Ridvan celebrates Baha’u’llah’s time in the garden of Ridvan where He publicly declared His station as a Manifestation of God. The Ridvan Festival is 12 days long and is also the time of year where Baha’is elect their governing bodies.
At some point in our lives, we all suffer from illnesses of the body or the mind and we face tests and difficulties. This collection highlights resources dedicated to physical and spiritual health and well-being, healing, resilience and overcoming challenges.
4 Things to Help You Develop Your Relationship with God
It recently struck me that becoming more spiritual requires both effort and volition, that it isn’t something that will just happen unless I do my part for it. This realisation came while I was reflecting on the following quote from Baha’u’llah:
Love Me, that I may love thee. If thou lovest Me not, My love can in no wise reach thee.
Baha’u’llah, Arabic Hidden Words No. 5
I realised that I needed to focus more on the first part of the quote, “Love Me…”, which I had previously almost overlooked. Many of us know that at times this command requires effort, and at other times it can seem like the most natural thing in the world. However, at least for me, loving God is not always something that comes easily, and I have to consciously remind myself of it ever so often, so here are four ways.
Maybe the most obvious (though not necessarily the easiest) way to open oneself up to God’s love is through prayer. I realised that I’m often just mouthing the words, or even just mumbling them while thinking about other things – and, of course – this isn’t really how an intimate conversation with my Creator should go. So I tried to become mindful of the words, to feel a connection building up, and to fully concentrate on these few precious moments of communion. This quote by Baha’u’llah helped me a lot in regards to reciting the obligatory prayer:
When a man commenceth the recitation of the Obligatory Prayer, he should see himself severed from all created things and regard himself as utter nothingness before the will and purpose of God, in such wise that he seeth naught but Him in the world of being.
The Importance of Obligatory Prayer and Fasting, A Selection of Extracts and Prayers From the Baha’i Writings
This can be hard when one’s mind is cluttered with to-do lists, assignments, phone conversations and the like, and it therefore becomes clear how wise Abdu’l-Baha’s words are, when He said:
The prayerful condition is the best of all conditions, for man in such a state communeth with God, especially when prayer is offered in private and at times when one’s mind is free, such as at midnight. Indeed, prayer imparteth life.
Abdu’l-Baha, from a recently translated Tablet: Spiritual Foundations: Prayer, Meditation, and the Devotional Attitude, a compilation of the Universal House of Justice, 1980
While travelling a few months ago, I hadn’t taken my prayer book with me, and I felt a great sense of loss at not being able to easily recite some prayers by myself. I finally came to realise the power, beauty and comfort of memorising small passages and prayers from the Writings, and the importance of being able to recite them whenever I felt the desire. A beautiful quote I came across which encourages me to do this comes from the Hidden Words:
Write all that We have revealed unto thee with the ink of light upon the tablet of thy spirit. Should this not be in thy power, then make thine ink of the essence of thy heart.
Baha’u’llah, Arabic Hidden Words No. 71
Often, simply the act of trying to memorise part of the Holy Writings would be enough to kindle a love for them in my heart, and I would start to feel a longing to read and memorise more.
During a recent conversation with an elderly friend, I realised the importance of trying to memorise prayers and quotes now when it is still relatively easy, since, as she told me, it can become a lot harder later in life, and she now wishes she could have learned more by heart when she was younger.
3. Be Inspired by Others
Sometimes it can be hard to find a longing for God within oneself, and in these moments it is a wonderful gift to find inspiration in the work or words of others, be they Baha’is or not.
Personally, I enjoy listening to talks by Baha’i speakers or listening to Baha’i-inspired music, reading books and blogs by Buddhists, watching videos by Muslims, or talking to people about the shared inner reality of all humanity. And maybe one of the best ways to feel a stronger connection with Baha’u’llah Himself is to read an account of His life, such as the one written by Adib Taherzadeh, or His own Tablets and Prayers. Personally, I also find great comfort in reading about other religions and realising the unity within them as part of the continuously unfolding plan of God.
4. The Baha’i Writings
Immerse yourselves in the ocean of My words, that ye may unravel its secrets, and discover all the pearls of wisdom that lie hid in its depths.
Baha’u’llah, Gleanings From the Writings of Baha’u’llah, LXX
It is easy to see the Writings as ink on a page, but when we stop and reflect about the immensity of what they truly are, it becomes hard not to get overwhelmed sometimes.
I find it amazing to think of how these Words came to be, and it helps me to read them with a more devotional mindset. For instance, thinking about things like how when Baha’u’llah was revealing these words, His amanuensis was often unable to write them down fast enough. After being copied more neatly, these scriptures often travelled a long way, and often under harsh conditions, to reach their recipients. Keeping this in mind, I find, it becomes easier to feel the power hidden within the Writings, and to feel their soul-stirring energies.
Every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God is endowed with such potency as can instill new life into every human frame…
Baha’u’llah, Gleanings From the Writings of Baha’u’llah, LXXIV
From the Writings, we learn that at least one of the reasons for our lives on Earth is to acquire virtues, to draw closer to God. But learning how to bring forth the virtues still hidden within us can be a painful and slow process. I believe that it is made a lot easier when we can fill our hearts and souls with love and be enkindled with a burning desire. Some days will be better than others, but we are also told not to despair when we have failed, but instead to ask for assistance to do better today:
Every day, in the morning when arising one should compare today with yesterday and see in what condition you are. If you see your belief is stronger and your heart more occupied with God and your love increased and your freedom from the world greater then thank God and ask for the increase of these qualities. You must begin to pray and repent for all that you have done which is wrong and you must implore and ask for help and assistance that you may become better than yesterday so that you may continue to make progress.
Abdu’l-Baha in Star of the West 8, no. 6 (24 June 1917): p.68.
After obtaining her doctorate in astrophysics in England, Steph moved with her husband to Munich where she spends her days working in data science. In her spare time, she is a bit of a bookworm, enjoys being creative (e.g. through art or music), loves being outside in the beautiful nature of Southern Germany, practises yoga, and strives to create within her neighbourhood a community that feels like home. She is inspired by the Baha'i Writings, as well as those of other religions in the one eternal faith of God. The thing she feels most grateful for in the Faith she discovered about a decade ago is the sense of hope which it gives in a world seemingly broken by disunity. Believing that Baha'u'llah's vision of a peaceful and unified world is not only possible, but inevitable, is what spurs her on to try and contribute her part.
Hello Everyone at Baha’i Blog!
I wanted to take a minute to thank you all for getting me through some hard times. I have come out of the winter of my soul and would like to invite you to check out my blog which is highly influenced by the Faith. My address is: http://writersdream9.wordpress.com
Warm Baha’i Love,
Carol F. Campbell (October 10, 2014 at 1:58 PM)
Hi Carol, thanks for the message and we’re so glad we could help! Thanks for sharing! 🙂
Naysan (October 10, 2014 at 9:40 PM)
Thank you dear friend in the path of Glory. I have been for a while now far removed from the life-giving Words of our sacred Faith, due to being caught up with this world. I couldn’t take the emptiness any more and decided to return to Him a few weeks ago. Thank you for sharing your illuminating thoughts on the very thing that has been occupying my mind and spirit this past month. Layers upon layers of worldly distractions have encrusted upon my soul and your words remind and encourage me that this is a daily endeavour.
Thank you so much for sharing. And I know, that my ‘discovery’ of your post is no accident. He lights our path. This is the prove.
S.K.S. (October 10, 2014 at 8:21 PM)
Thank you for sharing your journey!
I feel like one’s faith can sometimes be described almost like an ebbing and flowing – some days/times it’s very easy and natural, and other times it can take a lot of effort and feel very hard. I’m still not sure what the best of dealing with the hard times is, but I think being accepting of the soul’s journey – and that it isn’t always a straight path – can help a lot…
“The trials Thou sendest are a salve to the sores of all them who are devoted to Thy will” (Baha’u’llah)
Steph G (October 10, 2014 at 7:12 PM)
Thank you Naysan jan,
I enjoy the posts even though I do not comment regularly. Thank you for keeping it up.
Farid (October 10, 2014 at 6:39 PM)
Thank you! I have been wrestling with this exact issue over the years, and especially lately since the passing of my husband and a few other very hard challenges in my life. I just recently started trying to re-memorize the Tablet of Ahmad and a few others, as I find my mind wanders so much when trying to pray. And loving God? Geez, how to do that? Well, thanks for your sharing. It helps me know that I am not alone and that other minds wander as well. I needed your words today as an affirmation that I may be back on the right track, again. Thanks!
Michele (October 10, 2014 at 8:18 PM)
Thank you for knowing you are not alone. I am so sorry to hear of your husband’s passing and your other trials, I cannot imagine the amount of pain that might cause you .
I’m wishing you a lot of strength and perseverance on your journey, and a kindness and gentleness with your soul as you are healing and drawing closer to God.
“With the hands of power I made thee and with the fingers of strength I created thee; and within thee have I placed the essence of My light. Be thou content with it and seek naught else, for My work is perfect and My command is binding. Question it not, nor have a doubt thereof.” (Baha’u’llah)
Steph G (October 10, 2014 at 7:17 PM)
Thanks Steph for your remarkably lucid and soberingly honest post which walks us all back to the very basis of our personal faith in God.
I often find Christians as well as some Bahá’ís talking about “feeling” a connection with God. Personally I make a clear distinction between “emotional” and “spiritual” connection.
Having grown up in a Bahá’í pioneer family from Iran, my mother took it upon herself to expose me and my sisters since childhood to stories of the great martyrs and heroes of the faith, and of the suffering and adamance of Bahá’u’lláh. Above all else, a child-like but a very personal “connection” (for the lack of a better word) to God was developed through the more accessibly understandable figure of the Master. Even at times of momentary personal disillusionment and the occasional weariness from the heavier Writings (usually caused by me getting caught up with the noise and distraction of the ‘world’), in fact even when the fellow-Bahá’ís themselves may get on one’s nerves (as is bound to happen in every family), this connection to the Master has never left me. It has kept me firm and grown overtime. A certain fire was awakened at young age that simply hasn’t died. But “light upon light”, even the example of the Master, alone, is not enough to affect the final transformation of ourselves and the world. Every time I read the words of Bahá’u’lláh I realize how the same fire is fuelled further.
My personal connection to Bahá’u’lláh is through His word. It is a silent fire. A silent conviction of the truth, power, wisdom and love of God conveyed in Bahá’u’lláh’s words. It doesn’t necessarily need to declare to the world that “I love God” or that “God loves me”. The same silent sensation occurs while praying Bahá’u’lláh’s prayers with attention and without distraction, and while seeing the beauty of God in nature and in other people. Yes, sometimes this fire produces a powerful and moving outward “feeling”. Other times the fire doesn’t “feel” like anything. Yet it’s always there. Haunting, lingering, teasing, reminding, disciplining, inspiring, calling to nobility. I just don’t believe God is a feeling — at least not in the sense that if you’re not constantly soaring in divine ecstacy, you don’t have “God” in your life. Bahá’u’lláh was very clear on God being beyond direct experience and all things that we humans define as “direct connection”. Yet, having said that Bahá’u’lláh assures that God is even closer to us than ourselves.
Even Bahá’u’lláh’s Person is “other-worldly” in a rather similar way. To be directly “feelable”, Bahá’u’lláh Himself would have to be something less than what He claims. Those (including some of my own ancestors) who met Him in person, however, reported extremely, ecstatically powerful experiences that transformed them for life and infused them with indestructible faith. But for more easily accessible personal connection for us later generations, however, Bahá’u’lláh gave us His son ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. The sort of person-to-person “love affair” with God, if you will, that many long-standing Bahá’ís have as a key element of their Faith, is therefore usually made possible by the person of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. And it’s something that can be awakened in a child at a very early stage. Even before they can understand any Writings, specific teachings or even the word “Baha’i”.
Sam (October 10, 2014 at 10:55 AM)
Thank you for your beautiful comment and description of the fire of the love of and for God!
It is true that we have been immeasurably blessed by having Abdu’l-Baha as the exemplar of the Teachings, and so often I wish that I could have lived at a time to meet him. The accounts you give of your ancestors meeting Baha’u’llah personally are truly moving and inspiring, and must be a real blessing to their souls and your family.
Your comment is also inspiring me to study the talks and writings of Abdu’l-Baha again more deeply. Thank you!
Steph G (October 10, 2014 at 7:23 PM)
I really enjoy reading all of your posts..Thank you bahaiblog!
Sheyda M (October 10, 2014 at 12:09 AM)
Thanks for your support and encouragement Sheyda! It’s much appreciated! 🙂
Naysan (October 10, 2014 at 8:56 AM)
Thank you for “4 Things to Help You Develop Your Relationship with God”. This piece is wonderfully accessible, for you carefully chose just seven luminous extracts from the Writings. Seven. That’s about my limit. You then brought them together with apt, cogent comments from your own experience. There is no excess. There is no muddling. There is a wholeness and integrity to this piece. It is what I need right now! Are you so good at this because you have the mind of a scientist?
Harriet Gilman (November 11, 2015 at 7:20 AM)
Thanks Naysan and everyone for your comments. Have been going through real difficult time letting go of my painful past and finally I am seeing progress. Still wonder about how to increase my love for God and Baha’u’llah. Feel my life has fallen apart and can see it’s good that this has happened and sometimes really struggle who to share my experiences with so they can understand and we give each other strength and support. The emotional pain is sometimes so overwhelming. I know only God and Baha’u’llah can understand and help us and yet there is comfort in connecting with other human beings who can relate to what I am sharing. God help all of us.
Farideh Peace (September 9, 2021 at 9:33 PM)
This post was truly worthwhile to read. I wanted to say thank you for the key points you have pointed out as they are enlightening.
Mark Spell (May 5, 2021 at 9:21 PM)
I have been reading posts regarding this topic and this post is one of the most interesting and informative one I have read. Thank you for this!
Mark Spell (May 5, 2021 at 9:21 PM)