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Someone once sent me this quote:

The souls who bear the tests of God become the manifestations of great bounties: for the divine trials cause some souls to become entirely lifeless, while they cause the holy souls to ascent to the highest degree of love and solidity.  (The Universal House of Justice, 1985 Dec 02, Child Abuse, Psychology and Knowledge of Self)

She asked:

What is your understanding of this quote?  I’ve been tested and have felt lifeless, without energy and very tested!  I am fearful of being lifeless!

I replied

I think it’s good that you feel fearful of being lifeless!  It will be the motivation you need to keep you going.  It’s like God, by telling us this, is holding out a carrot – we know if we bear the tests we’ll ascend to the highest degrees, which is good reason to do find a way to overcome it.

I think you’re missing the second half of this quote though!  It goes on to say:

In addition, we know from the Bahá’í Writings that man’s soul “is independent of all infirmities of body or mind,” and not only continues to exist “after departing from this mortal world”, but progresses “through the bounty and grace of the Lord”. Therefore, an evaluation of man’s material existence and achievements cannot ignore the potential spiritual development stimulated by the individual’s desire to manifest the attributes of God and his response to the exigencies of his life, nor can it exclude the possibility of the operation of God’s mercy in terms of compensation for earthy suffering, in the next life.  (The Universal House of Justice, 1985 Oct 14, Suffering of Exploited Children)

This suggests to me that even if our tests leave us feeling lifeless now:

  • Our soul continues to progress after departing from this mortal world
  • God can make sure our soul progresses through His bounty and grace
  • We can develop our spirits by having a desire to manifest the attributes of God
  • God will have mercy on us and compensate us for earthy suffering in the next life

Secondly, I don’t know about you, but I tend to use quotes like this to beat myself up and say “I’m lifeless therefore I’m doomed!”

But let’s have a look at what the Writings tell us about the “lifeless” so we can find the truth.

Who are the lifeless in the Writings? 

Those who forget to remember God:

O servants! Lifeless is the body that is bereft of a soul, and withered the heart that is devoid of the remembrance of its Lord.  (Baha’u’llah, Tabernacle of Unity, p. 46)

Those who are devoid of spirituality:

Although in the past all the great Spiritual Teachers have arisen in the East, there are still many men there who are quite devoid of spirituality. With regard to the things of the spirit they are as lifeless as a stone; nor do they wish to be otherwise, for they consider that man is only a higher form of animal and that the things of God concern him not.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 71)

Those who are without the breaths of the Holy Spirit:

It has thus been made evident that the world of mankind is in need of the breaths of the Holy Spirit. Without the spirit the world of mankind is lifeless, and without this light the world of mankind is in utter darkness.   (Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith – Abdu’l-Baha Section, p. 289)

Those who turn away from the Word of God:

All have swooned away in this Day from the Word of thy Lord. They are even as dead and lifeless, except him whom thy Lord, the Almighty, the Unconstrained, hath willed to exempt.  (Baha’u’llah, The Proclamation of Baha’u’llah, p. 76)

Those who haven’t breathed the spirit of life from God:

Know thou that immortality belongeth to those souls in whom hath been breathed the spirit of life from God. All save these are lifeless — they are the dead, even as Christ hath explained in the Gospel text.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 189)

Those who haven’t accepted the bounties of God:

O servant of God! The Daystar of the everlasting realm is shining resplendent above the horizon of His will and the Oceans of divine bounty are surging. Bereft indeed is the one who hath failed to behold them, and lifeless the one who hath not attained thereunto.  (Baha’u’llah, Tabernacle of Unity, p. 47)

Those whose hearts are defiled by worldly desires and cravings; and delight in things that aren’t from God:

Prefer not your will to Mine, never desire that which I have not desired for you, and approach Me not with lifeless hearts, defiled with worldly desires and cravings.   (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words 19)

Give ear unto this: 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)

Those who act in complete opposition to the teachings:

The beast made war against these two witnesses.”  By this is intended a spiritual war, meaning that the beast would act in complete opposition to the teachings, conduct, and character of these two witnesses, to such an extent that the virtues and perfections that had been diffused among the peoples and nations by virtue of their power would entirely vanish, and animal qualities and carnal desires would predominate. Therefore, this beast would wage war against them and would gain ascendancy, meaning that the darkness of the error propagated by this beast would prevail throughout the world and slay those two witnesses—that is, it would extinguish their spiritual life amidst the people, obliterate their divine laws and teachings, and trample underfoot the religion of God, leaving behind naught but a dead and soulless body.  (‘Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 25)

What do we need to give us life?

We need the teachings of Baha’u’llah:

Then by degrees these fragrances of heaven were discontinued; the season of winter came upon the world; the beauties of spring vanished; the excellences and perfections passed away; the lights and quickening were no longer evident; the phenomenal world and its materialities conquered everything; the spiritualities of life were lost; the world of existence became life unto a lifeless body; there was no trace of the spring left.  Bahá’u’lláh has come into this world. He has renewed that springtime. The same fragrances are wafting; the same heat of the Sun is giving life; the same cloud is pouring its rain, and with our own eyes we see that the world of existence is advancing and progressing. The human world has found new life.  (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 10)

We need love:

Love gives life to the lifeless.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 181)

We need time to heal – everything happens in its proper season:

In the spring there are the clouds which send down the precious rain, the musk-scented breezes and life-giving zephyrs; the air is perfectly temperate, the rain falls, the sun shines, the fecundating wind wafts the clouds, the world is renewed, and the breath of life appears in plants, in animals and in men. Earthly beings pass from one condition to another. All things are clothed in new garments, and the black earth is covered with herbage; mountains and plains are adorned with verdure; trees bear leaves and blossoms; gardens bring forth flowers and fragrant herbs. The world becomes another world, and it attains to a life-giving spirit. The earth was a lifeless body; it finds a new spirit, and produces endless beauty, grace and freshness. Thus the spring is the cause of new life and infuses a new spirit.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 73)

Did this answer your question?  Give you some additional insights?  Post your comments below!