It seems hard to understand sometimes why there is so much suffering in the world – for me especially it has been truly challenging.
I never considered myself an overly sensitive person, until the global pandemic of 2020 came like a bomb to knock down all my walls. Now tears find me easily. The sorrows and pains of my life – and of the lives of the people I love – now affect me greatly.
Having gone through some hard times in the last few years, besides witnessing all the human pain and death caused by war and catastrophes, I found my perception of life growing darker and darker.
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The Baha’i teachings, however, encourage hopefulness. Abdu’l-Baha wrote:
Never lose thy trust in God. Be thou ever hopeful, for the bounties of God never cease to flow upon man. If viewed from one perspective they seem to decrease, but from another they are full and complete.
After I read this passage, it made me wonder – what was I missing? Why couldn’t I feel more hopeful? Why doesn’t the world itself seem more hopeful these days? At some point, I realized what I was missing: perspective.
Understand that Tests and Trials are Inevitable in Life
When I feel anxious about things, I try to turn to the Baha’i writings, where I can find hope and solace. One day I came across this quote from Abdu’l-Baha:
Remember at all times and in all places that God is faithful and do not doubt this. Be patient even though calamities may come upon thee. Yet fear not! Be firm in the path of thy Lord; as a mountain unmoved, unchanging in thy steadfastness.
Being like an unmoved mountain sounded amazing, since I didn’t want life and its troubles to make me tremble so easily. But I had no idea how I could get there without first solving all the problems that were causing me to feel so unsteady. Like trying to plug the holes of a sinking ship, I thought once this one is plugged then I’m going to be OK, and then another leak would just open up.
The Baha’i teachings helped me realize that no one can escape the trials of life. Every single human being on the planet is going through something. No matter who we are, our lives will have tests and trials – because, as the writings of Baha’u’llah say, we all need to be tested:
Not until man is tried doth the pure gold distinctly separate from the dross. Torment is the fire of test wherein the pure gold shineth resplendently and the impurity is burned and blackened.
If we are destined, as human beings, to become like purified gold then we need to endure the fire of tests, and we need to learn how to use this fire to perfect ourselves. It’s hard to view any difficulty or tribulation as something good or helpful – but we are going to have to go through it anyway; and understanding that tests and trials help us evolve in life makes us wiser and stronger. That realization is the first step in learning how to better cope with life’s problems.
Knowing all of that helped – but what else was I missing?
Build Faith, Be Positive, and Trust God
Because so many bad things had happened one after the other, I started expecting things to go wrong. But Abdu’l-Baha reminded me: “Be patient in the hour of loss. Adversity is followed by success and rejoicings follow woe.”
I realized that I was only focusing on all the bad things that were happening and could happen, I was in a dark room with no windows or doors, and I was not letting any light come in. I was so deep in the mud of my sorrows that I didn’t allow myself to see all the wonderful things that I did have – my faith, for example.
But having faith and being positive is not something that just happens. I believe that it’s something we need to work for: that’s how we lay the foundations for a stable, happy life. So I started, through gratitude for what I do have, to consciously build the faith that life had beautiful things to offer in the future and that everything was going to eventually be OK.
Abdu’l-Baha said: “Trust in God and rely on His great bounty, because His bounty is overflowing like the seas, brilliant like unto the lights, flowing like currents of water and raining like the clouds.” The moment I started thinking more positively, and trying to have more faith in the future, I stopped having so much pain. I needed to remind myself that God loves us all and has bigger plans for all of us.
Now, more and more, I can envision the path I need to follow quite clearly, and I know that it requires work and effort to try to see the end in the beginning. When we look ahead as far as our vision will allow us, we can perceive the light that the future holds amidst the darkness of tribulations.
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Understand the Next World to Detach from this World
The day my dad held his first grandchild in his arms, he said he felt like he had only blinked his eyes from the day he held his daughter for the first time. Whenever we’re going through severe trials, knowing that this life is fleeting gives us perspective because it reminds us that “This too shall pass.” The Baha’i teachings say:
All calamities and afflictions have been created for man so that he may spurn this mortal world – a world to which he is much attached. When he experienceth severe trials and hardships, then his nature will recoil and he will desire the eternal realm – a realm which is sanctified from all afflictions and calamities. Such is the case with the man who is wise. He shall never drink from a cup which is at the end distasteful, but, on the contrary, he will seek the cup of pure and limpid water.
Not a single thing in this mortal world is permanent, not even its troubles; the only thing that is permanent is our soul, and the happiness and well-being that we are able to bring to others. We are all moving toward the same destination, and it might be scary to talk about it, but if we start viewing the next world as a beautiful place, much different than this one, then will we be ready to detach from this world and its sorrows, as Abdu’l-Baha advised: Break all fetters and seek for spiritual joy and enlightenment; then, though you walk on this earth, you will perceive yourselves to be within the divine horizon.
So let us live in that divine horizon, like an unmoved mountain that no storm can shake. Let us be hopeful in the face of adversity, no matter how severe the trials. We have an emotional and spiritual responsibility to ourselves to make our lives brighter and happier, so that we can bring happiness to other hearts too. That’s what life is all about.