The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.
Living in the West African town of Zwedru our family faced multiple challenges with disease and poverty. Malaria, for example, made the difficult task of having to lug water from the local well very painful.
The dictionary defines lack as a particular deficiency or absence. We had our fair share of lack, but not for failing to do. Mom worked very hard. But the modest checks she received for being the best nurse within a hundred miles usually came four months late. So we learned to get by, with more than a few things lacking. We did not lack a belief in God, because in that crucible of lack, we learned to pray. Not enough food to eat? We prayed for sustenance:
Lord! Pitiful are we, grant us Thy favor; poor, bestow upon us a share from the ocean of Thy wealth; needy, do Thou satisfy us; abased, give us Thy glory. The fowls of the air and the beasts of the field receive their meat each day from Thee and all beings partake of Thy care and loving kindness. Deprive not this feeble one of Thy wondrous grace and vouchsafe by Thy might unto this helpless soul Thy bounty. – Abdu’l-Baha
Suffering from yellow jaundice or malaria? We said prayers for healing:
Thy name is my healing, O my God, and remembrance of Thee is my remedy. Nearness to Thee is my hope, and love for Thee is my companion. Thy mercy to me is my healing and my succor in both this world and the world to come. Thou, verily, art the All-Bountiful, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise. – Baha’u’llah
Fearing for our safety, after thieves broke into our home twice, and the country began to descend into the chaos of civil war? We prayed for protection:
I entreat Thee by Thy power through which Thou didst protect Thy loved ones from the wayward and the perverse, and from every contumacious oppressor, and every wicked doer who hath strayed far from Thee, to keep me safe by Thy bounty and Thy grace. – Baha’u’llah
Yes — we did a lot of praying. Did we get answers to our prayers? Always. Did we get what we requested? Rarely. Mostly, we felt God’s reciprocal response in our hearts. He gave us the power to go on and grow. We sought His help as we strove to understand and comply with what we understood to be His will. As a result we grew and came to know more fully this powerful truth:
“The essence of faith is fewness of words and abundance of deeds.” Baha’u’llah, (Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 156).
Now, ironically, as an adult working in my financial profession, the people I deal with inquire about ways to become wealthy. Most often they look for the perfect investment — “Russell, tell me the one place to put my money and have it grow.”
I try to tell them about selecting and painstakingly cultivating their capabilities in service to humanity, and living below the income their services generate, so they may have the means to invest. We talk about selecting and monitoring professional money managers. We explore the beautiful process of instilling discipline and developing discernment. Those that “get it” understand, with effort, that they can obtain what they plan for and work toward. However, the actual fruits of the process appear only after the initial leap of faith and with a willful effort over time — much like prayer.
Coming to know the existence and effects of God involves a process of cultivating insight and wisdom – not just hearing the perfect elegant argument. Faith, in that sense, becomes our most important investment, which requires a measure of up-front effort and commitment to belief, when palpable evidence seems scarce or even contradictory.
Several excellent intellectual arguments prove the existence of God – but having just attended a funeral, I am struck by the compelling simplicity of the proof in this statement: we all return to our maker. This simple axiom of life, while readily forgotten and constantly overlooked, seems absolutely inescapable. Humans have wildly divergent lives, but we all have one thing in common — every physical life, without exception, comes to an end. The Torah illumines the point:
By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” – Genesis 3:19
The realization of mortality leads everyone to the obvious eternal questions: Is there a God, and is there life after physical death? The Baha’i teachings tell us yes – that we have an immortal soul destined to spiritually progress throughout all the worlds of God.