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I’ve thought quite a bit lately about the will of God and what it really means in a person’s life.
It’s a nice concept in theory, but I find it very difficult to understand at a practical level. For example, I feel like I’ve had a lot of doors close on me over these past few years, which, presumably, means that I’m going in the wrong direction. However, if windows are not opening either, what does that mean? Like a lot of people in our “Age of Anxiety,” I feel anxious about the choices I’m making, or feel that I am supposed to be making, especially when there are SO many choices. How can one possibly know what God wants for us in these circumstances?
As I started to review some of the sacred scriptures from different Faiths about the will of God, however, I started to think I might be complicating it all a bit too much, i.e. wanting very specific directions about my career, relationships, etc… versus understanding the will of God as a framework for approaching life.
The texts on the will of God, at least in the Baha’i scriptures, frequently focus on following God’s laws:
By self-surrender and perpetual union with God is meant that men should merge their will wholly in the Will of God, and regard their desires at 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. 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.… It behoveth thee to consecrate thyself to the Will of God. Whatsoever hath been revealed in His Tablets is but a reflection of His Will. So complete must be thy consecration, that every trace of worldly desire will be washed from thine heart. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 337.
Some of the laws that Baha’is follow relate to serving humanity, fasting, prayer and avoidance of drugs and alcohol. These and other laws may not always be easy to follow–especially when they contradict what we think we want and, often, what an immoderate society pushes on us.
As the above passage makes clear, though, another common theme related to following the will of God involves detachment from the world, also echoed in other religious scriptures:
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. – Romans 12.2.
So, beyond following the laws and ordinances of one’s faith and being detached from the world, what else can we intuit about God’s will? Regardless of how much humanity has messed the message up, I do believe that God’s will ultimately desires to see us love and help one another. Clearly, that is easier said than done, but it remains the bedrock of all religious disciplines.
For Baha’is, the will of God in this age also centers on promoting unity:
Man declares a river to be a boundary line between two countries, calling this side French and the other side German, whereas the river was created for both and is a natural artery for all. Is it not imagination and ignorance which impels man to violate the divine intention and make the very bounties of God the cause of war, bloodshed and destruction? Therefore, all prejudices between man and man are falsehoods and violations of the Will of God. God desires unity and love; he commands harmony and fellowship. Enmity is human disobedience; God Himself is love. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 300.
So maybe following the will of God simply means asking how God can work through us to bring a little more love and peace into the world. Ideally, thinking in this way on a daily basis will become a habit. As a scripture from the Zoroastrian faith notes,
As was the will of God, so I ought to have thought;
As was the will of God, so I ought to have spoken;
As was the will of God, so I ought to have acted. – Pater 6.
Perhaps only very spiritually advanced people achieve this practice with every thought and comment and behavior. For most of us, our ego may rush into the fray before anything else—which makes this practice a worthy goal to aspire to.
Many of us harbor the hope that our heart’s desires will mesh in some fashion with some greater plan and purpose. In that vein, I’d recommend meditating on this comforting and supportive quote:
Verily the Will of God acts sometimes in a way for which mankind is unable to find out the reason. The causes and reasons shall appear. Trust in God and confide in Him, and resign thyself to the Will of God. Verily thy God is affectionate, compassionate and merciful… and will cause His Mercy to descend upon thee. – Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’u’llah and the New Era, p. 110.