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Aligning Personal Will with the Will of God: Some Personal Reflections
As I write this rain is pattering against the window above my desk. Outside, a tree that has been covered in brilliant yellow leaves for the past couple of weeks is in transition—the topmost branches are already bare. A slow but steady release is happening lower down, and the bottom is still blazing colour against the slate grey sky. Around me the world is in a season of radical transformation. We’ve come to a point where none of us can avoid the truth that individual wellbeing is inseparably connected to the wellbeing of all. Personally, the physical separation from those I love, coupled with a heightened awareness of the brevity of this earthly life is making me ask myself bigger questions than I had been previously. Three that come up for me a lot are: What is God’s Will for humanity? How do I align my life’s purpose with the Will of God? And what specific capacities can I strengthen in myself right now that will help me to better serve the needs of humanity at this pivotal time?
In the Baha’i Writings we are told that God’s Will is, ultimately, benevolent. Baha’u’llah says: “…whatever is sent down from the heaven of the Will of God is the means for the establishment of order in the world and the instrument for promoting unity and fellowship among its peoples.” 1 Indeed, while the vision that Baha’is are called upon to build is vast, and touches on every aspect of life, the truth upon which this Revelation rests is the unity of the human race. In The Unfoldment of World Civilization, Shoghi Effendi writes: “Unity of family, of tribe, of city-state, and nation have been successively attempted and fully established. World unity is the goal towards which…humanity is striving.” 2 Baha’u’llah explains that
the fundamental purpose animating the Faith of God and His Religion is to safeguard the interests and promote the unity of the human race… This is the straight path, the fixed and immovable foundation. Whatsoever is raised on this foundation, the changes and chances of the world can never impair its strength, nor will the revolution of countless centuries undermine its structure. 3
This seems to indicate that, from a Baha’i perspective at least, the Will of God for today is the unification of humanity, and this is demonstrated in the innumerable and diverse activities and initiatives that further its attainment.
Working towards realizing the unity of the human race sounds like a worthy goal, but it brings me back to the question of how I, as an individual with my specific strengths and weaknesses, hopes and fears, go about aligning my own life with the Will of God. How do I maintain a steady, calm awareness of the fact that everything happening in the world somehow fits into God’s Will when the hopelessness of the world around me begins to bring me down? The Writings of Baha’u’llah encourage us to draw on the limitless power of God when the immensity of the task at hand and our own limitations overwhelm us. Baha’u’llah says:
A drop of the billowing ocean of His endless mercy hath adorned all creation with the ornament of existence, and a breath wafted from His peerless Paradise hath invested all beings with the robe of His sanctity and glory. A sprinkling from the unfathomed deep of His sovereign and all-pervasive Will hath, out of utter nothingness, called into being a creation which is infinite in its range and deathless in its duration. The wonders of His bounty can never cease, and the stream of His merciful grace can never be arrested. The process of His creation hath had no beginning, and can have no end. 4
Knowing that I have such a steady stream of inspiration and strength to draw from as I move forward in my service to humanity is reassuring. The Baha’i Writings tell us to give up our own will and align our will with the Will of God not by becoming apathetic, but by following His teachings, serving others and honing spiritual qualities that help us to serve through these challenging times. Baha’is are called upon to “Abandon the things current amongst men and hold fast unto that which God, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting, hath enjoined upon you. The day is fast approaching when all the treasures of the earth shall be of no profit to you.” 5 Instead of being attached to the many physical distractions upheld as symbols of success in society today, Baha’u’llah says:
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. This is the meaning of true unity. 6
There are many spiritual qualities that would help us to better serve humanity, and their development could keep us occupied for many lifetimes: devotion, generosity, kindness and cooperation are a few that immediately come to mind. But how do I identify qualities that align with my own capacities and best serve the specific needs of humanity? A letter from the House of Justice to all National Spiritual Assemblies dated 9 May 2020 says we must seek to:
raise awareness of those spiritual forces that are available to every confirmed believer and which must be marshalled at the hour of need…forces which endow the community with resilience, ensure its integrity, and keep it focused on its divine mission to serve humanity and elevate its vision of the future.
Detachment, faith and radiant acquiescence are three qualities mentioned both in the holy Writings and in messages from the Universal House of Justice. Flexibility and increased creativity in how we nurture and empower those around us are also highlighted. Moreover, the House of Justice tells us that we should not allow the circumstances of the world to diminish the energy and effort with which we pursue our goals:
[t]he activities undertaken must suit the prevailing conditions, but there should be no doubt that this is a time for noble aims, high resolve, and intense endeavour…to cultivate a thriving community spirit, through which resilience to mighty challenges is also strengthened…to raise up a growing number of souls who can contribute to the spiritual and material well-being of a community…nurture the spirit of service as it blossoms, rooting it in a culture of collective worship. In short…building capacity to walk the path of service in every time and season—which must surely include moments of acute peril in the life of humanity, such as now. 7
It seems to me that the Baha’i approach to living in alignment with the Will of God is an invitation to expand our vision of the purpose of life beyond the limitations of seasons, years and even our own earthly lives while simultaneously and regularly assessing what the needs of our local and global community are at any given moment. In short—asking what the world needs right now to determine how we respond—while always keeping in mind that the unity of humankind is our ultimate, and promised destination.
How about you? How do you align your will with the Will of God?
Ariana Salvo was born in the United States, and spent sixteen years of her childhood on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. She moved to Prince Edward Island to do her master’s degree in Island Studies, fell in love with the tightly knit community, and has never left. When not writing, she can be found exploring art at galleries around the world, flower farming, traveling to remote islands, hiking and taking photos of the wild natural landscapes of Canada’s eastern shore, teaching English to international students and reading historical fiction with a good cup of tea.