Once upon a time a woman named Wilhelmina asked for a meeting with the minister of her church. She was at a spiritual crossroads and very depressed. As she entered the church and came to the minister’s office she was warmly invited to take a seat.
“What seems to be the problem?” asked the minister with a kind smile.
“I feel my spiritual life is in crisis,” she replied as a tear began to stream down her cheek.
“Why do you feel that way? You always seem to absorb our church’s teachings like a sponge.”
Wilhelmina lifted her head and replied, “At first I was excited to learn all the truth this church had to offer and even applied these teachings to my heart and life. But now I strangely feel worse off than before.”
“What is making you feel worse?” inquired the concerned church leader.
“I am getting constant thoughts of my unworthiness,” said the woman now shedding more tears. “I keep seeing unflattering things about myself in spite of my desire to be a good person. I feel devastated.”
The minister got up from his chair and hugged her as he offered up words of comfort and encouragement. “The Lord loves you. You are important to God’s heavenly plan. Be assured that God’s love and mercy will always protect you. Ignore those negative feelings.”
Suddenly, an angel appeared out of thin air and began slapping the minister across the face. Then the angel threw the surprised minister against the wall. “You jackass! You are interfering with God’s attempt at saving this woman!”
The angel then scanned the minister’s bookshelves, pulled out a volume, turned to a page and pointing to a passage said, “read this!”
The page was from a book written by Emanuel Swedenborg called the Arcana Coelestia (Secrets of Heaven). The particular passage described how individuals undergoing spiritual rebirth eventually reach a turning point. First, people are led toward goodness from learning God’s truths. After this initial stage, people are led into deeper truth from the principle of goodness itself. But the change from the first state to the second is one of sadness and remorse because God must activate various temptations in order to break down and weaken various false thoughts that people entertain about themselves. Everyone seeking heaven must eventually learn that goodness comes only from the Lord—not from oneself. This unflattering process of humility has no real teeth if people are spared from observing their negative traits. The resulting legitimate humility allows God to then insinuate a new spiritual heart and a new freedom into a person’s life. Only after this uncomfortable process does the Lord’s love shine through and give comfort to an individual. How can one feel true comfort without some measure of personal victory and success in transcending themselves?
“What did I do wrong?” asked the minister still shaking the cobwebs from his head.
“You are too namby-pamby with your congregation. You offer comfort before anyone has the chance to understand what is really going on inside them during this critical period. Spiritual rebirth is serious business! God is not politically correct when it comes to rooting out a person’s evil tendencies. God is not afraid to pop people’s balloons and make them feel a little crappy about themselves. Eternal life is at stake!”
“But it is my job to give people hope,” said the shaken minister.
“Wrong! It is your job to help guide people in actively and courageously taking part in their spiritual battles—not lowering their guard through some lazy and false expectation from ‘hope.’ There is no hope with inaction! What do you think Swedenborg wrote all these books for?”
The angel then took the astonished woman into another room and instead of simply giving her a big loving hug, explained to her how she can build real endurance and prepare herself properly for these spiritual bouts that are sure to come with those who God is actively regenerating.