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Hardship and Tribulation Are Necessary

We should not, however, forget that an essential characteristic of this world is hardship and tribulation and that it is by overcoming them that we achieve our moral and spiritual development. As the Master says, sorrow is like furrows, the deeper they go the more plentiful are the fruits we obtain. (From a letter dated 5 November 1931 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, in Living the Life, p. 7)

Recently someone asked me: “I thought I’d healed from anxiety and depression and I didn’t.  I had some tests and difficulties and I got very anxious again with panic attacks.  I don’t think I will ever heal.  Is it me or is it that God doesn’t want to heal me?”

I replied that whenever I fall back into anxiety, these are the things I remind myself:

  • When I let anxiety win, I’m in self-will, believing I have to solve all my problems and do everything by myself.
  • When I let anxiety win, I’m living in the future, imagining “what if’s” that may never happen. In this present moment, I have everything I need.  I am safe.
  • God loves me whether I’m anxious or not, but when I get scared, I am far from God and need to remember He’s way bigger than my problems and standing ready to solve them for me.

I also pull out this checklist, which is a summary of all the things I teach about overcoming anxiety.  I use it to see the areas which need strengthening, in order to overcome anxiety again.

It helps to remember that all of us have tests and difficulties.  Severe mental tests such as anxiety and depression are the polish God uses to help with my moral and spiritual development, but I often forget, and think I’m the only one suffering.  When I’m stuck in that prison of self, quotes like the one above remind me that there is a purpose, and I have a choice, and I can rededicate my life to God, and implore Him to use these tests so my fruit can nourish the people around me.

Knowing there’s a purpose to my suffering, I am grateful!

What jumped out for you as you read today’s meditation?  I’d love it if you would share so we can all expand our knowledge of the Writings!

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Fear into Faith:  Overcoming Anxiety

 

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Removing Difficulties and Obstacles

O Divine Providence! Perplexing difficulties have arisen and formidable obstacles have appeared. O Lord! Remove these difficulties and show forth the evidences of Thy might and power. Ease these hardships and smooth our way along this arduous path. O Divine Providence! The obstacles are unyielding, and our toil and hardship are conjoined with a myriad adversities. There is no helper save Thee, and no succourer except Thyself. We set all our hopes on Thee, and commit all our affairs unto Thy care. Thou art the Guide and the Remover of every difficulty, and Thou art the Wise, the Seeing, and the Hearing.  (‘Abdu’l-Baha, Newly Translated Prayers of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Prayers of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, March 2021, number 6)

Have you had a chance to look at the 26 newly translated prayers of ‘Abdu’l-Baha yet?  If not, you can find them here.

In reading through them during the Fast, this was the first one which jumped out at me.  Maybe I’m more depressed than I realize!  I liked it because it speaks my language:

  • perplexing difficulties have arisen due to COVID and my apparent loss of purpose
  • formidable obstacles to my ability to teach or be of service in the ways the House of Justice are asking us to do, have arisen because of total exhaustion and burnout
  • the obstacles are unyielding and seem to be worsening instead of getting better
  • my toil and hardship are conjoined with a myriad adversities including 2 broken ribs that prevent me from doing a lot of what I would like to do

But I don’t have to stay stuck here.  I can ask God to:

  • Remove these difficulties
  • show forth the evidences of Thy might and power
  • Ease these hardships
  • smooth our way along this arduous path

And in case I think there’s something I have to do myself, I am reminded that:

  • There is no helper save Thee, and no succourer except Thyself
  • We set all our hopes on Thee and commit all our affairs unto Thy care
  • Thou art the Guide and the Remover of every difficulty, and Thou art the Wise, the Seeing, and the Hearing.

Knowing God can relieve me of my difficulties and hardships through His might and power, I am grateful!

 What jumped out for you as you read today’s meditation?  I’d love it if you would share so we can all expand our knowledge of the Writings!

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Fear into Faith:  Overcoming Anxiety

 

If You Like What You Read, Please Help Keep This Site Alive

Reassurance

 

I swear by My life! Nothing save that which profiteth them can befall My loved ones. To this testifieth the Pen of God, the Most Powerful, the All-Glorious, the Best Beloved.  (Shoghi Effendi, Advent of Divine Justice, p.  69)

This is a really hard quote for those who want answers to “why is this happening to me?”  No matter what life throws at us, the bottom line is that it’s happening to profit us.  Somehow, it’s for our good, and that can be hard medicine to swallow, especially when we’re going through really hard times.  I’ve come to understand that all of our tests serve 2 purposes:  to draw us closer to God and to help us acquire the virtues we’ll need in the next world.

When my brother was killed and my daughter died and I suffered through years of emotional, physical and sexual abuse, I felt like a victim and even for many years, blamed God.  If there was a God, (and for many years I couldn’t accept that there was), how could He do these things to me?  I’ve come to realize that God doesn’t think the way we do.  I will never understand why He gave us free will and then stood by watching what mankind would do with it.  But with these quotes, and others like it, I’ve come to recognize that my life is better with God in it.  I can more easily handle everything that comes my way, I can appreciate that it’s strengthened my relationship to him, and no doubt I’ve developed a lot of virtues, resilience among them.

Knowing that all my tests are for my benefit, I can relax and I am grateful!  

What jumped out for you as you read today’s meditation?  I’d love it if you would share so we can all expand our knowledge of the Writings!

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Fear into Faith:  Overcoming Anxiety

 

 

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Attitude Adjustment 

I hear thou art grieved and distressed at the happenings of the world and the vicissitudes of fortune. Wherefore this fear and sorrow? The true lovers of the Abhá Beauty, and they that have quaffed the Cup of the Covenant fear no calamity, nor feel depressed in the hour of trial. They regard the life of adversity as their garden of delight, and the depth of the sea the expanse of heaven.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 309)

I love to imagine ‘Abdu’l-Bahá writing this as a love note of encouragement to one of the earlier believers.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to get this message in the mail?  It’s as though he could reach into her heart and understand the fear and sorrow she’s feeling.  Next he reminds her of who she is – a true lover of the Abhá Beauty – and the standard to reach for.  This applies to each one of us who are grieved and distressed at the hand that’s dealt us and what’s happening in the world.  We:

  • fear no calamity
  • don’t feel depressed in the hour of trial
  • regard the life of adversity as our garden of delight
  • regard the depth of the sea the expanse of heaven

Easier said than done, perhaps, but when we know where the bar is, we can reach towards it, like a plant reaching towards the sun.

Reminding myself of how to look at my troubles differently, I am at peace, and I am grateful!

What jumped out for you as you read today’s meditation?  I’d love it if you would share so we can all expand our knowledge of the Writings!

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Learning How to Be Happy

 

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Unanswered Prayers

Although you seem to feel that your prayers have not so far been answered, and do no longer have any hope that your material condi­tions would ameliorate, the Guardian wishes you nevertheless not to allow such disappointments to undermine your faith in the power of prayer, but rather to continue entreating the Almighty to enable you to discover the great wisdom which may be hidden behind all these suf­ferings. For are not our sufferings often blessings in disguise, through which God wishes to test the sincerity and depth of our faith, and thereby make us firmer in His Cause? (Shoghi Effendi, The Importance of Prayer, Meditation and a Devotional Attitude, p. 239)

There have been times in my life when I believed that God hadn’t answered my prayers, and I fell into a great deal of self-pity.  I started questioning the sincerity of my belief, and even my faith in God himself.  As a result, it was easy to move away, little by little, from doing the things necessary for my spiritual growth and development.  I was going into this place recently, when I was praying for financial rescue that didn’t seem to come.  Fortunately a wise friend encouraged me to make a list of all the financial gifts that came my way every day.  Some days it might only be finding a dime on the ground.  Other days it was free food from being able to eat at the soup kitchen and have leftovers to take home.  Some days it was a bill that I’d budgeted for, and for some reason I didn’t have to pay.  Another time it was an unexpected cheque in the mail or a temporary job.  All in all, it added up and somehow the bills got paid.  When I allowed myself to think ahead about the big ticket items and couldn’t see how they would be covered, I fell into fear, but when I focused on all the blessings and bounties coming my way, my heart was full of gratitude and life was a lot more fun.

In today’s quote we see that there are several steps we can take when our prayers don’t seem to be answered:

  • Don’t allow disappointments to undermine your faith in the power of prayer
  • Continue asking God to enable you to discover the wisdom hidden behind your suf­ferings
  • Recognize that suffering is often a blessing in disguise so God can test the sincerity and depth of my faith, and make me firmer in His Cause

Recognizing that unanswered prayer is just another one of God’s tests, I am grateful!

What jumped out for you as you read today’s meditation?  I’d love it if you would share so we can all expand our knowledge of the Writings!

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Strengthening Your Relationship with God

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Compensation for a Life of Suffering

 

 

Let’s face it.  Bad things happen to all of us, but when it seems like we’ve had a lifetime of suffering, it’s hard to stay strong and have hope.  I thought I’d look to the Baha’i Writings and see what I could find out and share it with you.

We know that suffering leads to self-improvement:

Suffering is both a reminder and a guide. It stimulates us better to adapt ourselves to our environmental conditions, and thus leads the way to self-improvement. In every suffering one can find a meaning and a wisdom. But it is not always easy to find the secret of that wisdom. It is sometimes only when all our suffering has passed that we become aware of its usefulness. What man considers to be evil turns often to be a cause of infinite blessings. (Shoghi Effendi, Unfolding Destiny, p. 434)

But the suffering of children is the hardest for many of us to understand.  Many children are exposed to horrific events, and then spend a life-time dealing with the after-effects.

God can compensate the innocent:

He urges you to put these dark thoughts from your mind, and remember that if God, the Creator of all men, can bear to see them suffer so, it is not for us to question His wisdom. He can compensate the innocent, in His own way, for the afflictions they bear.   (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 237)

It’s comforting to know that for those souls, that suffering is the greatest mercy of God, and it will be far better and preferable to all the comfort of this world:

On this plane of existence, there are many injustices that the human mind cannot fathom. Among these are the hear-rending trials of the innocent … With regard to the spiritual significance of the suffering of children “who are afflicted by the hands of oppressors”, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá not only states that for those souls “suffering is the greatest mercy of God”, He also explains that to be a recipient of God’s mercy is “far better and preferable to all the comfort of this world”, and He promises that “for those souls there is a recompense in another world”.  (Universal House of Justice, Letter on the Oppression of Children, 1985)

If we knew what God has destined for us, our gladness and joy would increase every hour:

If thou didst know what God had ordained for thee, thou wouldst fly with delight and happiness, gladness and joy would increase every hour.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Bahá’í World Faith, p.363)

We’ll have true wealth:

Even if all the losses of the world were to be sustained by one of the friends of God, he would still profit thereby… The friends of God shall win and profit under all conditions, and shall attain true wealth.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Crisis & Victory, p.154)

Our reward is better than all the treasures of the earth:

So great are the things ordained for the steadfast that were they, so much as the eye of a needle, to be disclosed, all who are in heaven and on earth would be dumbfounded, except such as God, the Lord of all worlds, hath willed to exempt… I swear by God! That which hath been destined for him who aideth My Cause excelleth the treasures of the earth.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Advent of Divine Justice, p.84)

God has promised us days of blissful joy, in this world and in the next!

Sorrow not if, in these days and on this earthly plane, things contrary to your wishes have been ordained and manifested by God, for days of blissful joy, of heavenly delight, are assuredly in store for you. Worlds, holy and spiritually glorious, will be unveiled to your eyes. You are destined by Him, in this world and hereafter, to partake of their benefits, to share in their joys, and to obtain a portion of their sustaining grace. To each and every one of them you will no doubt attain.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p.329)

When we get to the next world, we’ll get to recount all the things we’ve been made to endure:

With them [the Prophets of God and His chosen ones] that soul will freely converse, and will recount unto them that which it hath been made to endure in the path of God, the Lord of all worlds.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p.156)

Here’s a story of how Juliet Thomson felt God’s love in this world:

Later in the morning He sent for me. My self-consciousness, my shyness had made me feel shut out from Him, but my heart had been continually crying out, with ever-increasing love, to Him. When I entered His little room and knelt at His feet and looked up into eyes of Love which I suddenly found I could meet, He put out His hand and said, “Now; now!”

I laid my head on His knee. The tears came. He lifted my face and wiped them away. “God shall wipe away all tears.” Ah, this blessed Day!  I cannot remember exactly what happened, only that Love immeasurable flowed out from Him and was reflected in my poor heart. One thing I do remember. When He lifted my face, while He was wiping away my tears, He said in a voice of infinite sweetness, like the sighing of the wind which “bloweth where it listeth and we know not whence it cometh or whither it goeth”: “Speak. Speak to Me!”  His words in English sink into your very soul. What I lose by not understanding Persian!  “O my Lord, may my life speak to you!” I cried.  (Diary of Juliet Thompson)

It seems to me that patience, long-suffering and resignation are 3 key virtues we’re developing through our suffering.

I’d like to look at the example of Bahíyyih Khánum, Shoghi Effendi’s great-aunt and the highest ranked woman in the Baha’i Faith.  Her story is a testimony to the power of the human spirit to triumph over adversity. Shoghi Effendi wants us to follow her example, so it only seems fitting to tell you about her here.

Bahíyyih Khánum was Bahá’u’lláh’s only daughter, and was also known as the “Greatest Holy Leaf”.  Her station is similar to the Virgin Mary (to Christians) and Fatimih Zahra (to Muslims).  She certainly led a life of continuous suffering.  She spent her early years in an environment of privilege, wealth, and love and described this period of her life as very happy. When she was 6, her father was arrested and imprisoned, the family’s home pillaged and Bahíyyih and her family were forced to live in poverty. She clearly remembered the shrieks of the Bábís awaiting their death, leaving a strong mark in her later life.  Later the same year her family were exiled over snow-covered mountains, to Baghdad and later to Constantinople, Adrianople and finally Acre. Her uncle (Mirza Yahya), forbade her to leave the house to play with other children or even to let a doctor visit her newly born brother who needed medical attention — instead leaving him to die.

Bahíyyih spent almost all of her adult life as a prisoner.  As a young girl she chose to remain single, so she could serve her parents, her brother and later, to serve Shoghi Effendi. This was very strange for a woman of her rank and era. After so many tests and difficulties in the early part of her life, the death of her youngest brother, Mirza Mihdi, destroyed any morale she had left, yet somehow, she found the strength to help her mother and father with serving the pilgrims who came to visit. She was very close to her mother and always concerned about her mother’s delicate heath and when her mother died, it left Bahíyyih with a huge void in her life.  Later, when Bahá’u’lláh passed away, it put her into severe mourning which caused her to become thin and feeble for a time.

When she was freed at age 62, Bahíyyih opened up an orphanage in her home for non-Bahá’í and Bahá’í children, oversaw their education and taught them “prayers, reading and writing, home management, embroidery, sewing and cooking. Women from Islamic backgrounds would ask Bahíyyih to cut the shrouds in which they would wear when they die so they could rest in peace.  Everyone turned to her for help and advice. During WW1, the inhabitants of Haifa flocked to the house of `Abdu’l-Bahá, where Bahíyyih cooked for them and gave them rations.

When ‘Abdu’l-Baha made his journeys to the West between 1910 and 1913, and then again when Shoghi Effendi was away on several trips between 1922 and 1924, she was the “acting head” of the Faith.  During these times, Bahíyyih Khánum dealt with the affairs of the Holy Land and outside, which included meeting dignitaries, making speeches on `Abdu’l-Bahá’s behalf, meeting officials of both sexes and offering medical help for the sick and poor. She also dealt with the spiritual and administrative guidance of the worldwide Bahá’í community by writing letters of encouragement to communities around the world. During the later years of her life, she was plagued by illness and pains and needed help to stand and sit.

Her reward?

Verily, We have elevated thee to the rank of one of the most distinguished among thy sex, and granted thee, in My court, a station such as none other woman hath surpassed.  (Bahá’u’lláh, The Bahá’í World, vol. V, p. 171)

You might want to read more about her:

Stories of the Greatest Holy Leaf

Bahiyyih Khanum: The Greatest Holy Leaf 

Prophet’s Daughter: The Life and Legacy of Bahiyyih Khanum, Outstanding Heroine of the Bahai Faith