With right effort, the Divine Power responds accordingly to support and help us. Work hard, endeavor, yet with trust in God’s help and inspiration. The higher Ideal is that our efforts are divinely inspired.
A famous saying in Islam is ‘Trust in Allah, but tether your camel first.” This is a good example of a balanced religious philosophy. It takes two ideas, trust in a greater Power and personal responsibility; then it asks us to somehow reconcile or combine these attitudes in our lives. Now before delving into an understanding of this balanced way, let us first consider the extreme positions if we emphasize just one aspect of the saying and disregard the other.
An extreme position of just trusting God, without any sense of being self responsible for one’s own necessary efforts, would lead to an attitude of passivity and apathy in regards to personal effort. A person with this extreme view might say - I trust that God will provide what is needed, or that God will manifest what God sees fit; so I need not do anything. Allah will take care of my camel. Or they might believe that everything is predestined or already determined anyways, so they need not bother about choices or responsibilities.
The opposite extreme position might be that personal responsible action is the only determining factor in the world, and that trust in God is completely unnecessary or redundant. Or maybe one believes in God the Creator, but that after the initial creative act God does not have any practical effect in the world or God is not efficacious in the world. Now it is a valuable recognition that we need to make effort in taking care of important business and not merely relying on God to do everything that is needed; for there is no invisible hand that will do everything for us. So is there any importance in trusting in God? And if so, what is the importance of this trust?
An important meaning of trusting in God is trusting in divine guidance. We trust in God’s guidance to help us in our decisions and in our actions. We trust in the good, loving, wise Power of God to guide us and lead us into spiritual opportunities. Related to this, we also trust that the loving power of God will heal us and take care of us along our journey. Yet this guidance and help is dependent on our trust. It is dependent on our opening to divine guidance and help, and it is also dependent on our sincere intention to be in service to the needs of life and also dependent on our doing whatever we can to be of service.
So trusting God opens the door, as it were, to God guiding us to the better needed action. Trust opens the door to God’s help in our responsible work. So, God is guiding if/when we are trusting. In other words, the divine guidance and help is conditional on our own attitudes and intentions. This is different from believing that God is always guiding us no matter what our attitude and intention is, which would then entail that our own choices and intentions are unimportant. The conditional view is different from believing that God is always determining everything. It is also different from believing in predestination, that God has already set everything up. It is also different from believing that every event or action is necessary for a greater good or necessary to a divine plan; for if everything that ever happens is always necessary from the divine view, then this again means that God is rightly guiding everything no matter what one’s intention is, and if everything is necessary, then there can be no mistakes and also no real freedom.
So if we are trusting in God’s guidance, and if we have a sincere intention to serve the needs of life, then God will guide us and lead us into greater spiritual opportunities. As well due to this trusting, God will be a healing factor in our lives and also bring more spiritual enlightenment (or gnosis) into our being. In the deepest trust and faith, we enter into communion with God, and then God becomes the active doer through us. Then, through us, God is tethering our camel and doing the needed work in the world through us. All of this comes to be with trust in God. But without trust in God, we are closed off from this added help and inspiration.
Our responsible efforts at doing the work that is needed can thus be related to our trust in God. We are making necessary efforts and doing what is needed, while under the guidance and support of God. Though this divine help depends on our trust. The divine help also depends on our good intentions and our willingness to make necessary efforts and actions. Thus, our trust in God helps inspire our efforts, and it brings about a divine support for our responsible work. Trusting in God helps our intentions be more divinely inspired and also helps our service be fulfilled. In other words, trusting supports our responsible effort and work, rather than being a replacement for our own effort. Both themes are intrinsically important along the spiritual path.
Trust and effort are like two ends of the same pole. Imagine a vertical pole which reaches up to the highest abode of God and also reaches down into the physical earth. Trust connects us to God and the divine powers, while effort connects us to work on earth. Our goal is to fulfill divine purpose on earth, that is, manifesting the divine qualities on earth. Or we might describe this as performing the divine work. We are the workers of God, we are the performers of God’s Concerto. We are the effort part of the great pole between heaven and earth. But we cannot forget trust, because trust connects effort to the Divine Power. And without this connection, what would our efforts be coming from? The efforts would be coming from a personal or social ego that is disconnected from the Divine, unconscious of the Divine, or lost in its own bubble of separative illusion. Trust is the key to making a conscious connection or relationship with the Divine. Trust opens up the connection to the higher source of the pole.
This is also related to the divine law of active and receptive. For if there is to be a free flow of Light, Love and Power from the Divine Source into us and into our actions, there has to be both active and receptive modes. The active and receptive has to be occurring simultaneously. Effort and action has to be turned on, and the receptivity of trust has to be turned on as well. With trust, the Divine is allowed through us and into our efforts and action. With effort and action, the Divine gets its work done.
Trusting in God is related to the attitude of divine dependency or dependency on God. This acknowledgement of dependency is in the realization that one cannot go any further in the journey to God without God’s power and help. As well, one realizes that service and healing in the world cannot happen without God, even if one also acknowledges that God needs us as vehicles for such service and healing. One realizes that one is ultimately dependent on God for going any further on the spiritual path; even though one also acknowledges one’s own self-responsibility in keeping a spiritual intention and making needed efforts.
This sense of dependency on God forms a unique kind of relationship with God, which includes humility and a sense of poverty and smallness in relation to God. This sense of dependency opens the door or the channel or connection to God and all of the Divine Qualities. This is not merely a recognition of dependency but also a willing act –whereby one is willingly being dependent and placing oneself in a dependent relation to God. In some poetry of mystics, for example, they speak of being as a beggar at the door of the King. And there is also often a sense of being a servant of God, which involves being a worker for God and also involves obedience to God’s Will. So these images and poetic metaphors can be useful in developing a right relationship with the Divine.
Yet as already discussed, a sense of dependency on God could turn into a passive attitude in relation to life, whereby one has the attitude that God will do all the necessary work or that God will set up the best circumstances for our spiritual life, without any required effort on our part. The right attitude in life is to acknowledge our own responsibility – in our intentions, our decisions, and our actions. We have to discover what is needed, then make necessary efforts at fulfilling what is needed. So as much as we can, we need to take on this personal responsibility, in the knowledge that we are the workers of God. So it is not that God will take care of all things for us, or that God will take care of our camel; but rather we must take care of our camel and also take care of the world around us in whatever way we can. Though simultaneous with this personal responsibility, we can depend on God and trust in God that God will guide and help and inspire us to do what is needed. But the Divine can only help if/when we are in the attitude of trust.
An important theme of Islam, for example, is jihad. Some people translate this as holy war, but it does not necessarily mean war or struggle against others. It basically means spiritual effort, or striving to do what is right and good. Sometimes this may mean struggling or fighting against oppression, or opposing evils, but it doesn’t necessarily or always mean a fighting struggle. In most circumstances it simply means making an effort to do good in the world, or to serve life for God. And there need not always be a fighting struggle in this spiritual work; for in fact, the highest spiritual work will attempt to bring about good in ways that go beyond blatant fighting and which tries to reconcile opposing differences.
Now the Prophet of Islam stated that Jihad, the work for God, should be combined with humility in respect for the Power of God or combined with a sense of dependency on God. This means that our spiritual effort and work should always be done in an attitude of humility and trust in God, realizing that God is the greater power behind our work. Yet God is only behind our work when/if we are, in fact, in humility and in an intention to do God’s work. Otherwise, one’s actions may simply stem from the lower ego of greed or personal desires. In other words, our actions need to be under God, or inspired by God, in an attitude of humility and trust.
So in summary let us consider the elements of our own responsibility, or the elements of our own needed work in all of this. First, one needs to have intention and effort to serve God, or to do what is needed, good, and right. This is the intention and work of service in the world, which is serving God (God’s Purpose). It involves bringing love, goodness, beauty, healing, and truth in the world. It involves helping to make the world a better place and helping others manifest their true spiritual qualities.
Second, spiritual work involves work in our self. We need to take care of our own camel and also develop it. We need to solve our own inner conflicts and bring all parts of oneself into a greater divine purpose. There has to an effort to bring unity in oneself and reconcile the fighting parts of oneself. This demands a higher development of leadership in oneself, a leadership with both self-compassion and self-control. There needs to be compassion and caring for all parts of oneself, while not allowing some parts of oneself to oppress other parts. There needs to be self-control, to not allow ego compulsions to wreck the overall good of oneself, but not a control which suppresses all spontaneity and freedom. Free spontaneity is good in oneself, but not a juvenile freedom that disrespects higher spiritual purposes. So one needs to develop a balance in oneself, between control and freedom. There needs to be a compassionate and rational leadership in oneself, which is guided by divine purpose.
Third, there needs to be an ongoing trust in God, which means having greater and greater faith that God is guiding and leading us and helping us in our life journey. We become evermore trusting that God is helping us in our outer and inner work. But only when/if we are making responsible efforts and doing the work that we know is needed. So ultimately the fulfillment of divine purpose depends on us; it depends on our intentions, our efforts, and our trust. And if we can really trust in God’s support, our work becomes inspired by God, and God leads us on a good path. Related to trust, there needs to be an allowing of the Divine Power to work in our lives.
We pray for guidance and to be in the Divine Will. We pray for healing and Grace and self-transformation. This prayer makes a right orientation, or right relationship, to the Divine Will and Guidance (Wisdom). Also important is our intentional opening and conscious receptivity of Divine Guidance and Grace.
So Divine Will does not simply manifest, no matter how we are; because the success of Divine Will depends on the right orientation of the recipient agent to the Source of Grace and Guidance.
Though it is true that some degree of Grace and Guiding Will is “downpouring” or “emerging”, independent of us or in spite of our orientation or activity. But this is unpredictable and unconditional Grace, happening as it Will, is minor in comparison to that which is dependent on our orientation, choices, attitudes, prayers and actions.
God is within our heart, within the very deepness of our being. So within us, God is emerging into our consciousness. God is emerging into the conscious realm of our being. God is coming into conscious understanding through us. In other words, God is Self-revealing through us. God is enlightening us from within. So there is this work of the Divine emerging through us, which could be called the inner to outer work of God. But in order for this divine work to unfold, the outer part (you) must make a corresponding work toward the inner (God). The Lover God moves toward the beloved, but the beloved has to also move toward his/her Beloved. In fact, there has to be both a movement toward the Beloved God and an allowing of the Beloved to embrace oneself. So we need to go inward inside our own being to approach God, as God approaches us from within. Then God emerges into experience, as both meet and explode into unity. The individual self disappears, and there is only God-Being.