3. Seeing Beyond Appearances In Times Of Struggle (Psalm 3)

O Jehovah, how my adversaries have multiplied! Many are the ones who rise against me. Many are saying of my soul, There is no salvation for him in God. Selah. But You, O Jehovah, are a shield around me; my glory, and He who lifts up my head. I cried to Jehovah with my voice, and He heard me out of His holy mountain. Selah. I laid down, and slept. I awoke, for Jehovah kept me. I am not afraid of myriads of people who have been set against me all around. Arise, O Jehovah! Save me, O my God. For You have struck all my enemies on the cheekbone. You have broken the teeth of the wicked. Salvation belongs to Jehovah. Your blessing is on Your people. Selah. (Psalm 3:1-8)

The Lord alone resists the evils with man by Himself and not through any angels of heaven, because to resist evils with man is a work of Divine omnipotence, Divine omniscience, and Divine providence. It is a work of Divine omnipotence, because to resist one evil is to resist many, and even to resist the hells. For every evil is joined with innumerable other evils, and they cling together like the hells with each other; for as evils make one so do the hells, and as the hells make one so do evils, and no one but the Lord is able to resist the hells so united. It is a work of Divine omniscience, because the Lord alone knows what man is and what his evils are, and what their connection is with other evils, thus in what order they must be removed that man may be inwardly or radically cured. It is a work of Divine providence, that nothing may be done contrary to the laws of order, and that what is done may promote man’s eternal good; for Divine omnipotence, Divine omniscience, and Divine providence have respect in every least particular to what is eternal. (Apocalypse Explained 1166{2})

There is a need in the spiritual life to be able to draw a distinction between how things appear on the surface and what the Word teaches with regard to how things actually are. One of the most difficult things for us to appreciate is that our experience of the external world is really something couched in appearances of reality. It’s because we tend to place so much weight on how we experience things externally that we tend not to give a second thought to the conclusions and inferences we draw.

For example, if we encounter a situation in the external world and find that in our internal world we experience a particular set of feelings, we quickly draw the conclusion that the event is the cause of our internal state. It works in reverse as well. All of us know from experience that our internal state has a bearing on how we view situations presenting in our external world. The same event can be taken in completely different ways depending on our state of mind at the time. This should form a caution for us that things are not always how they appear and that the conclusions which we draw are often based on a very limited view of things.

We can’t see with our physical eyes the spiritual forces that lie behind and motivate the shifting inner states we experience on any given day. Sometimes we’re up, then we’re down, our minds constantly wander in day-dreams that have no basis in reality, and in moments of consciousness we may catch ourselves thinking in ways that shock us. We all experience a constant stream of thoughts and affections passing through our minds in any given moment and it’s an incredible thought to realise that all this activity enters us via the world of spirits. That our very thoughts and affections are the effects of activity in the spiritual world working to ground itself on the lower planes of existence in our personal mental awareness.

Our minds are composed of two faculties called the will and understanding and our life is so intertwined with these faculties that we virtually become whatever we feel and think. So we become so identified with our feelings that we unconsciously allow them to dictate our thoughts and behaviour. What we need to realise is that we are not our feelings, and that these states are a general sphere which reflect the quality of our spiritual associations in the world of spirits. When we identify with our feelings, in other words when we believe our feelings to be one with who we are, we attract spiritual associations of the same quality as the feelings we are experiencing . This not only strengthens the feelings by making them more intense, but it also strengthens our attachment to them as something belonging to and coming forth from us.

This is why it is never wise to allow negative emotions to have free expression through us. It’s a fallacy that giving vent to negative emotions somehow gets rid of them. It doesn’t. All it does is give temporary relief while inviting stronger associations with negative spirits of emotion, who feel a person’s venting as their own delight and it is this promise of delight, of our allowing negative emotions to get the better of us, that attracts and strengthens negative spiritual associations, which then further impacts on our general disposition or mood.

Our will and understanding are provided by the Lord so that they can be filled with heavenly affections in the case of the will, and truths in the case of the understanding. Without truths from the Word human beings remain totally immersed in their proprium or the self-centredness of the ego. Here our sense of self is totally identified with the feelings and thoughts that arise from its connections into communities of spirit which exude an atmosphere of self-interest, along with a denial of the Lord and hatred of all things to do with living a genuine spiritual life. While we live in denial of this level of life existing within us, we live entrapped by it. If we can’t see the activity of evils and falsities within us we will not see any need to practice self-examination and corrective action. The doctrines for Spiritual Christianity teach that self-examination, and repentance from an acknowledgement of the Word or Lord, is what a genuine spiritual life is founded on.

There are two things that are the essentials and at the same time the universals of religion, namely, the acknowledgment of God and repentance.(Divine Providence 340)

It is a common maxim in every religion that a man ought to examine himself, to do repentance, and to desist from sins; and that if he does not do so he is in a state of damnation. (Doctrine of Life 64)

The need to continue in this practice to the end of one’s life is vital because the tendencies in our proprium are relentless in their efforts to deaden the influence of what is good and true. The Word alone is able to do this work in us as we read in our reading from Apocalypse Explained 1166{2}) earlier. If we are not using the Word as the basis for our life, we effectively give the hells the upper hand – we end up believing the false conclusions that they constantly breathe forth into our proprium.

We see these principles played out in Psalm 3. Verses one and two read

O Jehovah, how my adversaries have multiplied! Many are the ones who rise against me. Many are saying of my soul, There is no salvation for him in God. Selah.

If you are engaged in spiritual work, then you will be well familiar with the sentiments expressed in these words of the Psalmist. They also capture the representative imagery found throughout the Gospels when the Lord was faced with the murderous hatred of those who sought His life. This imagery points to the inner reality of those things within us that the Word battles against. As truths become active within a person through their efforts to live from them, it appears that their adversaries have multiplied. These adversaries are the adversaries of a person’s soul, which are nothing other than the evils and falsities that belong to their proprial/egoic identity.

Of course nothing has actually increased, this is an appearance. The reality is that the proprium in and of itself is nothing but evils and falsities and the more the light of truth shines within a person, the more evils and falsities come to light. This can be overwhelming at times, which is why we are inclined to deny the need for doing this kind of work. It’s uncomfortable because it cuts at the false image of external goodness that we like to project of ourselves, but if we are to be freed from negative emotional states and self-centred thinking then we have little choice but to take hold of the Word and use it as the Lord intended it to be used.

This means we have to be willing to develop and strengthen a personal spiritual practice in our life. A practice that goes beyond just listening to and reading spiritual material. Such activities are useful but in and of themselves are not enough, there needs to be a determination to apply what we learn to life and by life is meant our whole life, not just our external life, but our internal life as well. Until there is this internal application we remain on the surface of things. It is only when we are prepared to take this step towards the internal application of truths from the Word, that our regeneration can truly begin.

For this to occur we need to undergo a preparation. That preparation involves taking hold of the teachings offered in the Word, at the level we are at, and learning how it can be used to support moving forward in the spiritual life. So that when we do become discouraged by how things appear on the surface, when we are tempted to believe how we feel rather than what the Word teaches, we have grounded within us what’s needed to resist those elements that say there is no salvation for us in God. Through those truths that we have taken into our life we will be able to say with heartfelt conviction that despite the appearance…

You, O Jehovah, are a shield around me; my glory, and He who lifts up my head. I cried to Jehovah with my voice, and He heard me out of His holy mountain.

Such a cry is the cry of the Word worked into our life through our spiritual practice. It is not us; it is the voice of the Son, or the Divine Truth, who is able to resist the hells on our behalf. It feels like this comes from us, but this too is an appearance, for it is the Word alone in us who is able to speak with authority and protect us from the onslaughts the hells make through the evils and falsities of our proprium. The holy mountain of Jehovah is His love for the salvation of the human race. The Lord is ever attentive to those who seek Him in the work of regeneration.

I laid down, and slept. I awoke, for Jehovah kept me. I am not afraid of myriads of people who have been set against me all around.

We need not be afraid for the Divine Love and Wisdom itself is focussed on our salvation so that when we fall into the sleep of temporarily believing the appearances, of feeling lost, alone, or helpless, feeling distant from the Lord, we will awaken to the care that the Lord has exercised over our souls in those dark times to preserve our true self from evil. Therefore, we will learn in passing through these states of spiritual sleep and wakefulness, that the Lord keeps us safe. For while the proprium which we have acquired through our natural life may consist of myriads of falsities that seek our life, He has provided for us a new sense of self which is built upon the goods and truths of His Word – which is a heavenly proprium. This new proprium is provided by the Lord and is acquired through working with Him to have our sense of self removed from the evils and falsities of the hellish proprium.

As the Lord looks to arise in this new mode of life to break the hold of the old, so we, along with the Psalmist will be able to say…

Salvation truly belongs to the Lord…

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