Lately, circumstances have forced me to accept God’s will rather than try to fight it.
It often takes some form of trauma or abrupt change in life for me to accept that I cannot control everything that happens. Even when I know this intellectually, it often seems difficult to emotionally embrace this reality, breathe through stress and watch things go differently from how I planned or wanted them to go … much less with acceptance and joy.
I’ve been thinking about the idea of surrendering to God’s will rather than clinging to my own, which has come up in my meditations. Recently, a friend sent me an article about “radiant acquiescence” from World Order Magazine, a Baha’i publication. As I read more about what that phrase means, I was blown away by the way the author elaborated on this concept, originally presented in the Baha’i writings:
Acquiescence means to “give in,” to drop resistance, to tacitly agree. Divine acquiescence means to be submissive to the divine will. Everything in nature is acquiescent to the plan of the Universe and works in harmony with it except man. “Radiant acquiescence” means not only to give up your will to the Divine Will, but to do so joyfully and with radiance, knowing it is the best way in the end. The ordinary way of meeting the circumstances of life is to have a negative, passive submission to God’s will and to blame every circumstance that was unfortunate on the “Will of God” and to be unwillingly resigned to this condition and to do nothing to change it. Many become bitter and at enmity with life because of obstacles and calamities, and their faces register discontent and unhappiness. – Orcella Rexford, “Radiant Acquiescence,” World Order, Volume 3, Issue 6.
In the article, Rexford describes the possibilities that open up if you practice radiant acquiescence:
When we are radiantly acquiescent our fears and worries disappear, what we ourselves cannot overcome or accomplish, we place in the hands of God, living in the faith that God can and will make all things well, and as our faith is, so is it always done unto us. When you feel that you live within God’s protection you will never fear, you know you are safe and secure; fully protected at all times and nothing but good can come to you.
If we would only learn radiant acquiescence. Since things cannot always be as we wish them it is better for us to acquiesce to realize that after all in the great Divine plan it may be better for us that they are changed, therefore let us be glad! – Ibid.
Abdu’l-Baha, whom Baha’is regard as the perfect exemplar of what it means to live a Baha’i life, described the powerful effect that operating with radiant acquiescence can have on one’s ability to recognize moments of clarity and spiritual confirmation:
The confirmations of the Spirit are all those powers and gifts which some are born with (and which men sometimes call genius), but for which others have to strive with infinite pains. They come to that man or woman who accepts his life with radiant acquiescence. – Abdu’l-Baha, Abdu’l-Baha in London, p. 121.
When I began to contemplate this concept, my heart filled with excitement and also some slight confusion. While I felt excited about the prospect of moving through the world joyfully and confidently, no matter what comes my way, I wondered how I could actually learn to do it.
How could I not only accept the sometimes bumpy road of my life, but actively celebrate the journey?
I decided to try to apply this concept of “radiant acquiescence” in a few different ways. Maybe they will resonate with you, too.
1. Breathing and Self-Reassurance
When I discover that I’m falling into a pattern of thinking about things negatively or complaining, I try to develop tactics to reorient my attitude – like breathing through stress. Letting go of the tension in my body allows me to mentally move through it with more ease. Then, I’m able to literally respond to negative thoughts with positive ones.
So, for example, if I am going through a difficult break-up, rather than letting fear, sadness, or a sense of loss overpower me, I say to myself, “You are not alone—God is taking care of you.” If something happens that makes me feel anxious or unsafe, I remind myself that I will get through it and that I will learn something from it.
In addition to this internal reassurance, I have the goal of reminding myself that my purpose on Earth goes beyond my personal happiness. I try to take the focus off my own comfort and remind myself that I am here to try and reflect radiant light, too. Finding an opportunity to spread light in every situation that challenges me will interrupt my self-criticism, and get me to focus on something outside of myself:
Let us put aside all thoughts of self; let us close our eyes to all on earth, let us neither make known our sufferings nor complain of our wrongs. Rather let us become oblivious of our own selves, and drinking down the wine of heavenly grace, let us cry out our joy, and lose ourselves in the beauty of the All-Glorious. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 236.
2. Finding Ways to Be Present
While I want to organize my life and figure out what’s coming next, it’s easy for me to get caught up in thinking about the future. Rather than slowing down and observing the opportunities I have to serve the people in my life, heal myself spiritually, or just connect joyfully with the world around me, I often keep myself busy thinking about the next item on the itinerary. This makes it especially hard to handle moments when the universe doesn’t follow my imagined itinerary.
I don’t plan to fall into the extreme of not planning for the future at all – but I want to make sure that I only spend so much of my energy and time living in the future. I can practice being present by engaging in meaningful conversations with others, praying, spending time in nature, or simply trying to do one task excellently.
Ironically, releasing my worries about the future will probably propel me closer to the joy I’m looking for. The benefit? I can access that joy now. Each phase of life has joy and goodness to offer. The less time I spend thinking anxiously about what will happen, the easier it is to just allow for things to fall into place and display radiant acquiescence.
3. Reframing the Way I Ask for Input
I ask my friends or family for their input as I make decisions, but I find that I often ask for advice on how to reach a specific outcome. It’s a natural tendency, as we all have dreams we want to fulfill, but it keeps me focused on a particular outcome.
Instead, I am trying to ask people to help me plan the steps I take on my way to my goals, and to help me accept the journey as I go. In this way, they can help me radiate my best self, and enjoy the journey of discovering God’s purpose for me rather than achieving a specific outcome:
… men should merge their will wholly in the Will of God, and regard their desires as utter nothingness beside His purpose. Whatsoever the Creator commandeth His Creatures to observe, the same must they diligently, and with the utmost joy and eagerness, arise and fulfill. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 337.