Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten / und hoffet auf ihn allezeit, / den wird er wunderbar erhalten / in aller Not und Traurigkeit. / Wer Gott, dem Allerhöchsten, traut, / der hat auf keinem Sand gebaut. Georg Neumark
If we just trust in God to guide us / and put our faith in him alone, / we can be sure God will uphold us / through all the days of grief and pain. / Whoever puts their trust in God / has built their house upon a rock.
– not a polished translation, but it will do for now.
A couple of months ago I read a chapter at the end of a book about yoga. The gist of it, as far as I can remember, was that we can each get into the habit of tuning in to our intuition or turning to God or a Higher Power for guidance at frequent intervals during the course of each day. It seems like a good idea to do this whenever I have a decision to make about what to do next at a particular moment.
The decision might be as trivial as whether or not to put my jacket on. It will probably very quickly become clear that I would do well to follow the urge to put my jacket on, because I’m feeling a bit chilly.
If the urge is to eat some chocolate and I turn to God for guidance, the outcome might be that I decide to eat some bread and peanut butter instead. Or I might realise that my “hunger” isn’t really a need for food, but a craving for something else. I might need to stay tuned in for more than a moment in order to discover what it is that I really need. I can then either do something to meet that need. Or, if that isn’t practicable, make do without. If there’s no chocolate in the house, I’ll also have to make do without chocolate as a substitute.
A couple of days ago I came across this quote by Immanuel Kant: “We are not rich by what we possess but by what we can do without.” I think this may need to become a maxim for many of us during and after the corona pandemic. We certainly need to do without flying here, there, and everywhere. With all the possibilities for talking to each other on video channels, we can probably do without travelling at all much of the time. Our lives will be less frantic and we will have more time to pay attention to our nearest and dearest.
I’m currently reading Erich Fromm’s book, “To Have or to Be?” and finding it very instructive. Our individual lives and our societies are clearly in need of transformation. We must not go back to “business as usual” when the worst of the corona pandemic is over. “Business as usual” was oppressing people and destroying the planet. We now have an opportunity to turn things around through disarmament (conventional as well as nuclear), ending the use of fossil fuels, and re-ordering the global economy in order to reduce consumption of the Earth’s resources and at the same time liberate millions from poverty. Rich people, which probably includes many of us, need to learn to do without.
Local neighbourhood communities are going to become much more important to the functioning of our societies and economies worldwide.
But let me come back to my main subject, which is how we might let God (or a “higher power”) guide our lives. I want to seek all the time to say and do things which are in harmony with the loving purposes of the Divine Being. So besides stopping for a moment every now and then to discern what I might do next, I also need to take time to go deeper into myself to find solutions to difficult problems. I need to be able to “see” the whole picture, not just my own immediate viewpoint. Deep within each of us there is a connection with the Divine which enables us to “see” reality as a whole. And the fundamental reality is that God is love and that God loves each and every one of us.
Of course there are monsters in the depths of our psyche as well. According to Immanuel Kant, “Only the descent into the hell of self-knowledge can pave the way to godliness.” If we have the courage to descend into this hell, I believe that we may then come to “have a sense of all conditions”, as George Fox did. And, having a sense of all conditions, we can then encounter both friend and enemy with compassion.
Jörg Zink was a pilot in the Luftwaffe during the Second World War. When he was shot down by an enemy (American) pilot, he looked into the face of the pilot, whose plane exploded shortly afterwards. Jörg Zink wrote later that Jesus exhorts us to love our enemies/opponents until there is no-one left whom we are unable to love.
Peacemaking begins with loving our enemies. We need to love our enemies just as we love our neighbours, whom we need to love just as we love ourselves.
Here’s another quote from Immanuel Kant: “For peace to reign on Earth, humans must evolve into new beings who have learned to see the whole first.” We need to learn to see the whole, not only as individuals, but also as faith communities. In a Quaker meeting for worship we may plumb the depths until we reach the place where nothing more divides us and we can see with eyes of the heart what we need to do to contribute to creating a new society and a new world order of justice, peace, and the integrity of creation, i.e. a planet which remains intact.
I would like to end with the last verse of Georg Neumark’s hymn:
Sing, bet und geh auf Gottes Wegen, / verricht das Deine nur getreu / und trau des Himmels reichem Segen, / so wird er bei dir werden neu. / Denn welcher seine Zuversicht / auf Gott setzt, den verläßt er nicht.
Sing, pray, and walk with God to guide you, / and do what you are called to do. / And trust the universal blessings / which every day are always new. / For those who trust in God above / are safe in God’s abiding love.