal woes. They have the greatest confidence that the Lord will, if they let Him, use everything that happens to further their reformation and regeneration. These have genuine trust in the Lord.
Hope and trust in the Lord are not so hard to attain in this life. Actually, mere obedience to the Lord’s laws, the ten commandments, requires trust in the Lord, and implies our hope for salvation through obedience. Beyond this obedience it is our responsibility to come to see that we have hope and trust solely because the Lord’s Divine mercy affects them in us, and because they are the Lord’s to give us (see AC 30). The Divine mercy is applied freely to all, and is always effective for those who abstain from evil. The Lord’s mercy is of His Divine love which is constantly striving to lift us up if we allow Him to. Thus, the Lord grants His mercy not according to the doctrine we know, but according to the doctrine we live, that is, the charity we are practicing.
The Word teaches, then, that all real hope and trust are from the Lord, and are given to us from within. If our hope is in our salvation, then whatever we hope for will be granted. If we have trust in the truth we see working in our lives, we will always feel secure. The Lord has made this promise, and desires to give us these gifts. As we respond to His promise with a life of fleeing from evils and doing goods, out of the pure mercy of His Divine love the Lord will grant us eternal happiness. So hope and trust are gifts greatly to be desired.
As it is written in the 27th Psalm: “Though an army should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident. One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple” (v. 3, 4). Amen.
Lessons: Psalm 62, AC 8478
Arcana Coelestia 8478
 As in this verse [Exodus 16:191 and the following verses in the internal sense care for the morrow is treated of, and as this care is not only forbidden but is also condemned (that it is forbidden is signified by that they were not to make a residue of the manna till the morning, and that it is condemned is signified by that the worm was bred in the residue, and it stank), he who looks at the subject no more deeply than from the sense of the letter may believe that all care for the morrow is to be cast aside, and thus that the necessaries of life are to be awaited daily from heaven; but he who looks at the subject more deeply than from the letter, as for instance he who looks at it from the internal sense, is able to know what is meant by “care for the morrow.” It does not mean the care of procuring for one’s self food and raiment, and even resources for the time to come; for it is not contrary to order for anyone to be provident for himself and his own. But those have care for the morrow who are not content with their lot; who do not trust in the Divine but in themselves; and who have regard for only worldly and earthly things, and not for heavenly things. With such there universally reigns solicitude about things to come, and a desire to possess all things and to dominate over all, which is kindled and grows according to the additions thus made, and finally does so beyond all measure. They grieve if they do not obtain the objects of their desire, and feel anguish at the loss of them; and they have no consolation because of the anger they feel against the Divine, which they reject together with everything of faith, and curse themselves. Such are they who have care for the morrow.
 Very different is the case with those who trust in the Divine. These, notwithstanding they have care for the morrow, still have it not, because they do not think of the morrow with solicitude, still less with anxiety. Unruffled is their spirit whether they obtain the objects of their desire or not; and they do not grieve over the loss of them, being content with their lot. If they become rich, they do not set their hearts on riches; if they are raised to honors, they do not regard themselves as more worthy than others; if they become poor, they are not made sad; if their circumstances are mean, they are not dejected. They know that for those who trust in the Divine all things advance toward a happy state to eternity, and that whatever befalls them in time is still conducive thereto.
[41 Be it known that the Divine Providence is universal, that is, in things the most minute, and that they who are in the stream of Providence are all the time carried along toward everything that is happy, whatever may be the appearance of the means; and that those are in the stream of Providence who put their trust in the Divine and attribute all things to Him; and that those are not in the stream of Providence who trust in themselves alone and attribute all things to themselves, because they are in the opposite, for they take away providence from the Divine and claim it for themselves. Be it known also that insofar as anyone is in the stream of Providence, so far he is in a state of peace; also that insofar as anyone is in a state of peace from the good of faith, so far he is in the Divine Providence. These alone know and believe that the Divine Providence of the Lord is in everything both in general and in particular, nay, is in the most minute things of all, and that the Divine Providence regards what is eternal (n. 6491).
 But they who are in the opposite are scarcely willing to hear Providence mentioned, for they ascribe everything to their own sagacity; and what they do not ascribe to this they ascribe to fortune or chance: some to fate, which they do not educe from the Divine but from nature. They call those simple who do not attribute all things to themselves or to nature. From all this again it can be seen what is the quality of those who have care for the morrow, and what the quality of those who have no care for the morrow.