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Switch to Forum Live View Does God help you make decisions?
5 years ago  ::  May 20, 2012 - 10:03PM #1
Mercyonme
Posts: 38
I just need to chat about this.  Obviously Baha'i and Christian culture are different.  I am curious about the Baha'i view of how/when God intervienes in a person's life.  I'm not even necessarily talking about in prayer, but just in our every day communication with Him.  For example, in Christian culture it is very common to hear people say "God is really telling me to [fill in the blank]".  I even know some people who base numerous actions on waiting for God's imput. I know a lady who works with children and is fabulous in what she does, but she'll tell me that she waits to figure out certain pieces of her work for God to tell her what to do.

I just have never experienced this type of communication with God in Baha'i communities.  How does one make sense of this?  Is it just not typical Baha'i lingo or is the idea that God speaks to us in our daily routine kind of odd? 
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5 years ago  ::  May 21, 2012 - 3:03AM #2
Lilwabbit
Posts: 3,409

May 20, 2012 -- 10:03PM, Mercyonme wrote:

I just need to chat about this.  Obviously Baha'i and Christian culture are different.  I am curious about the Baha'i view of how/when God intervienes in a person's life.  I'm not even necessarily talking about in prayer, but just in our every day communication with Him.  For example, in Christian culture it is very common to hear people say "God is really telling me to [fill in the blank]".  I even know some people who base numerous actions on waiting for God's imput. I know a lady who works with children and is fabulous in what she does, but she'll tell me that she waits to figure out certain pieces of her work for God to tell her what to do.

I just have never experienced this type of communication with God in Baha'i communities.  How does one make sense of this?  Is it just not typical Baha'i lingo or is the idea that God speaks to us in our daily routine kind of odd? 



Dear Mercyonme,


Welcome to Bnet and the Bahá'í Boards!


Thank you for your relevant and clearly articulated question. I find myself chatting with my Maker every day, and being personally inspired and informed about His Will for my life. The power of personal inspiration by the Holy Spirit is very much an essential component of the Bahá'í Faith. Perhaps we don't talk about it so much because it is so private and precious (talking about it somehow "cheapens" it), and because talking about one's personal relationship with God sometimes carries an air of boastfulness and hypocrisy which we are so clearly advised against. This personal conversation with God and His personal guidance in our daily lives, is primarily derived from the Word of God -- either spontaneously in the midst of our daily routines, or systematically through the study of the Holy Writings. But Bahá'u'lláh is also clear that the human frame, no matter how noble and spiritual, is far too limited to withstand direct contact with the Sun of Reality (God), inasmuch as even the earth cannot withstand direct contact with the physical sun without being pulverized in an instant. But the earth can indeed feel directly the heat of the sun and receive its light from the brilliantly measured distance of its orbit. The rays of the sun is what we understand as the Holy Spirit and which are primarily relayed through the Word of God. Bahá'u'lláh gives a clearly-worded warning:


"They should in no wise allow their fancy to obscure their judgment, neither should they regard their own imaginings as the voice of the Eternal."

(Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, CLX, p. 336)


So in addition to the theological problem which I explained in the above, there's also a serious practical dilemma which often causes anxiety for a sincere and God-loving Christian who believes that some of the voices within represent some direct divine revelation. Namely, such faith usually suffers from an underlying confusion and uncertainty about the true Will of God for oneself. One can never be absolutely sure whether the Inner Voice is one’s own whim, imagination, wishful thinking, selfish desire or God Himself speaking. The Inner Voice may tell you rather confusing and silly things on different occasions.


The Bahá'ís believe that the Bible is, by and large, the Word of God, even if not fully authentic in its historical preservation of the exact original words of God. However, we also believe that the guidance it offers, just like the Qur'án, is not sufficient for mankind in our present day and age. Progressive revelation is a central Bahá'í tenet. It is, therefore, understandable to us how people who rely solely on ancient books of God's revelation (albeit containing many eternal truths) wish and indeed hanker after further guidance from God to their daily lives. Since the acceptance of a full new prophetic revelation from God is not an option, such believers often resort to mysticism and belief in personal divine guidance by listening to the "still voice" within. While the still voice often speaks truth derived from our deepest insights gleaned from the Word of God, it still leaves us confused.


Hence, I daresay with some confidence that you will not find most deepened Bahá'ís similarly privately "worried" and "confused" about the Will of God to each one of us personally, nor do you find that they have a compelling need to either tell themselves or, worse yet, to show others "how very personally God loves me and guides me." Why? Since we feel that the Word of God revealed through the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh is itself so perfectly all-encompassing, extensive and comperehensive, that it really provides us very personal answers as to what we should do today, tomorrow and every day of our lives under any given life circumstance. The daily reading of the words of Bahá'u'lláh, the daily reminders of the various duties to serve mankind He so clearly inculcated, and the wise counsels of the Bahá'í institutions He Himself reared, each and all help us to find very specific guidance as to what we should do today, tomorrow and all the days of our lives. There's simply no need to start listening to inner voices for the purpose of further guidance. The purpose of reflection and spiritual meditation lies elsewhere for the Bahá'ís, namely in the need to ever deepen our understanding of His already revealed Will and His already revealed truths.


I often find Christians as well as some Bahá'ís talking about "feeling" a connection with God. Personally I make a clear distinction between "emotional" and "spiritual" connection.


Having grown up in a Persian Bahá'í pioneer family, I was exposed since childhood to stories about the great martyrs and heroes of the faith and the suffering and adamance of Bahá'u'lláh. I was also taught to recite and to reflect on His Writings (obviously mere recitation is not enough). Even the accounts of my own family-members who had met with Bahá'u'lláh had passed on and were collected by Bahá'í historians. My great grand-uncle Ustad Ali-Akbar was hacked to death with a pick-axe and thrown into a public well for not recanting, and my great-grandfather Muhammad Sa'adati wrote down some rather remarkable first-hand observations from his meeting with Bahá'u'lláh. Since a kid, me and my sister used to peep through a keyhole while my grandmother was praying. We would hear the chanting from the outside and see her tears (happy tears) flowing and her face beaming with radiance. The fervour, the purity and the devotion of her prayer left a great imprint and bequeathed a great model of prayer which easily withstands comparison to the other great religious traditions.


In short, a certain fire was awakened at young age that simply hasn't died. It has rather grown fiercer. Every time I read the words of Bahá'u'lláh I realize how the same fire is fuelled further. My personal connection to Bahá'u'lláh is through His word. It is a silent fire. A silent conviction of the truth, power, wisdom and love of God conveyed in Bahá'u'lláh's words. The same sensation occurs while praying Bahá'u'lláh's prayers with attention and without distraction, and while seeing the beauty of God in nature and in other people. Sometimes this fire produces a powerful and moving outward "feeling". Other times the fire doesn't "feel" like anything. Yet it's always there. Haunting, lingering, teasing, reminding, disciplining, inspiring. I just don't believe God is a feeling. Bahá'u'lláh was very clear on God being beyond all feeling and all things that we humans define as "connection". Yet, while saying that He assures that God is closer to us than our jugular vein. Even Bahá'u'lláh's Person is "other-worldly" in a rather similar way. To be directly "feelable", Bahá'u'lláh Himself would have to be something less than what He claims. Those (including my own ancestors) who met Him in person, however, reported extremely powerful experiences that transformed them for life and infused them with unbreakable faith. For more easily accessible personal connection, however, Bahá'u'lláh gave us His son 'Abdu'l-Bahá. The sort of person-to-person "love affair", if you will, that most long-standing Bahá'ís have as an element of their Faith, is usually with the person of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. The connection is somewhat similar to what many Christians feel with the person of Jesus. A personal connection with 'Abdu'l-Bahá is a great, consoling and soothing addition to the faith of God, but I do not believe it is *necessary* for true conviction, or for the fire of faith to burn in our hearts, or for personal guidance to be received in our lives.


Bahá'u'lláh revealed that God is "closer unto all creatures than they are unto themselves". Therefore, if and when one hears voices from within, Bahá'u'lláh assures that God Himself is even closer to us than that, and that such voices therefore must be either the workings of the living Word of God, or personal fancy. The certainty comes only from referring back to Holy Writings which cover all aspects of life, and willingness to put aside one's "feelings" if the Holy Writings disagree with them.


Kind regards,


LilWabbit

"All things have I willed for you, and you too, for your own sake."
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5 years ago  ::  May 21, 2012 - 3:32AM #3
Lilwabbit
Posts: 3,409

Here are some famous words of Bahá'u'lláh (famous for the Bahá'ís) on the nature and power of prayer and meditation on the Word of God:


Intone, O My servant, the verses of God that have been received by thee, as intoned by them who have drawn nigh unto Him, that the sweetness of thy melody may kindle thine own soul, and attract the hearts of all men. Whoso reciteth, in the privacy of his chamber, the verses revealed by God, the scattering angels of the Almighty shall scatter abroad the fragrance of the words uttered by his mouth, and shall cause the heart of every righteous man to throb. Though he may, at first, remain unaware of its effect, yet the virtue of the grace vouchsafed unto him must needs sooner or later exercise its influence upon his soul. Thus have the mysteries of the Revelation of God been decreed by virtue of the Will of Him Who is the Source of power and wisdom.

 

(Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, CXXXVI, p. 295)
"All things have I willed for you, and you too, for your own sake."
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5 years ago  ::  May 21, 2012 - 8:41AM #4
Mercyonme
Posts: 38

Thank you so much for such a thoughtful response.  You hit upon a number of even my unasked questions.  I will tell you that I have struggled SO MUCH with my connection to God and have never thought about the difference between an emotional vs. spiritual connection.  I guess I have believed that our emotions WERE our spirit in many ways, although it makes sense to separate them given that often our emotions are chaotic and often inaccurate.


Can you talk more about what a spiritual connection would look like?  After all, if that's what we're really looking for, then it would be important to know what it really means.


I will say that my struggles are not in what my heart believes.  I am a Baha'i.  I declared 16 years ago.  I have come and gone through many communities, some which were rich in Baha'i activity and some where I am completely isolated.  Right now I am completely isolated.  I'm a single mom of 3 and live in an extremely Christian atmosphere.  Having no personal qwalms against Christianity and Jesus, I believed that the more "Godly" people I could surround myself and my children with, the better.  However, it has been a very difficult road in keeping my outward belief system in tact.  No one knows I'm Baha'i--because that would ostracize me completely -which I can't emotionally afford.


When I read about what your ancestors went through to stand firm for their faith, as well as stories of others, I am flooded with shame, guilt, and personal loathing.  I know that my desire to understand Jesus and Christianity is good.  I have learned a lot and feel there are aspects of the Baha'i Faith that have a new light.  I have always felt like a crappy teacher and believe that understanding Christianity better will help me in the future.  But now, all I want is to get out.


Anyway...much oblidged on the reply:-)

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5 years ago  ::  May 21, 2012 - 9:16AM #5
Lilwabbit
Posts: 3,409

May 21, 2012 -- 8:41AM, Mercyonme wrote:


Thank you so much for such a thoughtful response.  You hit upon a number of even my unasked questions.  I will tell you that I have struggled SO MUCH with my connection to God and have never thought about the difference between an emotional vs. spiritual connection.  I guess I have believed that our emotions WERE our spirit in many ways, although it makes sense to separate them given that often our emotions are chaotic and often inaccurate.


Can you talk more about what a spiritual connection would look like?  After all, if that's what we're really looking for, then it would be important to know what it really means.



Dearest Mercyonme,


Your candid openness and honesty is a breath of fresh air. Never shy away from telling your fellow Bahá'ís what is troubling your heart. We're all struggling with different issues and we all are learning to see them as blessings in disguise.


I can only offer my humble and imperfect views as to how I distinguish between emotional and spiritual connection. Feelings come and go. Even feelings of emotional connection with another person, no matter how dear. True love doesn't come and go. It is deeper awareness. Emotional faith, due to its erratic nature, needs regular boost by inspirational sermons, affirming music, holy ambience and solemn atmosphere. For me, these things certainly help, but also I can't help but regard them as rather superficial and vulnerable criteria of faith. By the way, the following Bahá'í music video by Devon Gundry has a powerful emotional effect for someone in distress (and obviously also an important spiritual content):


www.youtube.com/watch?v=_cod5qIiq1w


Contrary to feelings, true love requires no maintenance. True faith requires no emotional pay-offs. Sometimes one can see God in pleasure, but other times we learn to see God in the very essence of pain.


"But for the tribulations which are sustained in Thy path, how could Thy true lovers be recognized." (Bahá'u'lláh, Prayers and Meditations, XCII, p. 155)


"The companions of all who adore Thee are the tears they shed, and the comforters of such as seek Thee are the groans they utter, and the food of them who haste to meet Thee is the fragments of their broken hearts." (Bahá'u'lláh, Prayers and Meditations, XCII, p. 155)


Spiritual conviction is deeper, quieter, calmer, more persistent, more reliable, than an emotion. It is ultimately spiritual awareness and knowledge. But it is not "intellectual" knowledge. Having said that, 'Abdu'l-Bahá is quite clear on the fact that even "the heart cannot find rest" in a belief that "does not conform to reason." Spirituality and rationality go hand in hand. In Bahá'í Faith, they shouldn't be pitted against one another.


But since we're on the topic of personal testimonies, I find it is this silent spirituality that gives me the strength to go on and better myself everyday. It is this silent spirituality that makes me sometimes declare to God, in the quiet confines of my own thoughts, that if it is Your wish that I die in Your path, then I will accept it with a smile.


I believe this fire that I feel is the same fire that burnt with far greater heat and brightness in the hearts of the early Christian, Muslim and Bahá'í martyrs. For myself I've noticed that this fire is only fuelled by the recitation and reflection of the words of Bahá'u'lláh. And even then, only when I do it without any expactation of emotional pay-off and personal reward.


"So enravish me with the wonders of Thine utterances that the noise and distraction of this world may be powerless to deter me from turning unto Thee, and may fail to shake my constancy in Thy Cause, or to distract my gaze from the horizon of Thy grace." (Bahá'u'lláh, Prayers and Meditations, LXIX, p. 114)


Living in a deeply judgmental Christian environment must be a challenge. Wisdom is indeed needed and you should never feel even a moral obligation to walk down the street and shout with all your might "Ya Bahá'u'l-Abhá, you blind ones, your Lord hath indeed returned!" That would be sheer idiocy (as true as the statement may be). Cool


Even Bahá'u'lláh advised his most vocal followers (Mullah Rida the great learned Bahá'í teacher and martyr was one of the most famous of them in Persia) to exercise wisdom and not ask for trouble for trouble's sake. Yet, obviously if someone hostile to other religions asks what is our faith, neither should we shy away from telling the truth. Divine confirmations will surely descend from such courage. As Bahá'u'lláh says: "The source of courage and power is the promotion of the Word of God, and steadfastness in His Love." (Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 156) Or as He says in the Kitáb-i-Iqán (p. 194) concerning true spiritual seekers: "He should not hesitate to offer up his life for His beloved, nor allow the censure of the people to turn him away from the Truth."


When you're going through hard times, assure yourself that the Bahá'is have been always violently persecuted and will continue to be persecuted for quite some time, and indeed such persecution has ever been the very fuel of our Faith. Understanding Christianity (or rather the particular denominations prevalent in your neighbourhood) better will of course always be helpful, but so does realizing that some people are simply not receptive to the Faith and we shouldn't waste time on them. Perhaps these words of Bahá'u'lláh will help to console you and assure you of the invincible power of the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh which is, day by day, being increasingly witnessed by more and more people the world over.


"Be of them whom the tumult of the world, however much it may agitate them in the path of their Creator, can never sadden, whose purpose the blame of the blamer will never defeat." (Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings, CXXIX, p. 280)


"Say: O people of God! Beware lest the powers of the earth alarm you, or the might of the nations weaken you, or the tumult of the people of discord deter you, or the exponents of earthly glory sadden you. Be ye as a mountain in the Cause of your Lord, the Almighty, the All-Glorious, the Unconstrained." (Bahá'u'lláh, cited by Shoghi Effendi in The Advent of Divine Justice, p. 82)


"When victory arriveth, every man shall profess himself as believer and shall hasten to the shelter of God's Faith. Happy are they who in the days of world-encompassing trials have stood fast in the Cause and refused to swerve from its truth." (Gleanings, CL, p. 318)


With most loving Bahá'í regards to my Bahá'í sister across the miles,


Will keep you in my prayers,


Wabbit

"All things have I willed for you, and you too, for your own sake."
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5 years ago  ::  May 21, 2012 - 5:00PM #6
Mercyonme
Posts: 38

You are a blessing to my heart.  If you could only know my story, you'd understand how valuable what you've shared is for me.  I have understanding now of where my spiritual struggle was coming from.   How, after all, could I be completely sold out for Baha'u'llah, yet struggle with feeling connected.  How could I JUST KNOW that His Truth is my truth, yet feel like I need to continue searching to fill my soul? 


I don't know if you have ever experienced being an isolated Baha'i, but for me it is simply torture.  My children are 9,6, and 2, and my eldest said to me "I don't want to be Baha'i, I just want to be normal."  and to her, that meant being a Christian.  


We had been attending a church with a fabulous pastor who speaks eloquently on Divine Truth.  Yet what you are saying about needing regular boosts is so true.  I was finding that when we went to the services, we felt good and strong, yet that would slip away as days passed.  I find myself never wanting to go because the "high" is great while we are there and then there is a huge let down that follows.  I've been rescuing myself merely with thoughts of Baha'u'llah and the Truth that is always with me.  


What I can say was severely lacking when I declared my Faith the Baha'u'llah was help from other Baha'is to deepen.  I need that community and connection.  I'm not sure how to fill that need, but understanding that there is a difference between the emotional and spiritual connection will aid me greatly in my persuit.  I have to go now, but look forward to carrying on this conversation with you.


-Sarah

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5 years ago  ::  May 21, 2012 - 9:10PM #7
Ironhold
Posts: 12,363

May 21, 2012 -- 5:00PM, Mercyonme wrote:


You are a blessing to my heart.  If you could only know my story, you'd understand how valuable what you've shared is for me.  I have understanding now of where my spiritual struggle was coming from.   How, after all, could I be completely sold out for Baha'u'llah, yet struggle with feeling connected.  How could I JUST KNOW that His Truth is my truth, yet feel like I need to continue searching to fill my soul? 


I don't know if you have ever experienced being an isolated Baha'i, but for me it is simply torture.  My children are 9,6, and 2, and my eldest said to me "I don't want to be Baha'i, I just want to be normal."  and to her, that meant being a Christian.  


We had been attending a church with a fabulous pastor who speaks eloquently on Divine Truth.  Yet what you are saying about needing regular boosts is so true.  I was finding that when we went to the services, we felt good and strong, yet that would slip away as days passed.  I find myself never wanting to go because the "high" is great while we are there and then there is a huge let down that follows.  I've been rescuing myself merely with thoughts of Baha'u'llah and the Truth that is always with me.  


What I can say was severely lacking when I declared my Faith the Baha'u'llah was help from other Baha'is to deepen.  I need that community and connection.  I'm not sure how to fill that need, but understanding that there is a difference between the emotional and spiritual connection will aid me greatly in my persuit.  I have to go now, but look forward to carrying on this conversation with you.


-Sarah




[not Baha'I, but invited to post here]


The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (aka "Mormons") makes it point to encourage its members to perform certain activities to help keep them going during the week.


Members are asked to say daily prayers, both personally and as a family.


Ditto for scripture study: read a little bit personally, and then more as a family.


Monday nights are flagged for "Family Home Evening", which is supposed to be an evening for family bonding and learning.


Wednesdays are youth activity nights at the church. In fact, the church is one of the top sponsors for the Boy Scouts of America, and most LDS congregations in the US have at least one registered BSA troop.



It might be time for you to begin integrating some of these into your daily life.


Do you pray? If so, do you pray regularly? Do your children see you do so?


Do you read your scriptures or other sanctioned works? Do you do so regularly? Do your children see you do so?


Parents are a much bigger influence on the lives of their children than they are often inclined to believe. One of the biggest things that can hurt a child is to see their parents profess a belief but not actively follow it. This might be why your kids are looking elsewhere: they haven't personally experienced what it is that you feel to be so valuable in the faith.



As far as testimonies go, suffice to say that there is no scientific or medical reason I should be alive right now. I've survived things that would have killed a normal person several times over, and routinely shrug off what should be debilitating or even crippling injuries. And that's before one considers the fact that I'm a marked man; so many critics of the LDS faith see me as a threat that the big boys keep coming out to play and I've received threats of violence.

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5 years ago  ::  May 21, 2012 - 9:59PM #8
Mercyonme
Posts: 38

You are absolutely right.  I grew up with divorced parents--of different faith backgrounds--who rarely, if ever, showed what their faith meant to them.  There was no consistency in prayer or any other meaningful ways of forming a relationship with Him.  Trying to incorporate those things into my life are exeedingly difficult since it was never really a part of mine growing up.

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5 years ago  ::  May 21, 2012 - 10:12PM #9
Ironhold
Posts: 12,363

May 21, 2012 -- 9:59PM, Mercyonme wrote:


Trying to incorporate those things into my life are exeedingly difficult since it was never really a part of mine growing up.




Time to start then, eh?


Try it every once in a while. Pray a bit. Read a bit.


Then in time, work on making it a more consistent part of your routine.

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5 years ago  ::  May 21, 2012 - 10:35PM #10
Mercyonme
Posts: 38

I'm learning to pray.  (Love for Lilwabbit to jump in here).  I ocasionally said a prayer growing up, but never really understood it.  It was one of the few spiritual type things we did.  (One-was saying the prayer before bed, the other was long, drawn out conversations with my mother about parables)...


Anyway.  I had never truly prayed until I became a Baha'i and had a prayer book.  Shortly after I declared as a Baha'i (at age 18) I got quite sick and prayed a lot, but with, I believe, selfish desires.  (which I won't elaborate on here)...but I only prayed from the prayer book.


I eventually started to ebb and flow with connection and disconnection to the rituals of the Faith.  Being in a Christian community now, Prayer is most often non-scriptural and is more of a conversation with God using your own words.  Funny, how many of the words used in Baha'i prayers come out in my Christianese.  "O God, my God" and "The All-Knowing, the All-Wise" fell effortlessly from my lips in many prayers.


My son learned the O God, Guide Me prayer when he was about 3 and will combine that with "Have a great day, God" when he is asked to pray at Christian meal times.


I guess what is hard for me is that I am a feeler/knower/romantic type person and finding the right words are often difficult for me when it comes to teaching my kids about matters of God and spirituality.


~Sarah

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