He Leadeth Me
by Mr. Eldon Smith, authorized
at the Swedenborgian Church in San Diego
In the July, 1994 Issue of Our
Some of the most
comforting passages in the Bible are those that tell us about the
overruling providence of the Lord. In our natural and selfish states of
thought and feeling we may doubt the providence of the Lord and sometimes
even deny it. Looking at life from the natural side, regarding human
happiness as a result of having lots of money and possessions or even
longing for riches, honor and power, we may say that God is unjust or
unkind when we fail to obtain such material things because we measure
everything by natural standards.
It is a very common thing
to acknowledge a truth such as the doctrine of the Divine Providence in a
general way and yet deny it when we need to apply it to a particular state
or condition of our own life. We may say we believe in Divine Providence
which controls the affairs of the world and yet when asked in preference
to the particular of our own lives we may feel that human judgment
produces good results.
Being led by Divine
Providence is not always recognized as we regard the events of our lives
or the circumstances which surround us in this world. There are two opposite
results which lead us to doubt the operation of the Divine Providence at
times; one is the prosperity of the wicked and the other is the failure of
those we consider good or righteous.
However, these things
should not lead us to have doubts, for we do not know what may be
necessary for our spiritual growth. The end that the Lord has in mind is
not natural success or material wealth but our spiritual and eternal good.
Riches may be best for some and poverty for others. However, neither
riches nor poverty will of themselves make us happy or miserable. Human
joy and human sorrow lie deeper than this. They come from the love that
rules our internal lives.
We may be inclined to ask
how the Lord can govern in the smallest particulars of human life, in the
affairs of millions of humans beings who inhabit this earth, or what part
we have in our own destiny, or how our judgment can be of any use to us if
the Divine Providence rules in everything, or what prevents us from
adopting the idea of fatalism or predestination if we have nothing to do
with shaping our own destiny.
This is an old problem,
but let us remember that we are not denying free will when we attribute
all power to the Lord and say that His providence extends to the smallest
particulars of a person's life--we do shape our own destiny to the extent
that we act in favor of or against the laws of Divine order.
It is our fault if we do
not enter heaven. It may not be our own fault if we do not succeed in all
our enterprises in this world which are intended for good, because there
are influences at work that we may not be able to control. We may be
surrounded by circumstances that defeat our plans. Then why does the Lord
permit evil to control sometimes, or why can't He make sure that the good
always succeed? This is basically the same question as to why the Lord
permits any evil at all. The Lord will not permit evil to control our
spiritual thoughts and affections unless we will it. No one can prevent
another form being saved, although carrying out our good intentions into
acts may be prevented for a while. The condition of all people is sad when
they are deprived of their natural liberty, but this is nothing compared
to the loss of their spiritual liberty.
It is the desire of the
Lord that our freedom of choice should never be interfered with and even
though He is always present with us and guides our footsteps. He never
forces us to do right nor do we feel His providence working in our lives.
He gives us all the ability to do right and He gives us a rational faculty
so that we can tell right from wrong. When we disobey any law of order, we
suffer the consequences even though we may not have intended evil. We may
do wrong unwittingly or by accident, and then we are not charged with
being guilty of the crime.
We cannot foresee or
provide against all possible events. Our judgment is of no value where
there are influences at work which are more powerful than our own will. Spiritual
influences are unseen and these are continually at work. Both
good spirits or angels and evil spirits are around us at all times, to aid
or to hinder our purposes, and the Lord's providence is brought into the
lowest things of the natural world through spiritual agencies and
spiritual forces that are not seen by us.
It is not uncommon for
someone to be suddenly save from danger by an unseen influence or power
that caused him or her to avoid the danger ahead without knowing why.
This will be true of all
our actions if we are willing to be led by the Lord. And if we sometimes
suffer misfortunes, accidents, or calamities, we should not attribute them
to a alack of mercy on the part of the Lord or to a suspension of the operation
of His laws, because such a thing is impossible. The Divine laws are never
suspended and the Lord's mercy never stops.
All the trials and
misfortunes we endure should not make us lose our faith. For out of these
trials and misfortunes, the Lord will helps us find good. This is true in
our natural life as well as our spiritual life. Our spiritual elevation
depends upon trial, loss, suffering, and failure. And this is because our
selfish desires, those of the natural part of our being are not in harmony
with God's will.
If we love and strive
after those things which re forbidden and are not conducive to our real
happiness or spiritual welfare, and at the same time acknowledge the
truths of God's Word and the necessity of obedience to those truths, there
will come a time when these natural desires must be given up, or when our
cherished plans will fail and we suffer because we have not kept the law
but have turned away from God.
Success or happiness may
not immediately follow our effort to do right. We need to remember that it
takes longer to repair a wrong or correct a mistake than it does to make
one. It necessitates the confession of wrong in some way, either to God or
one's fellowman, the surrender of natural pride, the complete humbling of
self, and the earnest, deep and longing desire to refrain from making the
same mistakes again.
The Lord gives everyone
the power to achieve a final victory. "He gives power to the faint,
and to him that has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall
faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted. But they who wait
for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings
like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not
faint." (Is. 40:29-31) These verses tell us to act from a principle
of right and not just from emotion or feeling, and to have a rational
faith rather than just blind trust.
Charity requires that the
Lord's goodness and mercy and truth should be recognized in those things
which concern others as well as ourselves. WE often see the failures and
shortcomings of others, and forget that the Lord's providence is over them
as well as over us and that His providence is universal. Until we admit
that His mercy extends to everyone, we will not be able to appreciate it
or understand it in respect to our own lives. When others fall or stumble,
we should help them up, believing that, "The Lord upholds all who are
failing, and raises up all who are bowed down" (Ps. 145:14), and that
He will have mercy upon us and forgive us our transgressions as we forgive
the transgressions of others and have pity on them even as He has had pity
"The steps of a man
are from the Lord, and he establishes him in whose way he delights; though
he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the Lord is the stay of his
Do not fret because of the
do not be envious of wrongdoers,
for they will soon fade like the grass,
and wither like the green herb.
Trust in the Lord, and do
so you will live in the
land, and enjoy security.
Take delight in the Lord
and He will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the
trust in Him , and He will act.
He will make your vindication shine like the light,
and the justice of your cause like the noonday.
Be still before the Lord,
and wait patiently for Him;
do not fret over those who prosper in their way,
over those who carry out evil devices.
Refrain from anger, and
Do not fret - it leads only to evil.
For the wicked shall be cut off,
but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.
Reading from Swedenborg:
It is a law of the Divine
Providence that we should act form freedom in according with reason, also
that every thing a person wills, thinks, speaks, and does should appear to
him to be from himself; also that without this appearance there would be
nothing his to any one, nor would one be one's own person; thus one would
have no ownhood [proprium]; and therefore nothing could be imputed to one;
and without such imputation it would be a matter of indifference whether a
person did evil or good, had the faith of God or the persuasion of hell;
in a word, one would not be human. We would have no liberty to act in
accordance with reason, and nothing would appear to us to be from
ourselves, if the operation of the Divine providence were made evident to
our perceptions and senses; since, if it were thus made evident we would
be led by it; for the Lord leads all by means of His Divine providence,
and we lead ourselves only in appearance. Consequently we we were led in
accord with a living perception and sensation we would not be conscious of
life, but would be moved to utter sounds and to act much like carved
images. If we were still conscious of life we would be led like one bound
hand and foot, or like a beast before a cart. Who doe snot see that we
would then have no freedom? And if we had no freedom we would have no
reason; for every one thinks from freedom and in freedom; and whatever one
does not think from freedom and in freedom does not appear to be from
oneself but from another; in fact, if you consider it interiorly you will
perceive that we would then have no thought, still less any reason, and
therefore would not be human.
Divine Providence #176