Trust vs. Certainty

God doesn’t make bad things happen

Do you wonder how God can allow so much evil and destruction in the world? When you face challenges in your own life do you wonder if God is there? Is there a reason things happen the way they do? Are you being cared for?

It is important to understand that God doesn’t punish people. God doesn’t will evil to anyone. God doesn’t hurt people. A family lost a child in a terrible accident. Two church leaders came to their door to offer their condolences. They said that they felt great pain for the family, but they also added, “This was God’s will,” and that, “we don’t always understand why God does what God does, but we must accept God’s will.” What a terrible thing to say! I’ve heard stories where this has happened to people, unfortunately more times than I can count. I don’t know where this idea came from. I’m sure it didn’t come from God.

God is pure love

God is pure love and never wishes harm to anyone. The idea that it is God’s will that bad things happen to people is not only misguided but potentially devastating. How can people love a God who wishes them ill or has hurt them? The New Church teaches that God wills only good for all his people. There is nothing more important to our Creator than for every one of us to have as much happiness and fulfillment as humanly possible. When bad things happen, God feels our pain, is very present with us, and works to bring out the best in a bad situation.

What we must remember is that God takes the long view. His goal is not to give us temporary and perhaps superficial and fleeting comfort in this world, but rather looks to our eternal welfare.

God Brings Good Out of Everything If We Let Him

bad-things-happenSwedenborg says it is impossible to see God’s Providence in the face, as it is happening, but that we can see it when we look back in reflection on the past. In other words, in times of crisis it is very hard to necessarily sense that God is present and working to bring good out of a bad situation. However, when we look back at such times we can often see the gentle hand of God at work.

Look at the horrible act of terrorism of September Eleventh, something so far from God’s will and even more horrible to be committed in God’s name. However, the love and charity that poured out of all people, not only in the United States, but around the world, was astounding!

The cynics say that this was temporary and fleeting, but didn’t a part of us change forever? Or, at the very least, did we not have that opportunity presented before us in this horrific time in our lives? God didn’t make this event happen or will it, but God didn’t abandon us. God was there in a huge way, working through the same human freedom and choice he gave those terrorists, but now the choice of thousands was love and compassion, and a resolve to rid the world of such hideous efforts.

In times of tragedy we may not be able to see immediately that God is there, leading us to peace and comfort, and so much more. However, we can rest assured that this world has been set up in such a way that all can be bent and turned toward good.

The choice for good is always present

God provides constantly that the choice for good is always present, and continually lifts us up from our pain and our doubt to freedom to live and love again. The real question is, can we trust this? Can we find the good, or at least pursue it, and allow the force of love and life to lift us up? When we do this we can heal and even grow. And this growth is eternal.

There is an invisible and gentle current in each one of our lives that can peacefully carry us to happiness and heaven. It is always there for us, whenever we want to let go and trust the way. Even in what might appear as the worst of times, that stream is flowing and can carry us to all things blessed. We can trust that we are being cared for, that our eternal happiness is the most important thing God has in mind for us, and that all of creation flows toward this end. Our choice is to believe this, accept it, and freely choose it. Wade into the stream. Relax, and enjoy the ride.


This article was edited from Grant Schnarr’s book, You Can Believe. For more on this subject, see the New Church Connection issue of “Why do bad things happen”, as well as the book Why Does God Let It Happen? by Bruce Henderson.

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Heaven and Hell 271

Build trust — How to help my organisation.

Do you trust senior members of your organisation to get it right or to be a credible source of information? Do you trust the constant stream of commercial messages and political spin to which you are exposed.  What can be done to help to build trust?

Benefits of trust within an organisation and community

Organisational and community life is not risk-free and depends on an appropriate degree of trust. Trust makes social life predictable, it creates a sense of community, and it makes it easier for people to work together.

“Trust makes the world go ’round,”

Where there is an element of distrust between neighbours over social nuisance issues or between local tradesmen and customers, then there is damage to community cohesion. Whatever the type of organisation you are associated with, you will probably know that to try to build trust among its members, stakeholders and users is crucial for things to go well. Significant distrust much increases the time it takes to get things done.

Help to build trust by being trustworthy

Trying to build trust can help the general quality of life so that people can thrive. Be trustworthy by doing what you say you will do and doing it well and on time.  Keep secret what people confide in you and don’t betray the organisation’s confidential information. At the same time talk straight and don’t spin facts, telling the truth even if this is not always comfortable or pleasant. For example own up to mistakes and if caught in a lie admit it explaining why you were less than honest.

Help to build trust by trusting others

Show trust with neither gullibility nor cynicism (see here ) For example getting recommendations before engaging a plumber or electrician but then trusting them to do a good job and not overcharge beyond their estimate. In the last analysis life is not risk-free.

Being a little open speaking your feelings means being a little vulnerable. You can be truthful about how you define a boundary around what you are keeping secret. Honesty helps to create rapport and rapport builds trust. Likewise volunteering information you didn’t have to give. In other words demonstrate your trust in others and they will trust you.

Help to build trust by being generous

Trust grows when mutual commitments are delivered without concern for personal advantage or attempted manipulation or control. So be willing to share your knowledge, your contacts, and your sympathy — without expecting anything in return. The more you take the initiative to give, the more it builds trust.

Help to build trust by making positive contact across social lines

Build trustSince its legal inception in 1921 Northern Ireland has been plagued with violence and dispute. The central problem of mistrust there has been probably caused by a mixture of perceived imperial action by Great Britain,  an entrenchment of the past, cultural clashes and a severe identity crisis.

Research by social psychologists has established that positive contact across social lines when it is frequent non-threatening, non-anxiety provoking, tends to reduce prejudice. This was true in the results of study of students in Northern Ireland who identify themselves as belonging to either the Protestant or Catholic community Friendships across a group divide such as the religious divide, can powerfully reduce prejudice and suspicion. Simply knowing other ingroup members who have friendships with outgroup members can also lead to reduction in prejudice.

Help to build trust by looking for the good in others

According to spiritual philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg there are limits of trust in this world because we are not all in a heavenly state. There are people who increase mistrust due to selfish greed and dishonesty. However he says that people with a charitable heart try to look for the good in others.

I would interpret this to mean, when challenging someone, first speak to what is good about someone rather than overplaying the negative — in other words showing respect even when you are inclined to be critical.

Help to build trust in diversity

Swedenborg says that heaven hangs together as a unified whole in harmony although it shows a huge variety of individual differences between its inhabitants. No two people are ever entirely alike as to their memories, perceptions and thoughts, or to their feelings, inclinations and intentions.  Despite this, because of their heavenly character, they live in complete unanimity and harmony.

Being open

He also describes the heavenly afterlife in terms of openness. In heaven this is said  be as a state of being where one’s inner state is seen by others. So he maintains that the wise ideas and intentions of one individual are directly shared with another.

“Heaven is where everyone shares everything of value. This is because the very nature of heavenly love is to want what is one’s own to belong to another.” (Swedenborg Heaven & Hell section 268)

For him, this love is the basis of heavens trust and happiness.

Copyright 2013 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

Despair – How to conjure up hope?

despairOn an off day, Stuart would privately think that life had little to offer him and he even sometimes felt that all he was doing was going through the motions of living. Money was tight, and in a time of recession there were poor prospects of job advancement. Although working as an estate agent, he had started to despair that he could do anything about finding any way of earning a living in a meaningful role in line with his youthful ideals.

Whatever he did wasn’t satisfying for very long and from time to time the feelings of hopelessness would return. He kept busy and this was his way of avoiding what he didn’t realize was a state of inner despair. He had been an idealist when younger, very keen to help bring about a world where the natural environment was protected, business people were honest, and social justice was the norm.

Now days he felt depressed whenever he read a newspaper or watched a newscast that clearly showed the opposite of his vision. He had switched from being very positive to very negative in his hopes. He was starting to feel like a failure and trapped by his situation, with a reducing willpower left for continuing the struggle with the disappointments of daily living.

How can someone like Stuart change this state of despair and find something to give hope and energy?

Despair resulting from lack of belief

There is nothing wrong with having a vision of a better world. Many of us like Stuart have imagined a human society uncorrupted by warfare and other social evils; or a natural environment with its beauty not exploited by greed; or a community of mutually supportive people with real concern for the public good, that gives everyone a sense of belonging and being included. Whatever idea of the future that excites us, it can serve to energise our best efforts.

I feel Stuarts’s problem however was that he had no deep belief to sustain his endurance when set-backs and adversity got in the way: nothing to hold on to that had the power to transform society: no spiritual framework of ideas to sustain his youthful vision, to give it credibility in the long run as an achievable objective, and to enable his wishes to survive a rational appraisal of what is possible. When there is nothing on which one can pin one’s hopes, then despair is likely to be the result.

If you despair, in what can you put your faith?

In other words, I am trying to argue that what is crucially needed is something beyond oneself, that transcends the material realm, and in which one can put one’s faith: an entity greater than oneself: that goes beyond the ‘little me’ with my petty concerns: that offers a timeless vision of life.

The way you think affects the way you feel. This is a psychological process known about by psychologists and used in CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy). Consequently, it is key to examine whether the belief that sustains your hopes is a reasonable one. Stuart’s despair seems to come from his denial of any divine spark within and beyond humanity that could help us think further than self.

But how to be convinced? How to find a rational faith that could challenge the setbacks and illusions that destroy hope? The illusions of meaninglessness, alienation and self-condemnation?

Persuasive belief and despair

One answer comes from the spiritual philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg. He writes about a limited type of belief that results from being persuaded by some ideology such as a political or religious teaching: often this is a belief of convenience so our attitudes unconsciously fit in with those of our family and friends. He claims that it is possible for such a belief to be  part of the thinking mind, but not also part of the feeling heart: if so he says it cannot endure. For example being persuaded that it is wrong to steal cannot transform a person from being a robber at heart unless there is a desire to be honest, so that thought and feeling are in harmony. Incongruity between head and heart accounts for the hypocrisy seen in some of the history of religion including Christianity. It can also account for lost hope and despair.

Swedenborg contrasts persuasive belief with a genuine faith in a higher power. He maintains real faith is to do with trust and confidence: it is knowing in your heart with an inner conviction for example that there is a divine providence behind the universe beyond all the ability of material science to observe. So just how can one find such an inner conviction that sustains hope? What do you do to be convinced deep down?

Despair or receiving confident hope through faith

Swedenborg’s answer is that such a faith is a spiritual gift – not something we can create for ourselves but rather something that we can receive: a gift only for those who are ready to receive it: who are willing to give something of themselves in order to receive.

But give what? Things that occur to me are:

  1. Giving an open mind to the possibility of a higher spiritual power that we can source to change things for the better,
  2. Giving the time to try to understand what this would mean,
  3. Giving our effort to try to lead a way of life in line with what we are persuaded is true.

If all this is correct then to find confidence in justice and peace, one needs to attempt to act  fairly with others. Likewise to have a deep trust in a creative force within the universe, one needs to oneself start nurturing the natural environment. Also to believe in the reality of the power of compassion, then one needs to begin practicing a caring attitude towards those with whom we come into contact. I believe this is the way to receive the gift of inner conviction.

Without confidence and conviction there can be no sustainable hope. Without hope there is despair.

“Give and you will receive”
“Search and you will find”
(Jesus Christ)

Copyright 2014 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

Suspicion – How to overcome it?

Do you give the man in your life a warm embrace in order to sniff for any strange perfume? Or scroll through your partner’s phonebook, when she’s not around, checking for any new male contacts?

suspicionSigns of sexual jealousy in others may sound funny but if you are the one experiencing suspicion it can be very distressing. It may need some spiritual healing.

Like when one feels both afraid, yet compelled, to search through one’s lover’s trouser pockets or purse for any incriminating evidence. Of course the distrust may be well-founded or on the other hand completely unwarranted.

Having a general attitude of suspicion

Not all distrust is to do with possibly being cheated on. You may be the sort of person who often feels uneasy and wary of people in general. The suspicion is that they will seize on your mistakes and try to blame you for absolutely anything that goes wrong. So you get in the first blow finding fault in their behaviour. It is as if aggression were the best form of defence.

Having a distrust of the world can be unpleasant because we continually need to check out if people are doing us down. In addition, having suspicion about others, we do not easily form personal relationships; for to get close to someone would involve putting ourselves in a vulnerable position where we might get hurt. We do not want to risk them betraying us if we start to depend on them. Yet keeping ourselves to ourselves we feel lonely.

Reduce suspicion by looking for the good in others

I would say that the key to a trusting attitude is to look for the good and concern in those we encounter and deal with the faults of others as gently as with our own. We are in a state of peace inside only when we are seeking or finding peace around us. Looking for the good in others may mean for example making an effort to understand the other person’s point of view. By becoming more aware of where he or she is coming from, we then give ourselves a better chance to more accurately distinguish between innocent remarks, fair criticism, as opposed to things said only in anger of the moment, and hostile put downs.

Using your will to overcome suspicion

Looking for the good in others when we usually look for the bad in them requires an effort of will. We do not often find the idea of `will’ in modern psychology. One exception is in psychosynthesis psychotherapy created by Roberto Assagioli.  According to Assagioli everyone can have, or has had, the experience of freely willing but possibly not with full awareness or understanding. He said that people vary in the extent they explore, develop and use their will to develop their life.

Finding a new heart is a crucial part of our spiritual healing.  A charitable heart is looking for the good in others and valuing them for the potential good they can do. It means treating others as oneself. This is universal advice. As Jesus said: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.” Likewise the Buddha said “Hurt not others with that which pains yourself”  and we find similar advice in the Hindu tradition that says “Treat others as you would be treated yourself”. If you are suspicious by nature yet believe in love and light as the divine force behind the universe so you can convince yourself that finding a new trusting heart is quite possible.

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

Posted on18th March 2011CategoriesHealing emotions, Spiritual healingTags, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,, , ,

Patience – how to find it?

Had some of the less successful dualists of Europe three centuries ago been less impetuous, they might have a lived a longer life. The role of men acting as their seconds was to urge them to have some patience in resolving their dispute and to wait a while longer before starting the violence. Often such was the passion for defending ‘honour’, the good advice was to no avail.

patienceWe no longer fight duels. But how many of us could find more patience when stuck in a traffic jam, confronted by a rude customer we should be serving, or being faced with delay due to a queue going through airport security? We do tend to want immediate pleasure and get tense waiting for appetite to be satisfied, for boredom to be reduced, or for any frustrated desire to be met.

Psychologists have known for a long time about the power of ‘immediacy of reward’. When given a choice, all animals, humans included, are inclined to favour short term rewards over long term rewards even when the latter involve greater benefits. We often want something now and having it later is no good.

The effects of not having patience can be increased heart rate and bodily tension and of course the accumulative result is mental stress. If you get upset when things don’t work out for you straight away then getting angry can make the situation worse. How then can you learn to calmly endure hardship? How to find a way to wait longer for what you want without blowing a fuse?

Realistic expectations and patience

Studies have found that these days online users are no longer patient after as little as two seconds while waiting for a video to start playing. Users who are connected to the internet  at faster speeds have less patience than their counterparts connected at slower speeds. This suggests a link between patience and the expectation of when we are likely to get what we want.

We assume things and people ought to behave the way we think they should behave. That person at the head of the queue should not be engaging in small talk with the cashier. But people often don’t live up to our expectations.

If we are unrealistically optimistic in when we expect something then we are more likely to feel frustrated and so less likely to remain calm. Conversely, if we were to have lower expectations then perhaps we would be more patient whilst waiting. It helps to expect occasional delay, difficulty, or annoyance in life.

Distraction and a patience

It also helps to be get things into perspective. For example when eating alone at a restaurant and waiting for longer than usual for food to arrive, your mind may be focused on the appearance of the waiter. If so you are probably not feeling patience. You could try to distract yourself with something else to think about that actively engages your mind. For example noticing anything that is interesting, pleasing or good in the situation around you. Or reflecting on something positive and hopeful in your life. Make it something vitally interesting in order to lend it the power to tear yourself away from your preoccupation with what is frustrating you.

Time passes much more quickly when we are creatively absorbed in something and much more slowly when we are not. Thinking about a matter more important than what we are wanting at that moment helps you also to recognise that what you had been waiting for isn’t crucial to your happiness. Is it really the end of the world if you cannot make the beginning of the meeting because of the heavy traffic or the absence of a parking space near your destination? These considerations may help to calm the sense of urgency you felt about obtaining something straight away.

Spirituality and patience

Sleepwalking through life means behaving like a robot in the sense of acting in line with habits, and automatic thoughts. This often results in a lack of patience when things don’t go right. On the other hand a mindfulness practice is to make a conscious choice and effort to pay attention to everything that is going on in consciousness. Is your mind calm or agitated? Is your body relaxed or tensed? This awareness includes recognising any lack of fortitude.

All the faith traditions hold patience as a virtue. In Buddhism, being patient is the ability to control one’s emotions even when being criticized or attacked.

In Judaism patience reflects a contented attitude to life and good sense rather than folly.

In Islam it is believed that patience is part of the natural flow of life – needed for waiting for the harvest. To patiently endure calamity and suffering is to be closer to Allah.

Swedenborg and patience

Spiritual philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg has something to say about patience. His view is that with all the frustrations, set backs and hardships of life no-one can find a deep sense of patience in their own strength alone.

However, he writes that we can endure the temporary trials of life with a more patient attitude when we have a deep trust in a higher providence: this is can be thought of as a reliance on a universal spiritual force that has the power and foresight to provide what we need; the priority of this divine providence is said to be to satisfy not so much our immediate needs which often are temporary ones but rather those spiritual needs that we will continue to have in the long term – needs for example for belonging, loving relationship, and meaningful role.

Thus what counts for Swedenborg is our hope and trust in this image of the Divine Source: an image that is lovingly active in providing for us all – if we co-operate in the process. I only hope I can remember to try to open myself to this sphere of contentment when  tempted next by impatience.

Copyright 2014 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems