When devotees feel overwhelmed by difficulties and trials, it’s mostly because they’ve allowed themselves to slip away from devotion. In difficult times, the most important thing is that you love God. That is your best astrological amulet, your most secure protective curtain. And if you love Him, then why be afraid? If you’re afraid, for that moment you’re losing that love.
It is love of God that gives you the power, as Paramhansa Yogananda put it, “to stand unshaken amidst the crash of breaking worlds.” This is something to remember, to write on your heart, because it’s the truth: Nothing will take you down if you inwardly always love God.
In fact, when you’re really in love with God and in tune with the divine flow, you find that nothing else matters very much. You understand that things happen as they ought to and that ultimately, everything works out for the best.
Let God solve your problems
People who are very worldly have a tendency to laugh at devotees as “impractical.” What they can’t figure out is why things somehow go so well for those devotees who don’t worry too much about any of the things worldly people consider so important.
But when you love God and put your trust in him, you find that He solves your problems for you, through you. All you need is to be enough in tune and your intuition will guide you. The way to achieve that attunement is through devotion and, in that devotion, to uplift yourself in Him and let Him work through you.
A very interesting case in that context is that of Jacinta, one of the three children in Fatima in Portugal who had the visions of the Madonna in 1917. Jacinta was seven years old and lived in a tiny village. Her entire life was one of devotion, prayer, and helping others through prayer.
Because of her devotion, and the intuition that resulted, she was able to give counseling to adults concerning the kinds of problems and difficulties that only adults have. She was able to understand their problems, not necessarily from the mind, but she said things that showed a deep understanding was coming through her.
That kind of understanding comes from being in tune with the divine flow. Saint Teresa of Avila said, “In a moment of ecstasy, you understand things that it would take you many years of study to grasp on a mental level.”
The mind functions at a very low level of your total potential but in ecstasy, in that experience of oneness with the Divine, suddenly you understand. You understand how God manifests in the world — how He manifests through languages, through food, through the flow of history, through an individual’s problems. You understand without reading, studying or thinking.
God watches the heart
I have often seen people on the spiritual path who think they can have their feet in two boats, who think they can combine a worldly life and a spiritual life and do well at both. Ramakrishna used the illustration of a woman who had lost her husband and, before casting herself on the ground in an “agony of bereavement,” carefully removed her glasses and jewelry for fear of breaking them.
Many people pretend great love for God, but first they want to be sure that everything’s in order, that the stock market’s behaving itself, and that they’ve been practical on every possible level. They say, “Oh, Lord, I give myself to you,” but one eye is on the door to make sure it’s locked.
It’s not possible to have your feet in two boats. Inevitably, a moment of decision will arrive and it will be necessary to decide whether to please the world or to take the more difficult step of pleasing God. God watches the heart. If you love Him but give Him a secondary place in your heart, He won’t be able to come to you.
What is true devotion?
True devotion means to love God purely and not to think of anything except, “I long to know You. I long to serve You. I long to be one with You.” In pure love, there are no ulterior motives, no likes and dislikes, only the desire to please Him.
Saint Therese of Lisieux said, “I would like to go to hell to be able to love God even there.” It is beautiful to think: “Wherever I am, I don’t want to lose my love for You, Lord. This would be the worst possible mistake. You can put me wherever You wish, if You give me the grace not to lose my love for You. This is all I ask.”
So pray for devotion. It’s a gift of God and by your very act of prayer you will be putting out the magnetism to draw that gift to you. Pray this simple prayer as often as you remember: “Divine Mother, awaken your love in me, and then help me to awaken that love in all.”
When you meditate, do so with an attitude of self-giving, with no thought of any reward, only of His pleasure. Try to develop the kind of love that says, “I want Him now but if it be His will, I’m willing to wait forever.” The more you offer yourself up to Him in that way, the more His love will be able to flow through you.
“God, my life is in your hands”
A very good attitude to have when difficulties and trials come to you suddenly is: “God, my life is in your hands.” Try to develop that attitude by practicing over a period of time until you can come up with it instantly. It’s very helpful to imagine the worst.
God will give you joy if you live in Him and, even if calamities come to you, his blessing will be there. People who leave their bodies with God in their hearts don’t suffer — any pain they might feel is minimized or non-existent. Those who die thinking of God or for God, like a Joan of Arc, go in bliss.
If in the face of death itself you feel joy, that itself is a great victory. All victory depends upon being in tune with God, the source of all truth. So try to love in a divine, unconditional way as much as possible.
Excerpted from September 2008 talks at Ananda Village and the following recordings: Devotion vs. Emotion; Overcoming Obstacles to Spiritual Growth; and The Wisdom of the Heart. To buy a recording (CD or MP3) call Treasures Along the Path, (530) 478 2374.