Each week, spiritual teacher Deepak Chopra responds to Oprah.com users' questions with enlightening advice to help them live their best lives.
Q: My best friend just lost her 29-year-old daughter to cancer. I watched for almost two years as she prayed, stayed positive and supported her daughter in every medical treatment and alternative treatment available. Her daughter still died. She gets angry now when people tell her that if you stay positive and pray, and truly believe, you will get good results. I told her she may not always get the results she wants, but if she keeps praying, she'll receive God. I don't know if that helped or not. What can I say to help her?
— Ellen S., Beverly, Massachusetts
This isn't a time to say anything. Your friend's anger is part of her grief. Let it be what it is for the time being. I'm sorry to hear her friends are trying to make her feel a different way, because this implies she did something wrong. Guilt, too, is part of grieving, especially when a parent outlives a child. There are no words that really help until the intensity of her feelings has passed.
You are also asking a question for yourself, I think, which has to do with positivity and prayer. Most people think of God in personal terms. He is a superhuman being sitting on a throne above the clouds. Looking down on earth, he answers prayers, but is fickle. Some prayers are answered, others get ignored. With that in mind, people get twisted up wondering what they did wrong when their prayers go unanswered. Were they inferior, unloved, sinful, not positive enough or unworthy in some mystic way that the mind cannot grasp?
I'd like to suggest all of this speculation is fruitless. If God really were a person deciding who gets good things and who gets bad things, he wouldn't be God. He would be a fickle human being using the world as his personal lottery of winners and losers. Who would want to worship such a God? In his mixture of cruelty and kindness, he's no better than any other human being. An all-knowing, all-loving God isn't compatible with the myth of a bearded patriarch sitting above the clouds.
With this in mind, seekers throughout the ages have tried a different way—they have gone inward to discover what God really is. When you take seriously that the Kingdom of Heaven is within, everything changes. Instead of thanking God one minute and blaming God the next, you open yourself up to the possibility that God is the source of being and consciousness. He isn't a he or a she. God is the essence of existence. In that role, the deity is more mysterious than the judge sitting above the clouds, but also more intimate, because we are made of the same stuff—being and consciousness—as the deity. Which means we can be one with God.
The reason prayers don't come true has no simple answer, because sometimes we are connected to the source and sometimes we separate from it. Instead of focusing on the fickleness of the man in the sky, I think it's more fruitful to heal separation and come closer to the source. That is no guarantee you will never again get sick, much less die. The fact that the body dies says nothing about whether the spirit lives. Only by healing separation can you truly discover what is God...and your real relationship to divinity.
Next: How do I take control of my depression instead of letting my depression take control of me?
Every week, Deepak will be answering questions from readers just like you—ask your question now!
Deepak Chopra is the author of more than 50 books on health, success, relationships and spirituality, including his current best-seller, Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul, and The Ultimate Happiness Prescription, which are available now. You can listen to his show on Saturdays every week on SiriusXM Channels 102 and 155.
How can we be blessed if there's suffering and pain?
Become more aware of your soul
How many material possessions can I have and still retain a sense of self?
Published on June 02, 2010