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Effect of Illness on the Soul 

That a sick person showeth signs of weakness is due to the hindrances that interpose themselves between his soul and his body, for the soul itself remaineth unaffected by any bodily ailments.  Con­sider the light of the lamp. Though an external object may interfere with its radiance, the light itself continueth to shine with undiminished power. In like manner, every malady afflicting the body of man is an impediment that preventeth the soul from manifesting its inherent might and power. When it leaveth the body, however, it will evince such ascendancy, and reveal such influence as no force on earth can equal. Every pure, every refined and sanctified soul will be endowed with tremendous power, and shall rejoice with exceeding gladness.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 154)

If I understand this quote, correctly, I think it’s saying that when we’re physically sick, our souls are healthy, but unable to manifest their inherent might and power.  When we recover, though, our souls will have so much influence and power, that no force on earth can equal them and those who are pure, refined and sanctified will rejoice with exceeding gladness.

It’s true that when I’m physically or emotionally sick, I find it hard to pray and even to trust God, which surely creates a veil between the two of us.  If I’m sick enough, though, my soul cries out for relief and I’m always grateful when the prayer is answered.  I think illness and pain are some of the tests we undergo for the perfection of our souls, to help us develop the virtues we need the most and to draw us closer to God.  I often imagine that when we pass these tests, the Concourse on High celebrates with us.  The exciting part of this quote for me though is knowing that when we recover from our illness, we have a huge power at our disposal.  I wonder what my life would be like if I acted “as if” I believed this?  What would I be able to accomplish then?

Knowing there is a purpose for my sicknesses, 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 Making Friends with Sin and Temptation

 

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How Can We Help Someone Who is Suffering?

The Oneness of Humanity teaches us that when one part suffers, the whole part suffers.

. . . were each member to be subjected to any injury or were it to become diseased, all the other members would sympathetically suffer, due to the existence of their perfect unity. (Compilations, Baha’i Scriptures, p. 280)

We can turn to each other in times of suffering:

. . . the human body, all the members of which are connected and linked with one another with the greatest strength. How much the organs, the members and the parts of the body of man are intermingled and connected for mutual aid and help, and how much they influence one another!  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 244)

It doesn’t mean that we (as Bahá’ís) have to stand by and watch helplessly.  We can take some comfort in knowing that there are things we can do:

Our duty as Bahá’ís is to build up such a love and unity within our own ranks that the people will be attracted by this example to the Cause. We also must teach all we can and strengthen the Bahá’í Community in the administration. But more we cannot do to avert the great sufferings which seemingly still lie ahead of the world in its present evil state.  ( Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 113)

There is a power in drawing on each other’s love when we are suffering:

Indeed the believers have not yet fully learned to draw on each other’s love for strength and consolation in time of need. The Cause of God is endowed with tremendous powers, and the reason the believers do not gain more from it is because they have not learned to fully draw on these mighty forces of love and strength and harmony generated by the Faith . . . (Shoghi Effendi, Living the Life, p. 8).

One of the purposes of a study circle is to build a depth of relationships where we can carry each other’s burdens.

A distinguishing feature of study circles is that . . . they have created a new dynamic within the community and have become nuclei of community life and . . . bind the group together in fellowship.  (International Teaching Centre, 2000 Feb, Training Institutes and Systematic Growth, p. 7)

So we have an obligation to help one another, and one way we can do it is through home visits and visiting the sick:

We should all visit the sick. When they are in sorrow and suffering, it is a real help and benefit to have a friend come. Happiness is a great healer to those who are ill. In the East it is the custom to call upon the patient often and meet him individually. The people in the East show the utmost kindness and compassion to the sick and suffering. This has greater effect than the remedy itself. You must always have this thought of love and affection when you visit the ailing and afflicted.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 204).

In the midst of our suffering, when people don’t know how to help, they might say things we think are trite, to help us through:

  • He should at all times trust in God. (Compilations, Baha’i Scriptures, p. 49)
  • All men are in God’s hands. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 237)
  • Prayers and supplications should be offered.  (‘Abdul-Bahá, Divine Art of Living, p. 85)
  • Be not troubled because of hardships and ordeals.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of Abdu’l-Bahá v1, p. 50)

Even when we think these don’t bring comfort in our darkest moments, the words of God have a power to heal:

Now, if thou wishest to know the divine remedy which will heal man from all sickness and will give him the health of the divine kingdom, know that it is the precepts and teachings of God.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i World Faith, p. 376)

The people of religions find, in the teachings of His Holiness Bahá’u’lláh, . . the immediate cure of the incurable disease, which relieves every pain and bestows the infallible antidote for every deadly poison.  (Compilations, Baha’i Scriptures, p. 416)

By understanding someone’s pain, we don’t need to say trite things; we can just “be” with them.

How else can we help others who are suffering?  Post your comments here:

For more in this series:

Suffering is Inescapable

Why do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

Role of Free Will and Suffering

Misconceptions about Suffering

What Good Can Come From Suffering?

How Should We Respond To Suffering

And previous blog postings on the same topic:

Why Does Life Have to Hurt So Much?

Suffering Through Tests:

Suffering is Not Optional, But We Can Change How Long We Stay Stuck:

Why Does Life Have To Hurt So Much?

Why does life have to hurt so much?  This is a question I often hear in my Bahá’í-inspired life coaching practice.  The Bahá’í Writings tell us:

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.)

Here is a story that came in my email today, followed by my all time favorite story.  I hope they give you comfort.

A Refiner of Silver

Malachi 3:3 says: “He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver”. This verse puzzled some women in a Bible study and they wondered what this statement meant about the character and nature of God.

One of the women offered to find out the process of refining silver and get back to the group at their next Bible Study.

That week, the woman called a silversmith and made an appointment to watch him at work. She didn’t mention anything about the reason for her interest beyond her curiosity about the process of refining Silver.

As she watched the silversmith, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest as to burn away all the impurities.

The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot; then she thought again about the verse that says:  “He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver.”  She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time.

The man answered that yes, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire. If the silver was left a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed.

The woman was silent for a moment. Then she asked the silversmith, “How do you know when the silver is fully refined?”

He smiled at her and answered, “Oh, that’s easy — when I see my image in it.”

If today you are feeling the heat of the fire, remember that God has his eye on you and will keep watching you until He sees His image in you.

Another quote from the Bahá’í Writings:

You are encouraged to continue to keep in mind the spiritual dimension of your struggles. We are assured by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in the following words:  “The more difficulties one sees in the world the more perfect one becomes. The more you plough and dig the ground the more fertile it becomes. The more you cut the branches of a tree the higher and stronger it grows. The more you put the gold in the fire the purer it becomes. The more you sharpen the steel by grinding the better it cuts. Therefore, the more sorrows one sees the more perfect one be¬comes. That is why, in all times, the Prophets of God have had tribula¬tions and difficulties to withstand. The more often the captain of a ship is in the tempest and difficult sailing the greater his knowledge be¬comes. Therefore I am happy that you have had great tribulations and difficulties… Strange it is that I love you and still I am happy that you have sorrows.”      (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Star of the West, Vol. XIV, No. 2, p. 41.)

 

 

Just Clay!
Author Unknown – submitted by Daryoush Yazdani, Japan

A couple vacationing in Europe went strolling down a little street and saw a quaint little gift shop with a beautiful teacup in the window. The lady collected teacups and she wanted this one for her collection, so she went
inside to pick up the teacup, and as the story goes the teacup spoke and said:

“I want you to know that I have not always looked like this. It took the process of pain to bring me to this point. You see, there was a time when I was just clay and the master came and he pounded me and he squeezed me and he kneaded me and I screamed: “STOP THAT”. But he just smiled and he said, “Not yet”.

Then he took me and put me on the wheel and I went round and round and round and round … and while I was spinning and getting dizzier and dizzier I screamed again and I said, “Please get me off this thing … please get me off!!!” And the master was looking at me and he was smiling, as he said, “Not yet”.

Then he took me and walked toward the oven and he shut the door and turned up the heat and I could see him through the window of the oven and it was getting hotter and hotter and I thought, “He’s going to burn me to death”.
And I started pounding on the inside of the oven and I said “Master, let me out, let me out, let me out”, and I could see that he was smiling as he said “Not yet”.

Then he opened the door and I was fresh and free and he took me out of the oven and he put me on the table and then he got some paint and a paintbrush. And he started dabbing me and making swirls all over me and I started to gag and I said: “Master, stop it … stop it … stop it please … you’re making me gag” and he just smiled as he said “Not yet”.

Then very gently he picked me up again and he started walking toward the oven and I said, “Master, NO! Not again, pleeeeease”. He opened the oven door and he slipped me inside and he shut the door and this time he turned the heat up twice as hot as before and I thought. “He’s going to kill me”, and I looked through the window of the oven and I started to pound saying, “Master … Master, please let me out … please let me out … let me out… let me out”. And I could see that he was smiling, but I also noticed a tear trickle down his cheek as I watched him mouth the words.
“Not yet!”

Just as I thought I was about to die, the door opened and he reached in ever so gently and took me out, fresh and free and he went and placed me on a high shelf and he said: “There, I have created what I intended. Would you like to see yourself?” I said “Yes”, so he handed me a mirror and I looked and I looked again and I said, “That’s not me, I’m just a lump of clay” And he said: “Yes, that IS you, but it took the process of pain to bring you to this place. “You see, had I not worked you when you were clay, then you would have dried up. If I had not subjected you to the
stress of the wheel, you would have crumbled. If I had not put you into the heat of the oven you would have cracked. If I had not painted you there would be no color in your life. But, it was the second oven that gave you the strength to endure. And now you are everything that I intended you to be – from the beginning.”

And I, the tea cup, heard myself saying something I never thought I would hear myself saying: “Master, forgive me, I did not trust you, I thought you were going to harm me, I did not know you had a glorious future and a hope for me. I was too shortsighted, but I want to thank you. I want to thank you for suffering. I want to thank you for the process of pain. Here I am! I give you myself – fill me, pour from me, use me as you see fit. I really want to be a vessel that brings you glory within my life”

I’d like to conclude with a quote from the Bahá’í Writings:

Naturally there will be periods of distress and difficulty, and even severe tests; but if the person turns firmly towards the Divine Manifestation, studies carefully His spiritual teachings and receives the blessings of the Holy Spirit, he will find that in reality these tests and difficulties have been the gifts of God to enable him to grow and develop.

Thus you might look upon your own difficulties in the path of service. They are the means of your spirit growing and developing. You will suddenly find that you have conquered many of the problems which upset you, and then you will wonder why they should have troubled you at all. (Shoghi Effendi, Living the Life, pp. 35-36.)

What are your experiences with painful tests?  Post your comments here: