Personal crisis and spiritual growth

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.

Personal crisis and spiritual growth

 A crisis is simply defined as a time of intense difficulty or danger, when important decisions are made which may determine the outcome of everything that follows. It is a time when we may feel extremely alone, and ask ourselves: Will my life ever be the same? How will I handle the things I must do? Is there any hope for me in this situation?

The New Church has many hopeful and comforting teachings that support and comfort those in crisis.

One is everything happens for a reason. God does not will anything bad to happen to anyone, but permits a crisis to occur when He knows for certain that good things will come to each and every person who is involved. We may not understand this noble truth in a time of crisis or temptation, but we are taught that even the most difficult experiences in life can lead to spiritual growth. The work Divine Providence says in our darkest hours, when we feel most alone, the Lord is nearest to us, encouraging us to hold our course toward what is right.

Another teaching is we are born for a purpose that extends beyond our life in this world, for our life continues after death in a similar fashion as we lived in the world.

Our life after death is enhanced greatly according to the spiritual attributes that we acquire, attributes such as patience, compassion and the ability to love others. Our life on earth can be thought of as a training-ground, where we have the chance to become more spiritual people.

Human suffering and crisis is not in any way part of the Divine plan. In the midst of it, we have the ability to respond according to spiritual principles of love, loyalty and compassion toward others. We can also find solace and faith in a God who cares for us even when it seems we are most alone. These spiritual principles are the very agents of our spiritual growth and rebirth, and in the big picture, the transformation of the world into a better place for all mankind.

https://newchurch.org/

DAILY INSPIRATION

“Charity is like springtime or summertime warmth, which makes grain, grasses, and trees grow. Without charity, or spiritual warmth, nothing grows.”

Arcana Coelestia 1016:2

Plant growth – A lesson in spirituality?

My wife and I have recently taken on an organic allotment plot to try our hand at vegetable and fruit growing. From what I have so far learned, I have been wondering whether plant growth might have something to teach us about the human side of life. What might be the deeper lessons in nature for us in our personal lives?

Weeds

plantThe bane of all gardeners is the weed. Covering the ground, it crowds out the vegetable plant, stealing both its sunlight and the nutrients in its soil. Everyone says one has to be persistent in noticing whenever these wretched things appear. And keep hoeing annual weeds and digging up deeper rooted perennial weeds.

Isn’t it the same in our private life? Bad habits of thought can easily take root in us if we let them.  Our self-orientation attracts all sorts of these self-indulgent, envious or proud ways of thinking. Become too rampant and they are likely to choke out our better side. They have the potential to become the root cause of conflict, revenge, greed, and all the unhappiness.  One needs to be constantly vigilant in turning away from such harmful thoughts.

Soil

compostWe took on our plot at the end of autumn and were told to focus on preparing the ground for the next growing season. This has meant enriching the soil with compost and well rotted manure. We’ve also put in some seeds of so-called green manure which after sprouting will take nitrogen from the air – another way of feeding the earth.

In these ways the gardener hopes to foster vigorous vegetable plant growth and prevent plant disorders associated with malnourishment.

I would say our minds also need nourishing. Parents give children many useful learning experiences. Teachers provide food for thought. Books can provide the reader with enriching experiences. Just as the plant cannot grow without nourishment from the soil, so also our minds cannot develop without knowledge about deeper matters gained from others.

Light

Overhanging trees, which cause shadow on the growing vegetable plant, are not welcome to the gardener. The reason is a plant needs light in order to grow. plantPhotosynthesis is a process used by plants to convert light energy into chemical energy that can later be released to fuel the plant’s activities.

We were advised to create pathways across the plot, rather than walk on and thus compact the soil where the crops will grow. Unlike on the vegetable beds, you can cover the paths with membrane and bark chippings to stop the light there and thus prevent weeds growing.

Here then is another lesson from nature. The importance of light. No one wants to be kept in the dark about something. How could we understand what is going on? Hopefully, this article can help shed light on something for you the reader. Not everyone is willing to see things from a different perspective. But when new light dawns on something of personal significance, it can show us the way forward beyond our difficulties. It energises us with hope and opens up a new avenue.

Warmth

plantThe gardener is aware that plant growth also requires warmth. He or she will protect against frost by covering the ground to keep it less cold ready for planting when the weather improves.   Some seeds are germinated indoors or under cover for the same reason. Plastic cloches cover vulnerable plants to keep the cold wind off.

Isn’t it the same with us? How can a tender mind flourish in a cold and bitter home environment? What person doesn’t need some warmth of affection or come into regular contact with warm-hearted neighbours, friends and work colleagues in their lives?

Pests

Our allotment is on a farm with woodland to one side. With all those trees it is a natural habitat for birds and other wild life. Some plot holders use electric wires or high fences to discourage the badgers from eating their produce. plantPigeons will strip brassicas, fruit bushes and strawberry beds. Employing nets is a good idea to keep birds off as they soon become blasé about scarecrows.

Some insects are also a pain in the neck. They tunnel into crops and feed on plant tissue and ripening fruit. It’s a good idea to encourage hoverflies, lacewings and ladybirds who feed on troublesome aphids such as blackfly and greenfly.

Day to day life for us humans is also not without its trials and tribulations. The key to personal well-being is not the presence of difficulties but how we deal with them. One must do as the gardener and take active measures. How we effectively deal with pests in our day to day lives will vary but it will take an act of will and determination. Perhaps, facing up to worrying issues, fighting against what is wrong, or challenging certain noxious people. Our inner growth means being free from what is destructive around us.

Plant Disease

plantPlant diseases are shown by a variety of signs, including moldy coatings, wilting, scabs, blotches, rusts, and rot. They are caused by fungi, viruses and bacteria. After, if possible, cutting off the diseased parts of a plant, the organic gardening approach is to keep the growing area clean; like cleaning soles of boots, tools, pots, seed trays. Plant debris are cleared away and any diseased material is destroyed.  One of the reason for crop rotation is to prevent the build up of diseases as plants of the same family will suffer the same disorders.

Just as a diseased plant cannot prosper, so emotional sickness can hinder spiritual growth in a person. In tackling plant disease the organic gardener does not use unnatural chemicals. In a similar fashion, states of depression, fearfulness, stress and depression can be reduced without resorting to artificial means; for example by clearing away harmful and irrational ideas, unethical thoughts or unhealthy fantasies from the mind.  This is the opposite of the artificial approach of depending on alcohol, video games or antidepressants to reduce stress.

Conclusion

The gardener has to work hard but in the end it is mother nature that changes seeds into crops for eating. Similarly, we each need to work on our personal growth. Yet, alone of ourselves we cannot bring to life what is good. The organic gardener co-operates with light and warmth to grow the plant. In order to cultivate our spiritual mind, we each need to co-operate with something beyond ourselves. I would suggest this is the light of wisdom and warmth of love that comes from our Divine Source.

Copyright 2016 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

Posted on29th October 2016CategoriesLatest post, Meaning of life, Spiritual meaningTags, , , , , , ,, , , ,

Personal tragedy – How could I face it?

Personal tragedyPersonal tragedy visited Jack. Although in his sixties and retired, he still felt young. His whole life revolved around doing handyman jobs in his own home and in the homes of his three daughters. He greatly enjoyed the company of his family and their appreciation. But recently he was experiencing some troubling ailments.

First he noticed he was getting blood in
his stools. He put this down to
haemorrhoids, a common enough problem in his age group. However, it was when he started experiencing some abnormal bowel complaints that he took himself off to the doctor who immediately did tests. The results were rather worrying. The doctor explained that cancer gives people no symptoms or signs that exclusively indicate the disease and that he should see a specialist immediately for further examination.

Typical fears in response to personal tragedy

We can imagine how Jack felt. He was facing the prospect of taking some powerful drugs with all sorts of uncomfortable side effects. He dreaded the thought of likely skin changes and fatigue due to radiation therapy, and his imagination started to run away with itself as he dwelt on surgery. Would treatment work? Would his body be permanently impaired? Would he die?

How could Jack best deal with his fears? Just how does one face a personal tragedy?

Passive victim role in response to a personal tragedy

Some people respond to bad personal news by becoming a passive victim: repeatedly saying to themselves “It’s not right… I don’t deserve this… I am helpless.” It is as if they see a dangerous animal approaching and instead of doing something about it, they become paralysed. They had always believed the world should be fair and can’t seem to get their heads around the point that sometimes this isn’t necessarily so.

Not everyone allows himself or herself to become a passive victim of personal tragedy even when confronted by the most appalling circumstances. Many of the survivors of concentration camps were able to endure because they refused to give in to feeling victimized. For example Viktor Frankl in Auschwitz, whose basic human rights and possessions were removed, used his one remaining freedom to keep up his spirits. This was the freedom to choose his own inner attitude of mind in response to the outer horrible situation.

Making assumptions about the consequences of a personal tragedy

If you had been sent to a death camp maybe you would have feared the worst. But how would you have known? Assuming you are utterly helpless in the face of fate is a feature of being a passive victim. But no one can know the future. Frankl wasn’t to know whether he would survive or die.

If your baby were deaf, mute and blind, this indeed would be a personal tragedy and you would probably assume the end of the world for your child. But how could you know this? Through exactly this profound disability Helen Keller found an uplifting spirit and fulfilling adult life.

There was a man who had syphilis. His wife had TB. One of their four children dies and the others suffer from an incurable illness that is considered terminal. The mother is pregnant. What should she do? You might say she should have an abortion. If so, you have just killed the composer Ludwig Van Beethoven.

The prospects for anyone may seem dire. But how do you know? How do know what is going to happen in the next hour let alone the next month? Who can be so sure about what is going on around the corner?

“How ridiculous and how strange to be surprised at anything which happens in
life!” (Marcus Aurelius)

Some things will be bad; a few things are exceptionally bad but not the end of the world. And no matter how bad it is, can’t you stand it? Can’t you adapt?

“Man is disturbed not by things, but by the views he takes of them” (Epictetus)

Wanting to cast blame in response to a personal tragedy

In his book ‘Why does God let it happen?’ Bruce Henderson suggests that people often make the mistake of assuming that whatever personal tragedy God permits to happen in the world, he must be the cause. He also criticizes the belief that ill fortune is a deserved punishment for a past misdeed.

He puts forward an alternative religious view that God is like a parent who allows the children freedom to do as they choose even if this means mankind behaves badly at times with tragic consequences. According to this view, trying to impose total control over our behaviour or ways of thinking would stifle us and we would not be free to develop as individuals as we wish but instead turn out like pre-programmed robots.

A loving parent who allows the child freedom to make mistakes is one who wants to help as much as possible giving advice, offering support and encouragement and so on. The religious person trusts that likewise God is a loving parent whose divine providence is flowing into our lives to counterbalance the bad things we are experiencing. In other words it is claimed that a loving God provides some element of hope to make up for misery, some degree of sense to offset foolishness or an inflow of good feeling to compensate for evil.

Just as the child learns through mistakes so spiritual growth can sometimes only happen if first a person has to face and deal with something of personal tragedy.

I do believe that no matter what hardships we endure, God is with us all the time, lifting us up, helping us to find a way through, if we will only be open to this.

Copyright 2012 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems