The Ups and Downs of Life

hiking

If you looked back on the past year, you would probably notice that there were good times and bad times. We tend to¬† think that life should always be great but its not. Life is full of ups and downs and that’s normal. There are ups and downs in every relationship too. The ups and downs are a fact of life like the cycles of day and night, summer and winter. Could it be that the difficult times are actually a necessary part of our journey of life?

The journey of the children of Israel from slavery in Egypt to the promised land of Canaan tells us a lot about our own inner life journey. They could have gone straight there in the space of a month. Instead they wandered in the wilderness for forty years encountering obstacles all along the way. There would be a crisis when they were filled with doubt followed by victory and trust in God, then more hardship and doubt followed by renewed trust in God. It’s the same with us. The hardships and struggles we endure are actually opportunities to overcome the things in us that are getting in the way of our progress. God has lessons to teach us every step of the way. It is not what happens to us but how we react that matters. Eventually we learn to trust that God is in control, is watching over us and wanting to bring us into closer relationship with Himself – into true happiness. It is in times of crisis that our shortcomings (the obstacles to our happiness) are brought to our attention so that they can be remedied.

When the children of Israel finally escaped Egypt they probably thought they had an easy journey to the promised land but soon found their way blocked by the Red Sea. It seemed a hopeless situation with no way forward and the Egyptian army hard on their heels. But God spoke to Moses and told them to “Go forward!” It seems like God asks us to do the impossible sometimes but, when the Children of Israel obeyed the command a miracle happened. The sea parted and allowed safe passage to the other side then closed in on the pursuing enemy.

Going forward is the opposite of giving up. It is looking outward not inward. It is focusing on useful activity – on what needs to be done. When we step out in faith we find that God really is in control and He will find a way. We learn to trust. According to the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg, all life flows in. Every good thought and feeling comes from God. So trust is not something that we manufacture for ourselves, it is something we must open ourselves to receive. We do this by feeling the fear and going forward anyway to do what God would have us do, knowing He is there with us. So think of the rough times as necessary opportunities for healing, growth and opening up to trust in God. After all, God knows better than we do what is best for us.

Jenny

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Moving Closer to God

dry-bones

The Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg give us a picture of God as a Being of love with His arms outstretched inviting us into His embrace. Do we respond to this invitation or not? We are kept in freedom and in that freedom we are caught somewhere between two extremes. On the one hand is the misery of a totally evil life and on the other is the opportunity to come into complete peace and trust in God. Most people choose a middle ground, rejecting evil with disgust but hesitating to take steps to approach the Lord and be embraced by His love and care. We stick to our comfort zones, immersed in our day to day cares and concerns, unwilling to remove what stands in the way of receiving God’s blessing.

To move closer to God it is necessary to open our eyes to His truth and put it into practice, to open our ears to the voice of conscience and act on it, to open our hearts to be touched by goodness and reach out in love, to put our trust in Him and to acknowledge His hand in the good that we see and do.

Ezekiel’s vision of the dry bones coming alive (Ezekiel 37) describes how new life can come to us. Spiritually speaking it is how our dry bones or dull life can be renewed by the Lord. He brings our old ideas or thoughts into harmony with spiritual reality, adding sinews and flesh (new truth and goodness) and breathes new life into us. We can hang down our hands and wait for this to happen or we can take steps to become a better person by moving closer to God. This is why we were born – to come alive both naturally and spiritually. So let’s make every day count and try to become the spiritually alive person we were created to be by moving closer to God.

Jenny

A Happy New Year?

happy-people

We would all like a happy new year. It is easy to believe that our happiness depends on things outside us – wealth, “success,” status. But is this true? When the children got their presents a month ago they were over the moon but that happiness did not last long. The happiness of so many married couples on their wedding day lasts only a few years. Some people have a naturally happier disposition than others. Recently I watched a mother with her two young sons and baby at the swimming pool. She was just so happy. She had a huge smile on her face as she shared in her sons’ love of the water. I was tempted to ask her what her secret was.

According to one author, happiness is an inside job. In other words, it does not depend on external things but on inner ones, i.e. attitudes and beliefs.

Another happy person was Asher. He was Jacob’s seventh son. His name literally means happy or blessed. We are taught in the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg that the twelve sons represent all the spiritual qualities found in a loving and wise human being. Happiness is one of them. So, yes, God’s goal for all of us is to find the happiness of heaven. Our problem is that we often suffer the illusion that happiness is an “outside” job and not an “inside” job. Asher represents happiness that comes from charity. Here charity does not mean giving to the poor but acting from a love for our neighbour.

Spiritually, our “neighbour” is what is good. This goodness is the presence of the Lord in ourselves, others, organisations and communities. If we seek to love and serve this in our work and relationships we will find the happiness of heaven growing within us. It will be quietly present despite difficult and unhappy circumstances. If we can continue to patiently and courageously love what is good then God can flow into the situation and in time will be able to bring good out of it not only for us but good for all. This is what many have found who have had to face the consequences of disability and disease. They become opportunities to find a deeper happiness.

This is in contrast to the experience of people who love themselves and the world above everything else. God’s blessedness does not exist in any way at all with those whose dominant delight is that of self-love and worldliness, for these loves are quite the opposite of it. People ruled by these loves, therefore, are not at all able to understand how any blessedness can exist apart from that of being promoted to important positions, being venerated as if they were gods, having an abundance of riches, and possessing more wealth than others.

Do notice the list of priorities for people who have self love and worldliness as their motivating loves. This is the list which the world promotes through the media and accomplishments of many of the rich and powerful. The media also shows us the sad consequences for many of them in realising their dreams of happiness. Despite this, we human beings are still attracted to them likes moths to a candle.

The new year is a good opportunity to run our goals and ambitions for the coming year past God, the Source of all happiness. We may need to adjust and balance them before being fully committed to them. He is quite clear in His guidance to us. “What does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).

May God bless us all with the happiness of heaven throughout the coming year.

John