Select Page

Since the entire purpose of our existence is to know and worship God, many people want to know how they can do this, when God feels so far away or so outside their realm of knowledge and understanding.

First of all, we need to understand He’s not way up in the sky somewhere, but closer to us than our life-vein!

God hath revealed, that “We are closer to man than his life-vein” (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 185)

My love is in thee, know it, that thou mayest find Me near unto thee.  (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words, 10)

My love has made in thee its home, it cannot be concealed. My light is manifest to thee, it cannot be obscured.        (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words, 20)

Thou art but one step away from the glorious heights above and from the celestial tree of love. (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words, 7)

So if He’s so close, why does He seem so far away?  Bahá’u’lláh understands this question and has asked us to mediate on it!

Meditate on what the poet hath written: “Wonder not, if my Best-Beloved be closer to me than mine own self; wonder at this, that I, despite such nearness, should still be so far from Him.”  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 185)

So if He’s so close, who moved?

This is such an important topic, that Bahá’u’lláh tells us the only thing to feel sorry about is that we have drawn away from Him:

Sorrow not save that thou art far from Us. (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words, 35)

And the only thing worth celebrating is our return:

Rejoice not save that thou art drawing near and returning unto Us. (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words, 35)

What causes us to turn away?

First of all, He knows this about us:

At all times I am near unto thee, but thou art ever far from Me. (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words, 21)

The learned and the wise have for long years striven and failed to attain the presence of the All-Glorious; they have spent their lives in search of Him, yet did not behold the beauty of His countenance. (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words, 22)

It’s how He created us!

Ye shall be hindered from loving Me and souls shall be perturbed as they make mention of Me. For minds cannot grasp Me nor hearts contain Me.  (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words, 66)

Envy!

Know, verily, the heart wherein the least remnant of envy yet lingers, shall never attain My everlasting dominion, nor inhale the sweet savors of holiness breathing from My kingdom of sanctity.  (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words, 6)

Wealth:

Know ye in truth that wealth is a mighty barrier between the seeker and his desire, the lover and his beloved.  (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words, 53)

We stop mentioning God and keep remote from Him:

Wherefore have ye neglected the mention of the Loved One, and kept remote from His holy presence? (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words, 46)

We don’t trust God:

I desire communion with thee, but thou wouldst put no trust in Me. The sword of thy rebellion hath felled the tree of thy hope. (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words, 21)

So we turn to other sources for enlightenment:

Out of the essence of knowledge I gave thee being, why seekest thou enlightenment from anyone beside Me? Out of the clay of love I molded thee, how dost thou busy thyself with another?  (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words, 13)

And look for God in all the wrong places:

Why hast thou forsaken Me and sought a beloved other than Me?  (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words, 19)

And content ourselves with things that aren’t as good:

Upon the tree of effulgent glory I have hung for thee the choicest fruits, wherefore hast thou turned away and contented thyself with that which is less good? (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words, 21)

And with things that perish:

To the eternal I call thee, yet thou dost seek that which perisheth. (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words, 23)

We choose to shame ourselves:

Imperishable glory I have chosen for thee, yet boundless shame thou hast chosen for thyself.  (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words, 21)

We get caught up in “self”:

Thou didst remain so wrapt in the veil of self, that thine eyes beheld not the beauty of the Beloved, nor did thy hand touch the hem of His robe.  (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words, 22)

We’ve given our hearts to someone or something else:

All that is in heaven and earth I have ordained for thee, except the human heart, which I have made the habitation of My beauty and glory; yet thou didst give My home and dwelling to another than Me; and whenever the manifestation of My holiness sought His own abode, a stranger found He there, and, homeless, hastened unto the sanctuary of the Beloved.  (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words, 27)

We busy ourselves with our own preoccupations:

Many a day hath passed over thee whilst thou hast busied thyself with thy fancies and idle imaginings. (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words, 62)

Or with other people:

At many a dawn have I turned from the realms of the Placeless unto thine abode, and found thee on the bed of ease busied with others than Myself.  (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words, 28)

And trade God’s love for a mere capful of something else:

Alas! How strange and pitiful; for a mere cupful, they have turned away from the billowing seas of the Most High, and remained far from the most effulgent horizon.  (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words, 2)

Preferring the foul dregs of impurity to God’s celestial wine:

Every one hath turned away from the celestial wine of unity unto the foul dregs of impurity, and, content with mortal cup, hath put away the chalice of immortal beauty. Vile is that wherewith he is contented.     (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words, 61)

Our hearts defiled with desire and passion:

Why with thine heart defiled with desire and passion dost thou seek to commune with Me and to enter My sacred realm? Far, far are ye from that which ye desire.  (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words, 68)

We are neglectful of His bounties:

When fully grown, thou didst neglect all My bounties and occupied thyself with thine idle imaginings, in such wise that thou didst become wholly forgetful, and, turning away from the portals of the Friend didst abide within the courts of My enemy.  (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words, 29)

And content ourselves with dust:

. . . the hearts of men, content with transient dust, have strayed far from their eternal nest . . . (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words, 2)

We busy ourselves with idle arguments, debates, and conflicts:

The essence of beauty is within the peerless pavilion, set upon the throne of glory, whilst ye busy yourselves with idle contentions. (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words, 46)

We’re careless with the treasure we have:

. . . with eyes turned towards the slough of heedlessness are bereft of the glory of the divine presence. (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words, 2)

Our hearts are lifeless:

Never shall mortal eye recognize the everlasting Beauty, nor the lifeless heart delight in aught but in the withered bloom. (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words, 10)

And God doesn’t want us to approach Him in that state:

Approach Me not with lifeless hearts, defiled with worldly desires and cravings.          (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words, 19)

And we take pleasure in hanging out with others like us:

For like seeketh like, and taketh pleasure in the company of its kind.  (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words, 10)

We spend time with those who don’t have our best interests at heart:

Worldly friends, seeking their own good, appear to love one the other, whereas the true Friend hath loved and doth love you for your own sakes; indeed He hath suffered for your guidance countless afflictions. Be not disloyal to such a Friend, nay rather hasten unto Him.  (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words, 52)

Or who turn the radiance of our hearts into infernal fire:

Beware! Walk not with the ungodly and seek not fellowship with him, for such companionship turneth the radiance of the heart into infernal fire.  (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words, 57)

We’re occupied with idle imaginings:

. . . occupied thyself with thine idle imaginings . . .  (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words, 29)

And become forgetful of God:

. . .  thou didst become wholly forgetful . . .  (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words, 29)

Or worse, turn away from God and join forces with His enemies:

. . .  turning away from the portals of the Friend didst abide within the courts of My enemy.  (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words, 29)

We content ourselves with things that die and set our affections on things of this world:

Abandon not the everlasting beauty for a beauty that must die, and set not your affections on this mortal world of dust.  (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words, 14)

We think we know best:

What hath made thee turn away from Our desire and seek thine own?  (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words, 23)

The result?

We won’t ever find satisfaction:

If thou seekest another than Me, yea, if thou searchest the universe for evermore, thy quest will be in vain.  (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words, 15)

What happens when we turn away?

We deprive ourselves of God’s bounties and become sorely afflicted:

The sweet savors of holiness are breathing and the breath of bounty is wafted, yet ye are all sorely afflicted and deprived thereof.  (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words, 46)

We stray and perish:

My love is My stronghold; he that entereth therein is safe and secure, and he that turneth away shall surely stray and perish.         (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words, 9)

There seems to be some urgency to get back to God:

While there is yet time, return, and lose not thy chance.  (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words 21)

The time cometh, when the nightingale of holiness will no longer unfold the inner mysteries and ye will all be bereft of the celestial melody and of the voice from on high.  (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words, 15)

Seize thy chance, for it will come to thee no more.  (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words, 40)

How do we turn back?

God has promised that His gates are open wide, but very draw near and even fewer are able to enter:

The gates that open on the Placeless stand wide and the habitation of the loved one is adorned with the lovers’ blood, yet all but a few remain bereft of this celestial city, and even of these few, none but the smallest handful hath been found with a pure heart and sanctified spirit. (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words, 17)

So how can we get back to a place of connection to God and ensure we are one of those who enter His court?

Stop looking elsewhere:

Wouldst thou have Me, seek none other than Me . . . for My will and the will of another than Me, even as fire and water, cannot dwell together in one heart.  (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words, 31)

God wants us to love him better than we love anyone or anything else:

I desire to be loved alone and above all that is. (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words, 8)

Make a list of all the things you “love” and see which ones get in the way of your relationship with God.  Many of us assume we need to love our spouses or children or pets more than anything else, but God wants to be first in our lives.  If He isn’t, ask yourself what you can do to make sure He comes first.

An easy way is to make sure you’re honoring your spiritual obligations is to use this checklist to review where you stand:

Bahá’u’lláh has stated quite clearly in His Writings the essential requisites for our spiritual growth, and these are stressed again and again by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in His talks and Tablets. One can summarize them briefly in this way:

  • The recital each day of one of the Obligatory Prayers with pure-hearted devotion.
  • The regular reading of the Sacred Scriptures, specifically at least each morning and evening, with reverence, attention and thought.
  • Prayerful meditation on the teachings, so that we may understand them more deeply, fulfil them more faithfully, and convey them more accurately to others.
  • Striving every day to bring our behaviour more into accordance with the high standards that are set forth in the Teachings.
  • Teaching the Cause of God.
  • Selfless service in the work of the Cause and in the carrying on of our trade or profession.   (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 540)

Other daily practices include saying the 95 Allau’u’Abha’s:

We have also decided that it is timely for Bahá’ís in every land to take to their hearts the words of the Kitab-i-Aqdas: “It hath been ordained that every believer in God, the Lord of Judgment, shall, each day, having washed his hands and then his face, seat himself and, turning unto God, repeat `Allah-u-Abha’ ninety-five times. Such was the decree of the Maker of the Heavens when, with majesty and power, He established Himself upon the thrones of His Names.” Let all experience the spiritual enrichment brought to their souls by this simple act of worshipful meditation. (Universal House of Justice, Laws of the Kitab-i-Aqdas, Further Application of, 28 Dec, 1999)

Of course, we can and should say them at other times of the day as well:

‘Abdul-Bahá encourages the use of the sacred phrase Alláh-u-Bahá as a focus for invocation.  “The Greatest Name should be found upon the lips in the first awakening moment of early dawn.  It should be fed upon by consistent use in daily invocation, in trouble, under opposition, and should be the last word breathed when the head rests upon the pillow at night.  It is the name of comfort, protection, happiness, illumination, love and unity.  (‘Abdul-Bahá, Wisdom of the Master, p. 58)

The purpose of saying this prayer is to help us advance towards God:

Question – What is the reason that every one should mention every morning, ninety five times, the Greatest Name; i.e., Allah’u’Abha! “It is only for mentioning the name of God, for to commemorate His Holy Name causes us to advance toward Him and to be more vigilant.”  (Unauthenticated Tablet or talk attributed to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Barstow collection)

The Hidden Words also give us lots of practical advice on how to draw closer to God:

We need to turn away from ourselves:

If thou lovest Me, turn away from thyself . . . (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words, 7)

We need to turn towards God, renouncing everything except Him:

Turn thy face unto Mine and renounce all save Me.  (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words, 15)

In one prayer we can ask to detach ourselves from others so we can draw closer:

I have detached myself from my kindred and have sought through Thee to become independent of all that dwell on earth and ever ready to receive that which is praiseworthy in Thy sight.  (The Bab, Baha’i Prayers, p. 21)

And in another, He tells us it is our reality:

O Lord! I am single, alone and lowly. For me there is no support save Thee, no helper except Thee and no sustainer beside Thee.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i Prayers, p. 187)

We need to stop focusing on our own pleasure and focus only on what God wants for us:

If thou seekest My pleasure, regard not thine own . . .   (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words, 7)

Glory in His name and not in our own:

It behooveth thee to glory in My name, not in thine own . . . (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words, 8)

Trust in God and not in ourselves:

It behooveth thee to . . . put thy trust in Me and not in thyself . . . (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words, 8)

Turn our sight unto ourselves:

Turn thy sight unto thyself, that thou mayest find Me standing within thee, mighty, powerful and self-subsisting. (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words, 13)

Commune with God’s spirit:

Forget all save Me and commune with My spirit. This is of the essence of My command, therefore turn unto it.  (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words, 16)

Obedience:

Walk in My statutes for love of Me and deny thyself that which thou desirest if thou seekest My pleasure.  (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words, 38)

Neglect not My commandments if thou lovest My beauty.  (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words, 39)

This is such an important one, that Bahá’u’lláh tells us that nothing else will do:

Wert thou to speed through the immensity of space and traverse the expanse of heaven, yet thou wouldst find no rest save in submission to Our command and humbleness before Our Face.  (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words, 40)

Cleanse your body of all things:

The temple of being is My throne; cleanse it of all things, that there I may be established and there I may abide.  (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words, 58)

Cleanse your heart of all things:

Thy heart is My home; sanctify it for My descent. Thy spirit is My place of revelation; cleanse it for My manifestation.  (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words, 59)

Wake up!

How long art thou to slumber on thy bed? Lift up thy head from slumber, for the Sun hath risen to the zenith, haply it may shine upon thee with the light of beauty.  (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words, 62)

Free yourself of all idle fancies:

Wherefore, free thyself from the veils of idle fancies and enter into My court.   (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words, 63)

Stop looking elsewhere:

Abide not but in the rose-garden of the spirit . . . Seek thou no shelter except in the Sheba of the well-beloved . . . dwell not save on the mount of faithfulness. Therein is thy habitation, if on the wings of thy soul thou soarest to the realm of the infinite and seekest to attain thy goal. (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words, 1)

Take one step towards Him:

Take thou one pace and with the next advance into the immortal realm and enter the pavilion of eternity.  (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words, 7)

Look and listen to the Voice of God:

Blind thine eyes, that is, to all save My beauty; stop thine ears to all save My word (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words, 11)

Empty yourself of all acquired knowledge:

Empty thyself of all learning, that thou mayest partake of My knowledge.  (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words, 11)

Sanctify yourself from all riches:

Sanctify thyself from riches, that thou mayest obtain a lasting share from the ocean of My eternal wealth. (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words, 11)

Attain a clear vision, pure heart and attentive ear:

With a clear vision, a pure heart and an attentive ear thou mayest enter the court of My holiness.  (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words, 11)

Empty your hearts of all save God:

Ponder awhile. Hast thou ever heard that friend and foe should abide in one heart? Cast out then the stranger, that the Friend may enter His home.  (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words, 26)

Escape from the cage you’ve put yourself in:

Burst thy cage asunder, and even as the phoenix of love soar into the firmament of holiness. Renounce thyself and, filled with the spirit of mercy, abide in the realm of celestial sanctity.  (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words, 38)

Up from thy prison ascend unto the glorious meads above, and from thy mortal cage wing thy flight unto the paradise of the Placeless.  (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words, 39)

Let go of malice and envy:

Purge thy heart from malice and, innocent of envy, enter the divine court of holiness.  (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words, 42)

Spend time with God’s loved ones:

He that seeketh to commune with God, let him betake himself to the companionship of His loved ones; and he that desireth to hearken unto the word of God, let him give ear to the words of His chosen ones.  (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words, 56)

And the righteous:

Wouldst thou seek the grace of the Holy Spirit, enter into fellowship with the righteous.  (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words, 58)

How do we do any of these things?

Through prayer and meditation, and then being still enough to listen for the Voice of God:

I have the greatest desire to speak with you, but if I do not talk with my tongue I commune with my heart and my soul is with you. Without the medium of words it speaks to you of mysteries. Those who understand can converse with me thus. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Divine Philosophy, p. 119-120)

How do we know this works?  Because He promises:

Ready is He to answer whosoever calleth upon Him, and nigh is He unto such as commune with Him.  (Baha’u’llah, The Proclamation of Baha’u’llah, p. 60)

Bahá’u’lláh tells us we can return to Him “swift as a twinkling of an eye”:

Swift as the twinkling of an eye ye can, if ye but wish it, reach and partake of this imperishable favor, this God-given grace, this incorruptible gift, this most potent and unspeakably glorious bounty.  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 326)

For a true lover, reunion is inevitable:

Whither can a lover go but to the land of his beloved? and what seeker findeth rest away from his heart’s desire? To the true lover reunion is life, and separation is death. His breast is void of patience and his heart hath no peace. A myriad lives he would forsake to hasten to the abode of his beloved.  (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words, 4)

Reasons to return to God:

Aside from the fact that it’s our purpose in life, why else do we want to love God?

So He can call us by name:

I loved thy creation, hence I created thee. Wherefore, do thou love Me, that I may name thy name and fill thy soul with the spirit of life.  (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words, 4)

So that His love can reach us:

Love Me, that I may love thee. If thou lovest Me not, My love can in no wise reach thee. Know this, O servant. (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words, 5)

So that we can return “home” and live in Paradise:

Thy Paradise is My love; thy heavenly home, reunion with Me. Enter therein and tarry not. This is that which hath been destined for thee in Our kingdom above and Our exalted dominion.  (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words, 6)

To ensure that God will eternally live in us:

. . .  that thou mayest die in Me and I may eternally live in thee.  (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words, 7)

So that we can find God when we get to the next world:

Abide then in thy love for Me, that thou mayest find Me in the realm of glory.  (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words, 14)

It’s the only way to find peace within ourselves:

There is no peace for thee save by renouncing thyself and turning unto Me . . .  (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words, 8)

To keep us safe and secure:

My love is My stronghold; he that entereth therein is safe and secure, and he that turneth away shall surely stray and perish.  (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words, 9)

In order to be fit for everlasting life:

. . . that thou mayest be fit for everlasting life . . .  (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words, 63)

In order to be worthy to meet God:

. . . that thou mayest be . . . worthy to meet Me. (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words, 63)

To avoid separation, weariness and trouble:

Thus may death not come upon thee, neither weariness nor trouble.  (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words, 63)

What does He mean “that death may not come upon thee”?  In another Hidden Word He tells us:

To the true lover . . . separation is death. (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words, 4)

In conclusion, Bahá’u’lláh has the last word:

I bear witness, O friends! that the favor is complete, the argument fulfilled, the proof manifest and the evidence established. Let it now be seen what your endeavors in the path of detachment will reveal. In this wise hath the divine favor been fully vouchsafed unto you and unto them that are in heaven and on earth. All praise to God, the Lord of all Worlds.  (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words, 82)

How has this been helpful in pointing out the ways you’ve strayed from God and how you can find your way back?  Post your comments here: