32. Dealing with the Storms in Our Lives (Jn 6:14-21)

Psalm 170:23-30
They who go down to the sea in ships, who work in the great waters; (24) these see the works of Jehovah, and His wonders in the deep. (25) For He speaks, and He raises stormy wind, and makes its waves high; (26) they go up to the heavens; they go down to the depths; their soul is melted because they are in evil; (27) they reel and stagger like a drunken man, and all their wisdom is swallowed up; (28) and they cry to Jehovah in their distress, and He saves them out of their straits. (29) He settles the storm to a whisper, so that its waves are still; (30) and they are glad, because they are quiet; and He led them to their desired haven.

John Chapter 6:14-21
After these things, Jesus went away over the Sea of Galilee, the Tiberian Sea. (2) And a great crowd followed Him, for they saw His miraculous signs which He did on the sick ones. (3) And Jesus went up into the mountain and sat there with His disciples. (4) And the Passover was near, the feast of the Jews. (5) Then Jesus lifting up His eyes and seeing that a great crowd is coming to Him, He said to Philip, From where may we buy loaves that these may eat? (6) But He said this to test him, for He knew what He was about to do. (7) Philip answered Him, Loaves for two hundred denarii are not enough for them, that each of them may receive a little. (8) One of His disciples said to Him, Andrew the brother of Simon Peter, (9) A little boy is here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what are these for so many? (10) And Jesus said, Make the men to recline. And much grass was in the place. Then the men reclined, the number was about five thousand. (11) And Jesus took the loaves, and giving thanks distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to those reclining. And in the same way the fish, as much as they desired. (12) And when they were filled, He said to His disciples, Gather up the fragments left over, that not anything be lost. (13) Then they gathered and filled twelve hand-baskets with fragments of the five barley loaves which were left over to those who had eaten.

Apocalypse Explained 514[21]
…the particulars signify Divine spiritual things, which nevertheless do not appear in the letter; as the sea, the Lord’s walking upon it, …. the ship, His entering into it, …. and other things besides. But there is no need singly to explain here the spiritual things signified; let it be said only that the “sea” signifies the ultimate of heaven and the church, since there are seas in the outmost borders of the heavens; the Lord’s walking upon the sea signifies the Lord’s presence and His influx even into these, and consequent life from the Divine to those who are in the ultimates of heaven; their life from the Divine was represented by the Lord’s walking upon the sea;


A powerful truth is that the Lord is fully present with us at all times despite how things may appear. In the imagery of the Lord feeding the 5000 we have illustrated that He is the source of all life, and that this includes the life of our thoughts and affections. However we know from our own self reflection that not all that passes through our minds can be attributed to the Lord – much of it is very self centred and anything but heavenly. Yet this doesn’t detract from the truth that the source of the life of our thoughts and affections is the Lord, their quality however is another thing. We can think of the stream of our mental life as being like a river whose source is high in some mountain range. At its source the water is pure but as it descends it takes on the quality of the environment it passes through and should it pass into an industrial area where wastes are discarded into its waters it becomes increasingly polluted with toxins. The fact that the river is now polluted doesn’t detract from the fact that at its source it is pure.

The life that flows into the deepest part of the human mind, its soul, is pure but as that life of love and wisdom makes it journey into the lower or more external reaches of the mind it gives life to beliefs and affections that are polluted with evils and falsities that arise from believing the impressions we receive through our natural senses. One such belief is that we are the source of our life, that what we experience as our thoughts and affections originate from within our own minds. But we know from the Divine Revelation provided in the Heavenly Doctrines that this is not the case at all. That the truth is that all life actually flows in and that it originates in the Lord who is life itself. We are merely recipients of His life, which, in finite human minds, takes on the quality of the loves and beliefs we hold to.

So while the life is pure in its origin its manifestation in us will reflect the quality of our mental environment and if that environment is polluted with the fallacies that arise from our senses due to the love of self and the world then, to that extent, our minds remain an image of hell. On the other hand to the degree that our minds are a product of goods and truths drawn from the Word understood in the light of the Heavenly Doctrines our minds become an image of heaven. All that is good and true is from the Lord and all that is evil and false is from the hell. This is such an important truth because once it is truly grasped by a person they are then empowered to consciously reject evils and falsities as they arise in the mind and acknowledge goods and truths as being from the Lord. It is in this act of refusing to attribute anything to ourselves that sets us in a state of true spiritual freedom in which a new heavenly sense of self can be born.

The casting off of the false belief that what we experience as our thoughts and affections as being from us is perhaps one of the greatest battles a person faces in this world in seeking to live a spiritual life. When we speak of the senses people often think only in terms of the senses that belong to the body that give form to our experience of an external world and its objects. Very little thought is given to the fact that we also have a more inner dimension of sensation. We talk of feeling the physical objects of the world around us, but we also feel things within us. We feel emotions, affections, the warmth or coldness we feel towards others, things like this are not felt as outside of us but within us. To become aware or conscious of feeling anything whether its on the outer or inner plane of life requires that we have organs able to detect the different qualities of sensation, for there is what is felt and there is the one feeling what is felt.

The organs that detect and so give us the ability to feel emotions, or see the value of an idea or principle, are not physical but mental or spiritual. Now because these senses are spiritual, and spiritual things are the things of the mind, our inner senses must belong to our spiritual body. In fact it’s an appearance of the senses that the physical body actually feels anything. What we think we feel in and by means of the body is actually felt by our spirit. Our bodies don’t feel, our minds do. This seems to be contradicted by our ordinary sense experience which tells us the body feels, but we can see from the following teachings for spiritual Christianity that we are not to trust our senses…

Arcana Coelestia 4652.
…the majority of people who have not stopped to reflect on the matter do not know that all five senses are located somewhere else than within organs belonging to the body; so they think that when these organs cease to function through death no sensory perception remains, when in actual fact a person, that is, his spirit, then passes into a life of perfect sensory perception.

Arcana Coelestia 4622.
…it is not the body which sees, hears, smells, and feels through touch, but a person’s spirit. That being so, when the spirit sheds its body it retains the sensory powers it possessed when within the body; indeed these are now far keener. For that which belongs to the body, being gross compared with that belonging to the spirit, has blunted those sensory powers; and these have been made even blunter because of the person’s immersion of them in earthly and worldly interests.

What we learn from this is that our ability to perceive the things of the spirit is blunted due to our immersing our senses in earthly and worldly interests. When we move away from what the Word teaches us is real and into what our natural senses try to tell us is real we loose our connection with the Lord and those principles that need to govern our perspective of life. The things of the spirit become less real for us as we look to the world to gratify the desires of the loves of self and the world. The result is we place all the importance on those things that lack any eternal value, and value what is merely temporary. Earthly and worldly interests encase our spiritual senses in a dense dark world filled with ignorance and doubts and, when our sense of ourselves is trapped in this level of life, we struggle to see that the Lord in the Word is fully present with us, looking to enable us in spiritual goals and aspirations that belong to the internal man. But as long as we are striving from the natural man His presence will appear distant, if not at times completely absent.

The ebb and flow of spiritual life is such that we move from natural to spiritual states of life and back again. We experience the Lord as close to us at times and then distant from us. But the Lord has never moved. When we feel comforted, confident and at peace we sense in this that the Lord is near, then there are times when we feel frustration, anxiety, and depression, and life becomes a real struggle and in these times we feel as though the Lord is absent. When we believe our senses and feel we are abandoned it is reflected in our responses to others. Maybe not openly, but certainly if we paid attention to our imaginings within we would see that our level of life is filled with the negative energy of the hells. But if we don’t reflect and run with how we feel we will justify our responses believing that the feelings we feel are us, that we have been hurt and that others have caused the situation to be this way.

This process of feeling the Lord present and absent is captured very well in this story of the disciples struggle with the storm as they looked to go towards Capernaum. We receive teaching from the Word and it satisfies our need on a number of levels witnessed in the feeding of the 5000. The excitement we feel when we come to see truths that have the potential to bring the changes into our lives we feel we need is felt as something good. We take hold of these truths believing the feeling of delight we have received that if we possess these truths we will have even more delight. Yet possessing truths is not what transforms us, it’s living from them and the natural man in us all struggles to understand this. We must come to see the distinction between knowing and living from truth and this distinction can only be realised a matter of experience by being brought to the end of ourselves.

So we see in the story that the crowd try to take the Lord by force and make Him a king but the Lord seeing this withdrew into the mountain. This is the natural response to experiencing the delight of seeing truths from the Word. The first thing to take hold of it is the natural man or the crowd in us, and this crowd of natural thoughts and affections thinks it can take the things of spiritual life and make them serve it as their king. We all do this. We take the things of religion and look to them to serve natural and worldly aspirations and goals. In extreme forms this tendency expresses itself outwardly in religious fundamentalism, but it takes other forms as well and is something we should become aware of in ourselves. In its more subtle forms it takes form in situations when we override the freedom of others because we think we know what’s best for them. Whenever this kind of attitude comes to the fore we loose touch with the Lord and this is described as “Jesus withdrawing into the mountain”.

When we begin to act from ourselves and not from the true spirit of the Word we move away from the Lord and the feeling is the Lord has moved away from us. It’s an important point, because the kind of thoughts that arise from the false belief that the Lord has move away from us are very different to those based on the truth the Lord never moves, is always present, and if it feels like He is not near then it is we who have moved. The first response leads to us being passive, sometimes offended, if not angry that we have been left, we may even believe something is wrong with us which sees us fall into states self condemnation and guilt. But if we believe the Word then our response will be to actively examine ourselves, looking to the Lord to find what needs dealing with and moving on based on a positive response to what we have had revealed.

When we act from false beliefs self interest takes a hold of the spiritual principles we have been learning and twists them to justify negative emotional states. This is describes in verse 16 where we are told that “…it when it became evening His disciples went down to the sea”. To descend down to the sea is to move into a low state in regard to spiritual life. When we are not looking to apply the Word to our own life but can only see how it applies to others we set ourselves up as judges and so enter a low state in regard to our understanding of the Word. We become trapped in its literal sense drawing material from it that justifies unloving attitudes and so we loose touch with its inner sense which is given for those who are prepared to do inner work on themselves. The living principles represented by the disciples are then drawn into a boat which corresponds to a natural understanding of what the Word teaches. This boat is what we use to move through life in, and as such are the ideas we have put together to navigate our way across life’s seas. The fact that the Lord is not present means that it’s a state of living from ones own strength in the pride of ones own intelligence which is further indicated by the statement that “darkness had come upon them and Jesus had not come”. v17

When we are in these states of life we think we are right, we think the problems and issues we face are caused by others, we can’t see that the issues and problems that bring us into negative emotional states have nothing to do with others outside of us but are the result of our attachment to false beliefs or conclusions that arise from the senses and so darken our minds to the spiritual truths involved. The inner winds of these beliefs begin to agitate our minds, and increasingly we look to make more efforts in our own strength to overcome the way we are feeling. But without the Lord in our boat, without recognising that He must be Lord and governor over our whole life, including the inner life of our thoughts and affections, our levels of anxiety will only grow and rage like this sea within us.

When this becomes too much for us we begin once again to turn to the Lord in this way we are brought out of our senses, to our senses. We learn from this experience that we cannot overcome in our own strength. That we have moved away from the Lord by not believing the Word and this is the cause of inner difficulties. That we are responsible for our states, of what we choose to believe, when we see this and turn away from looking outside ourselves for the causes of our condition then the Lord appears walking on the sea and draws alongside the boat. We are then reassured by the realisation that it is the Word that is our saviour, the “I AM” and we need not fear, but we do need to desire to take Him into the boat of our life that our life might be joined with His.

Joh 6:21 Then they desired to take Him into the boat. And the boat was instantly at the land to which they were going.

Amen

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