Can one’s fate be changed? | What do Baha’is think of destiny?
Baha'is perceive existence on earth as an endlessly intricate dance of wills - the divine-endowed, individual freedom of choice of every past, present, and future human, and the supreme Will of the Divine. Certain life circumstances are predestined by the Creator, guided by His sagacity and benevolent Intent for each individual and humanity at large. However, Baha'u'llah asserts that, with God's permission, everyone possesses the liberty to decide their conduct or reaction to diverse life situations. Consequently, each individual is accountable for their actions in God's eyes.
To understand how God's Will interacts with the free will He gave each of us, we need to get a few things straight. It's like trying to solve a puzzle with many pieces. Here are the pieces:
Understand that God is involved with everything He created.
Know that there are spiritual rules and there are consequences if we break them.
Accept that our lives have boundaries set by God.
Realize that if you misuse your free will, you're the one to blame.
Understand the main reason we're living this physical life.
Appreciate why we need to face tough times in life.
Know that just because God knows something will happen, doesn't mean He made it happen.
Recognize that God, being all-powerful, can use anyone's actions for His purposes.
Trust in God's kind intentions for each of us.
So, let's take a quick look at each of these points.
God is involved with everything He created
Firstly, Bahá'ís perceive God as a "personal" entity, meaning He is aware of and actively participates with every soul He has created. One of Bahá'u'lláh's significant teachings is that God's immense love for us prompted our creation, and this profound love drives all His actions towards humanity.
Think of the Heavenly Father as a caring Parent who cultivates spiritually open individuals, as well as humanity collectively, through the gradually disclosed teachings of His Manifestations, the responses to prayers, and the active execution of His Supreme Will. This unfolds in mysterious ways, leading to the fulfillment of His loving plans.
“It behoveth thee to consecrate thyself to the Will of God. Whatsoever hath been revealed in His Tablets is but a reflection of His Will.” – Baha’u’llah
There are spiritual rules and there are consequences if we break them
Here's another thing to think about. Just like God put physical laws in place to keep the universe running smoothly, He also set up spiritual laws to guide how we behave. Let's say I decide I don't believe in gravity and leap off a roof. Well, I'm going to get a harsh reminder of gravity's power when I smack into the ground. The same goes for breaking one of God's spiritual laws. If you decide to break one, you're going to face some bad vibes and it's going to impact your soul, no doubt about it.
“The Laws of God are not imposition of will, or of power, or pleasure, but the resolutions of truth, reason and justice.” -‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 154
“The Prophets of God, the supreme Manifestations, are like skilled physicians, and the contingent world is like the body of man: the divine laws are the remedy and treatment.” -‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 158
Our lives have boundaries set by God
Some parts of our lives are definitely set in stone. For instance, God made it so we have to deal with certain physical needs: we all need to eat and sleep, our bodies can get hurt or sick, and just like a candle burns out when the wick is done, we all eventually kick the bucket. We can't change these God-given ground rules of life. And a lot of the spiritual challenges we face are tied to these conditions.
If you misuse your free will, you're the one to blame
Because everything in creation operates by God's rules, anything that happens in life is because God let it happen. This includes actions that come directly from us using our free will. Basically, we can only do things because God allows us to exist and make choices. But even though God gives us the power to act, it's still on us to decide how we behave in any given situation.
“… the inaction or the movement of man depend upon the assistance of God. If he is not aided, he is not able to do either good or evil. But when the help of existence comes from the Generous Lord, he is able to do both good and evil; but if the help is cut off, he remains absolutely helpless. This is why in the Holy Books they speak of the help and assistance of God. So this condition is like that of a ship which is moved by the power of the wind or steam; if this power ceases, the ship cannot move at all. Nevertheless, the rudder of the ship turns it to either side, and the power of the steam moves it in the desired direction. If it is directed to the east, it goes to the east; or if it is directed to the west, it goes to the west. This motion does not come from the ship; no, it comes from the wind or the steam. “In the same way, in all the action or inaction of man, he receives power from the help of God; but the choice of good or evil belongs to the man himself.” - ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, pp. 249-250
Understand the main reason we're living this physical life
Think of this life as prep time for a way bigger, eternal spiritual life that kicks off when our bodies give out. The Bahá’í writings compare our time here on Earth to an embryo in the womb, growing all the physical parts it needs to handle life outside. Bahá’u’lláh says that while we're here, we need to gear up for the afterlife by picking up traits from God Himself - things like love, fairness, mercy, generosity, kindness, and all that good stuff.
Appreciate why we need to face tough times in life
Bahá’u’lláh says the best way to build up those spiritual traits for the afterlife is by going through and overcoming all kinds of challenges that God custom-makes for each of us in this life. In fact, God set up life to be a series of tests and wins, of messing up and then making spiritual progress. You can kind of think of life as a school for spirituality. Instead of dodging life's tests, we should learn to see them as chances to learn, perfect, and grow spiritually.
Just because God knows something will happen, doesn't mean He made it happen
While our choices in any situation are limited by what we know, God's knowledge isn't restricted by time, place, or anything else. God sees everything, knows everything; His knowledge is complete and absolute. He's aware of everything that's happened, is happening, and will happen - but just because He knows it doesn't mean He's the one making it happen.
“The foreknowledge of a thing is not the cause of its realization; for the essential knowledge of God surrounds, in the same way, the realities of things, before as well as after their existence, and it does not become the cause of their existence. It is a perfection of God.” -‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 138
READ > The Bahá'í Concept of God
Recognize that God can use anyone's actions for His purposes
No matter what one person or even billions of people do with their free will, God, being all-powerful, can easily use those choices to achieve His goals. God's power means that every person, in any situation, is impacted exactly how God wants for that specific person and for all of humanity.
So, let's say someone does something bad to one or more people. God can take those bad choices and use them to carry out His kind intentions for everyone involved. He can turn any wrongs into opportunities for the victims to grow spiritually in the exact ways that God knows each person needs.
Trust in God's kind intentions for each of us
The last basic idea about us and God's Will is understanding that whatever God decides for us, with His perfect wisdom, is honestly the best thing for us and the best way for us to reach our spiritual potential. When you get this and lean on God's grace, the grown-up move is to willingly, thoughtfully, and joyfully pick God's Will over your own - to actively go with what God has decided.