Do you ever feel an overwhelming desire to experience the transcendent, the numinous, the Godly?
One of the most important aspects of the search for God is the desire for God. Clearly, if we want to attain something, we need to have a desire to attain it–we need to want it. The more we want it, the more likely we will attain it–for this desire will fuel our quest.
In many areas of life, desire is often the sole and sufficient means for the attainment of an objective. Despite our best attempts to get educated and trained, and learn the best methods and approaches, without the burning desire to achieve something, we will not attain our goal.
The same is true in the quest for God. As we know, in order to find God we need to relinquish our obsessive desires for the things of the world, for they stand between us and the Creator. Correspondingly, we need to kindle our desire for Him. Speaking as the voice of God, Baha’u’llah tells us:
O Son of Earth! Wouldst thou have Me, seek none other than Me; and wouldst thou gaze upon My beauty, close thine eyes to the world and all that is therein; for My will and the will of another than Me, even as fire and water, cannot dwell together in one heart. – The Hidden Words, p. 33
Every heroic story tells of this desire-fueled quest. Just as Frodo Baggins woke every day to persevere in his quest to destroy the ring, we too wake every day and continue in our quest for God, no matter what stage in the quest we find ourselves. As Baha’u’llah advises us: “At the dawn of every day he should commune with God, and, with all his soul, persevere in the quest of his Beloved.” — Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 265.
When we develop that desire, our perseverance can grow so intense that God becomes our one and only object, for “the true seeker hunteth naught but the object of his quest, and the lover hath no desire save union with his beloved.” — Baha’u’llah, The Seven Valleys, p. 7.
When we make God our priority, we direct our attention, our energy and our efforts towards Him, and away from the things of the world that draw us from Him. This does not imply any form of asceticism, but rather, living a life enjoying the blessings of this world, but with our attention and affections focused primarily on the mystical reality of the Supreme Being.
But this desire for God is not easy. The desire for God does not come effortlessly – it does require great effort:
Labor is needed, if we are to seek Him; ardor is needed, if we are to drink of the honey of reunion with Him; and if we taste of this cup, we shall cast away the world. – Ibid.
We often think that desire should not be tainted by force but should come naturally and sincerely. But what happens if we don’t have the urge to draw closer to God? All of us probably have the experience of knowing that God is our ultimate salvation and that we want to be closer to him, but at the very same time, we resist striving towards Him.
That’s the human condition—torn between two worlds: the spiritual, and the material. Our soul yearns for the world of the spirit, but our body and mind, being immersed in this temporary physical world, are drawn to its comforts and pleasures. So when we feel like this, we have to want to want to be closer to God.
In these moments, when the world succeeds in wilting our innate desire for God, we rely on the will. As Abdu’l-Baha explains:
God Himself does not compel the soul to become spiritual. The exercise of the free human will is necessary. – Baha’u’llah and the New Era, p. 131.
This means that we cannot wait until the desire for God comes to us. Consciously and with great effort and sincere prayer, we can summon the will to desire the spirituality and the transcendence that God represents. Eventually, with a consistent spiritual discipline, it will come more naturally to us. Although we need to exert ourselves in the search for God, this effort will inevitably reward us with glimpses of His beauty—and once we glimpse that beauty, we will ever so naturally relinquish our grip on the world and turn more effortlessly towards Him:
Only when the lamp of search, of earnest striving, of longing desire, of passionate devotion, of fervid love, of rapture, and ecstasy, is kindled within the seeker’s heart, and the breeze of His loving-kindness is wafted upon his soul, will the darkness of error be dispelled, the mists of doubts and misgivings be dissipated, and the lights of knowledge and certitude envelop his being. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 267.
Through prayer, meditation and service we can constantly kindle this desire for God.