“Remind thyself, in the darkest moments, that every failure is only a step toward success, every detection of what is false directs you toward what is true, every trial exhausts some tempting form of error, and every adversity will only hide, for a time, your path to peace and fulfilment.” Augustine Mandido II, author.
Readers of The Urantia Book are thrilled to learn that salvation is based on faith alone, that a divine fragment within the mind will fuse with each of us for all eternity, and that there is a plan for an eternal life of service, worship, and discovery.
But with respect to adversity, what guidance does The Urantia Book offer? How do the teachings help us respond when we are shattered by devastating and unexpected tragedy or our own misguided efforts causes suffering and despair in our daily lives?
Fortunately, the Revelators provide ample material to instruct and inspire us. I selected some relevant teachings and grouped them into the following five areas:
1) Failure— a tool for acquiring wisdom and spiritual achievement.
2) Perspective—an outlook that paves the way for spiritual progress.
3) Potential Divinity—a list of twelve difficult situations and how the right response reveals how genuine our faith is
4) Coping skills—how to maintain in the aftermath of devastation.
5) Putting it all to use…in eternity.
It’s important to realize that, as Jesus says, “…you may enter the kingdom as a child, but the Father requires that you grow up, by grace, to the full stature of spiritual adulthood.” [Paper 193:2:2, page 2054:3] This includes not only bearing the fruits of the spirit, but also showing poise, courage and faith when your world falls apart.
“Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.” – Will Rogers.
During the rest period at Magadan, the Greek philosopher Rodan met with Nathaniel, Thomas, and other believers who chanced to be on hand. These talks produced profound insights into many subjects, including failure.
And it is in this business of facing failure and adjusting to defeat that the far-reaching vision of religion exerts its supreme influence. Failure is simply an educational episode — a cultural experiment in the acquirement of wisdom — in the experience of the God-seeking man who has embarked on the eternal adventure of the exploration of a universe. To such men defeat is but a new tool for the achievement of higher levels of universe reality. [Paper 160:4:15, page 1780:1]
To truly appreciate the depth of this teaching about failure, we need to understand the dynamic relationship between reasoning, wisdom, and spiritual achievement. As the following quotes indicate, reasoning leads to wisdom, which eventually culminates in spirit leading, reflective worship, and God-consciousness.
When reason once recognizes right and wrong, it exhibits wisdom; when wisdom chooses between right and wrong, truth and error, it demonstrates spirit leading. [Paper 103:9:10, page 1142:1]
Thinking surrenders to wisdom, and wisdom is lost in enlightened and reflective worship. [Paper 112:2:11, page 1228:6]
Education is the business of living; it must continue throughout a lifetime so that mankind may gradually experience the ascending levels of mortal wisdom, which are:
1. The knowledge of things.
2. The realization of meanings.
3. The appreciation of values.
4. The nobility of work – duty.
5. The motivation of goals — morality.
6. The love of service – character.
7. Cosmic insight – spiritual discernment. [Paper 71:7:5–12, page 806:5–12]
And then, by means of these achievements, many will ascend to the mortal ultimate of mind attainment, God-consciousness. [Paper 71:7:13, page 806:13]
Returning to Rodan’s teaching, facing failure and making adjustments is a necessary step to get back in tune with spirit leading, which is essential for spiritual progress. With the next discussion point, Rodan encourages the religionist to feel gratified at having made the changes that were needed, rather than regretting the past.
The career of a God-seeking man may prove to be a great success in the light of eternity, even though the whole temporal-life enterprise may appear as an overwhelming failure, provided each life failure yielded the culture of wisdom and spirit achievement. [Paper 160:4:16, page 1780:2]
Cultivating habits of problem solving, illustration.
One meaning of perspective is to view things in their relative importance. By emphasizing the eternal perspective, we have Jesus’ word that our post-mortal career is assured:
Jesus portrayed the profound surety of the God-knowing mortal when he said: “To a God-knowing kingdom believer, what does it matter if all things earthly crash?” Temporal securities are vulnerable, but spiritual sureties are impregnable. When the flood tides of human adversity, selfishness, cruelty, hate, malice, and jealousy beat about the mortal soul, you may rest in the assurance that there is one inner bastion, the citadel of the spirit, which is absolutely unassailable; at least this is true of every human being who has dedicated the keeping of his soul to the indwelling spirit of the eternal God. [Paper 100:2:7, page 1096:4]
In Paper 3 a Divine Counselor says that evolutionary creature life is beset with certain inevitabilities. In order for a desirable trait to exist, the opposite of that trait must be allowed to be, so that the difference between the two becomes clear. For example, #5 on the list of the nine reads
“…Is the love of truth and the willingness to go wherever it leads, desirable? Then must man grow up in a world where error is present and falsehood always possible.” [Paper 3:5:10, page 51.9]
It’s evident that it’s the divine plan to have a world filled with difficulties. Believers must bear in mind that contrast is necessary for the supernal qualities to be realized.
In Jesus’ teaching at Tyre, the Master speaks of the joyous perspective of true believers:
God-knowing individuals are not discouraged by misfortune or downcast by disappointment. Believers are immune to the depression consequent upon purely material upheavals; spirit livers are not perturbed by the episodes of the material world. Candidates for eternal life are practitioners of an invigorating and constructive technique for meeting all of the vicissitudes and harassments of mortal living. Every day a true believer lives, he finds it easier to do the right thing. [Paper 156:5:13, page 1739:8]
A Melchizedek of Nebadon gives us a beautifully concise lesson on perspective:
“The goal of human self-realization should be spiritual, not material. The only realities worth striving for are divine, spiritual, and eternal.” [Paper 100:2:6, page 1096:3]
This section is remarkable, in that it specifies how we are expected to handle adverse situations. By reacting to the situations as described, we are demonstrating our potential divinity. No less than twelve examples are given by a Melchizedek of Nebadon in Paper 101:
Through religious faith the soul of man reveals itself and demonstrates the potential divinity of its emerging nature by the characteristic manner in which it induces the mortal personality to react to certain trying intellectual and testing social situations. Genuine spiritual faith (true moral consciousness) is revealed in that it:]
1. Causes ethics and morals to progress despite inherent and adverse animalistic tendencies.
2. Produces a sublime trust in the goodness of God even in the face of bitter disappointment and crushing defeat.
3. Generates profound courage and confidence despite natural adversity and physical calamity.
4. Exhibits inexplicable poise and sustaining tranquillity notwithstanding baffling diseases and even acute physical suffering.
5. Maintains a mysterious poise and composure of personality in the face of maltreatment and the rankest injustice.
6. Maintains a divine trust in ultimate victory in spite of the cruelties of seemingly blind fate and the apparent utter indifference of natural forces to human welfare.
7. Persists in the unswerving belief in God despite all contrary demonstrations of logic and successfully withstands all other intellectual sophistries.
8. Continues to exhibit undaunted faith in the soul’s survival regardless of the deceptive teachings of false science and the persuasive delusions of unsound philosophy.
9. Lives and triumphs irrespective of the crushing overload of the complex and partial civilizations of modern times.
10. Contributes to the continued survival of altruism in spite of human selfishness, social antagonisms, industrial greeds, and political maladjustments.
11. Steadfastly adheres to a sublime belief in universe unity and divine guidance regardless of the perplexing presence of evil and sin.
12. Goes right on worshiping God in spite of anything and everything. Dares to declare, “Even though he slay me, yet will I serve him.” [Paper 101:3.4–16, page 1108:3–15]
The Urantia Book has good practical advice for how to cope with trying situations.
Jesus emphasized the value of diversion and relaxation. The apostles were having trouble getting along with each other, as well as with John’s disciples. Jesus brought them all up Mount Sartaba, for a period of rest. We are told
“…this was a marvelous occasion in the experience of each of them; they never forgot the day going up the mountain. Throughout the entire trip hardly a word was said about their troubles. Upon reaching the top of the mountain, Jesus seated them about him while he said: “My brethren, you must all learn the value of rest and the efficacy of relaxation. You must realize that the best method of solving some entangled problems is to forsake them for a time. Then when you go back fresh from your rest or worship, you are able to attack your troubles with a clearer head and a steadier hand, not to mention a more resolute heart. Again, many times your problem is found to have shrunk in size and proportions while you have been resting your mind and body.” [Paper 143:3:3, page 1611:1]
In the second preaching tour, Jesus gives us a lesson regarding contentment:
When Jesus was visiting the group of evangelists working under the supervision of Simon Zelotes, during their evening conference Simon asked the Master: “Why are some persons so much more happy and contented than others? Is contentment a matter of religious experience?” Among other things, Jesus said in answer to Simon’s question:
“Simon, some persons are naturally more happy than others. Much, very much, depends upon the willingness of man to be led and directed by the Father’s spirit which lives within him. Have you not read in the Scriptures the words of the wise man, ‘The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord, searching all the inward parts’? And also that such spirit-led mortals say: ‘The lines are fallen to me in pleasant places; yes, I have a goodly heritage.’ ‘A little that a righteous man has is better than the riches of many wicked,’ for ‘a good man shall be satisfied from within himself.’ ‘A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance and is a continual feast. Better is a little with the reverence of the Lord than great treasure and trouble therewith. Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a fatted ox and hatred therewith. Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues without rectitude.’ ‘A merry heart does good like a medicine.’ ‘Better is a handful with composure than a superabundance with sorrow and vexation of spirit.’ [Paper 149:5:1–2, page 1674:3–4]
Much of man’s sorrow is born of the disappointment of his ambitions and the wounding of his pride. Although men owe a duty to themselves to make the best of their lives on earth, having thus sincerely exerted themselves, they should cheerfully accept their lot and exercise ingenuity in making the most of that which has fallen to their hands. [Paper 149:5:3, page 1674:5]
Seek not, then, for false peace and transient joy but rather for the assurance of faith and the sureties of divine sonship which yield composure, contentment, and supreme joy in the spirit.” [Paper 149:5:4, page 1674:6]
Here are two more of Jesus’ quotes to take to heart on coping:
From Jesus’ teaching at Tyre:
“The God-conscious mortal is certain of salvation; he is unafraid of life; he is honest and consistent. He knows how bravely to endure unavoidable suffering; he is uncomplaining when faced by inescapable hardship.’’ [Paper 156:5:20, page 1740:7]
In Ordination of the Twelve, Jesus advises
“Be as wise as serpents but as harmless as doves.” [Paper 140:3:3, page 1580:8]
Putting it all to use…in eternity
In Paper 26 (Ministering Spirits of the Central Universe), a Perfector of Wisdom from Uversa describes the Pilgrim Helpers, whose role is to
“…welcome the much-traveled ascenders of space to the stabilized worlds and settled economy of the central universe.” [Paper 26:5:1, page 291:1]
Two paragraphs later, it reads
“… But long before reaching Havona, these ascendant children of time have learned to feast upon uncertainty, to fatten upon disappointment, to enthuse over apparent defeat, to invigorate in the presence of difficulties, to exhibit indomitable courage in the face of immensity, and to exercise unconquerable faith when confronted with the challenge of the inexplicable. Long since, the battle cry of these pilgrims became: “In liaison with God, nothing — absolutely nothing — is impossible.” [Paper 26:5:3, page 291:3]
Evidently it is an essential part of our development, both as mortals and in eternity, to build strong character and unshakable faith.
Happily, the equalizer to this immense challenge is given in The Morontia Life by an Archangel of Nebadon, who says
The higher the mortal species, the greater the stress and the greater the capacity for humor as well as the necessity for it. [Paper 48:4:17, page 549:4].
Just earlier, it reads
One of the functions of humor is to help all of us take ourselves less seriously. Humor is the divine antidote for exaltation of ego. [Paper 48:4:15, page 549:2]
Indited by an American agondonter for the benefit of all fellow Urantians.