Finding God is not simple. How do we know it really is God speaking to us from within, and not our ambitions, our jealousy, or our selfishness? How did Abraham know he was experiencing God and not some other emotion prompting him to kill his son? There is no easy answer to this. Signs and omens abound in the Bible. But external clues about God’s intentions for us border perilously on superstition.
In ancient religion priests would study the stars or the entrails of animals (or people) to guess the intentions of the gods. People will sometimes randomly open the Bible or the Qur’an to a page and think that what they read is a message from God. This is nonsense. The answer of who is speaking to us only lies within ourselves.
We experience God alone from the power of the love we feel from him. It is what Christians call grace, Jews chen, Hindus kripa and Muslims fadl. According to the Hadith, or sayings of Mohammed, the prophet remarked 2,300 years after Abraham: “None amongst you can get into Paradise by virtue of his deeds alone … not even I, but that Allah should wrap me in his grace and mercy.” It is this protective power that lingers within after an emotional experience with God. If we search our hearts and minds deeply for God we will experience this power, which human emotions can only poorly imitate.
Filled with grace, we become fully individualized. We are supported by an inner strength that both shields and guides us. It fills us with dignity but guards us from arrogance. It allows us not to judge, but to forgive others. It puts us in a position to make the right decisions about our lives–everything from our relationships to our finances. Without grace we cannot do any of these things on our own. Ultimately we know we experience God by the results our actions bring. If God has spoken to us, what we do will benefit not only ourselves, but everyone around us. If only you or your family benefit at the expense of others you may not have been experiencing God at all.
We need this help to overcome the normal human failings of jealousy, greed, lust, and anger. How can we follow the Commandments and achieve happiness and prosperity through human will power or intellect alone? Or through mere altruistic acts? We will continually fail without God’s grace.
Theologians have long debated whether acts or grace can save us. I believe it is from acts, but only with grace. The tremendous burdens of the world suddenly seem manageable once we are humble enough to realize we can’t face the world alone. But how do we attain grace? Only by humbling ourselves before God. Rather than enslavement through submission, we are liberated in a way no worldly freedom—whether political or economic—can. Through humility to God alone, and to no human or material thing.