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Spirituality

Coronavirus: Calamity or Providence?

Simon Ward | Apr 16, 2020

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

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Simon Ward | Apr 16, 2020

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

As I write, the coronavirus pandemic is approaching its peak here in the U.K. and sweeping the rest of the world. From being able to shop for whatever we want, whenever we want, my family now has to plan shopping trips quite carefully, with a mind to personal safety as much as getting the provisions we need. It feels strange and unreal how our lives have changed dramatically in a matter of days.

Social distancing in front of Sainsbury's Wood Green, London, during the Coronavirus pandemic. 26 March 2020.
Social distancing in front of Sainsbury’s Wood Green, London, during the Coronavirus pandemic. March 26, 2020.

This crisis has had a chastening effect on me. I now have an inkling as to what my parent’s generation went through during World War II and the subsequent food rationing. We can still more or less buy whatever we need, although we may have to wait a day or two for some things. My mother tells me that after the war she was given a banana to eat and she didn’t know what it was! 

“Tribulations will continue to assail humanity as the old structures around us show themselves increasingly unable to find answers to our problems”

I can guess some of the stresses many millions of people experience in other parts of the world, for whom even the most basic necessities are hard to come by, and whose children go to sleep hungry at night. These insights make me a little ashamed of how complacent I have become, how much I take for granted, and how easy my life is compared to nearly everybody else that has ever existed throughout history.  

Baha’u’llah, the Prophet-Founder of the Baha’i Faith, said: “O Son of Man! My calamity is My providence, outwardly it is fire and vengeance, but inwardly it is light and mercy. Hasten thereunto that thou mayest become an eternal light and an immortal spirit.” Tribulations will continue to assail humanity as the old structures around us show themselves increasingly unable to find answers to our problems. But these tests, I am discovering, help wake me up from my complacency and remind me of my duty to play a part in the world’s destiny. We cannot succeed without everyone’s help.    

Shoppers with protective medical mask and gloves leaving supermarket with shopping cart full of groceries in Belgrade, Serbia. March 29, 2020.

At times like these we all feel more afraid and vulnerable, and while these feelings may manifest themselves in panic-buying and other self-centred acts, our hearts also begin to open to deeper considerations. The shallow value of materialism reveals itself. I have heard the word “unity” mentioned more by social media commentators, religious leaders, and politicians in the last few weeks than in the whole of the last decade.  

We also see the best of humanity manifesting before us: gifted minds working night and day to develop vaccines or ventilator technology, courageous doctors and nurses tending the sick, neighbors helping each other, dedicated workers keeping food shelves full. People feel and respond on different levels to the spiritual outpouring brought on by this crisis. 

Abdu’l-Baha, the son of Baha’u’llah, said: “Tests are benefits from God, for which we should thank Him.  Grief and sorrow do not come to us by chance, they are sent to us by the Divine mercy for our own perfecting.” 

The coronavirus may feel like God’s vengeance, but despite the fear and loss it brings, we can also see it as a sign of growth to come.  Eventually the coronavirus will be a thing of the past, and maybe we’ll look back and see how it helped us move towards world unity as part of this age of spiritual awakening, foretold by Baha’u’llah and other Manifestations of God.

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Comments

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  • Julia Kitay
    Apr 20, 2020
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    Thank you
  • Brandon Naylor
    Apr 19, 2020
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    Thank you so much for posting this! We were talking about topics fairly similar to this during one of my classes.
  • Grant Hindin Miller
    Apr 16, 2020
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    Thank you, Simon, I enjoyed your reflection. Go well.
  • Marco Oliveira
    Apr 16, 2020
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    Please check also the words of the Master concerning S. Francisco earthquake (1906). He never uses the word “test”, neither suggests that it was a calamity sent by God.
    He said: “Those were indeed dire events in San Francisco. Disasters of this kind should serve to awaken the people, and diminish the love of their hearts for this inconstant world. It is in this nether world that such tragic things take place: this is the cup that yieldeth bitter wine”
  • Marco Oliveira
    Apr 16, 2020
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    I believe you are taking the quote from ‘Abdu’l-Baha out of context. The Master is referring to the tests of St. Peter; that was a test of faith, and not suffering caused by a natural disaster.
  • Marco Oliveira
    Apr 16, 2020
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    In my opinion it makes no sense to suggest that coronavirus is a God-given test to humanity.
    This is a natural pandemic. There have been other pandemics in the history of mankind.
    The origins of this pandemic are natural, just like previous pandemics.
    The point here is that we all can learn with this pandemic how to give a global answer to a global problem.
    And the Baha’i Faith is the best tool in the world to help finding global answers to our many global problems.
    • Brandon Naylor
      Apr 22, 2020
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      Lastly, we can possibly account for Accumulative Probability = multiple events and conditions accumulating to specific event in history.
    • Brandon Naylor
      Apr 22, 2020
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      The pandemic we face is indeed a natural event, however since God does exist outside of space-time and has ultimate control over probability, I wouldn't be surprised if this was a catastrophe He knew would happen. I surmise to think God allowed this event to happen to aid mankind's maturation. As human beings, we tend to think events in history fall under a matter of binary conditions, but I think the most satisfying answer is that the coronavirus epidemic is multifaceted. Gods will = as a tool to help mankind reassess their values, natural consequence = a result of ...human beings putting profit before safety and also intruding in natural environments.
      Read more...
    • Apr 17, 2020
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      This pandemic is a natural development as a result of our behavior. If you drive your car against a tree, most of the times it's the rule of physics, that cause the accident. Not God! Yes, it is so important, that we all can learn with this pandemic how to give a global answer to a global problem. And: That no lie about false figures of anything - in this case about Corona-infected ones - can be contributing to the wellbeing of mankind.
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