Are you ready to deal with the unexpected? Accidents will happen. Job losses, divorces, sudden illnesses, unexpected deaths and various crises will happen. How will you handle them?
Are you flexible enough to “go with the flow”—to maintain your composure in a crisis and to not feel sorry for yourself, to feel life is unfair, to be angry with God at the next misfortune?
In answer to a person who wrote about a difficult situation, Abdu’l-Baha explained:
Thou hast written concerning the tests that have come to thee. To the sincere ones, tests are as a gift from God, the Exalted, for a heroic person hasteneth, with the utmost joy and gladness, to the tests of a violent battlefield, but the coward is afraid and trembles and utters moaning and lamentation. Likewise, an expert student prepareth and memorizeth his lessons and exercises with the utmost effort, and in the day of examination he appeareth with infinite joy before the master. Likewise, the pure gold shineth radiantly in the fire of test. Consequently, it is made clear that for holy souls, trials are as the gift of God, the Exalted; but for weak souls they are an unexpected calamity. This test is just as thou hast written: it removeth the rust of egotism from the mirror of the heart until the Sun of Truth may shine therein. For, no veil is greater than egotism and no matter how thin that covering may be, yet it will finally veil man entirely and prevent him from receiving a portion from the eternal bounty. – Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha, Volume 3, p. 722.
My cousin Dave, at the age of 23, went on a camping trip. Hot and sweaty after setting up his tent, he dove into the lake. It was shallow. Dave broke his neck and became a quadriplegic. When my husband Don and I went to visit him in the hospital, we found him strapped to a board, arms stretched out, with a halo brace around his head and neck. He had to be turned periodically, like an animal on a spit, but without a fire, either literally or figuratively. Dave joked around during our entire visit. After discharge from the hospital, he determinedly continued his therapy, and gained some use of one hand when it was attached to a special device on his wheelchair. Dave became a computer expert and worked for IBM. He even got a specially-equipped van he could drive with a joystick. His mother, my cousin Evie, says he was the safest driver she ever rode with. I don’t recall Dave ever exhibiting a self-pitying “woe is me” moment. If he had them in private, he never expressed them in company.
When it took the doctors several months to finally determine my mother had lung cancer, the disease had reached its final stage and she had but one month left to live. She simply said, “Get me hospice.” Mom and I moved in with my sister in Los Angeles and we partied up until her last days. The great grandkids read to her and played with her. A family friend who is a stand-up comedian came and entertained for over an hour. Friends and family were in and out, coming from as far away as New York and Colorado. We never had fewer than ten present at dinner time. Everyone told jokes, shared stories, and laughed plenty. Mom’s sarcastic sense of humor was matched by Margarita, the full-time caregiver we hired to help us. The two of them were a riot to watch and listen to. They absolutely adored each other. It was a month filled with many moments that created precious memories. One of the most important memories, or lack of one, is that Mom never cried or got angry.
My 88 year old brother-in-law, Henri, who recently underwent two craniotomies and two spinal patches in just three weeks, was still a working man when he suffered a subdural hematoma that bled again after his first surgery. He’s been undergoing intensive therapy and his cognitive deficits continue to improve. He now understands he’s had a severe condition that required these operations and instead of being angry or feeling sorry for himself, he accepts and says, “It is what it is.”
During these and other family crises, I’ve prayed and called on God for healing, and for physical, emotional, and spiritual strength for all those affected. During all that, I was pleased that none of my family wallowed in self-pity. I keep in mind these words from Abdu’l-Baha and hope they will help you, too, when you’re suddenly faced with an unwelcome, unexpected crisis:
Today, humanity is bowed down with trouble, sorrow and grief, no one escapes; the world is wet with tears; but, thank God, the remedy is at our doors. Let us turn our hearts away from the world of matter and live in the spiritual world! It alone can give us freedom! If we are hemmed in by difficulties we have only to call upon God, and by His great Mercy we shall be helped.
If sorrow and adversity visit us, let us turn our faces to the Kingdom and heavenly consolation will be outpoured.
If we are sick and in distress let us implore God’s healing, and He will answer our prayer.
When our thoughts are filled with the bitterness of this world, let us turn our eyes to the sweetness of God’s compassion and He will send us heavenly calm! If we are imprisoned in the material world, our spirit can soar into the Heavens and we shall be free indeed!