It seems like every day a new problem arises and confronts us with the oldest human conundrum: what should I do? How should I feel?
Should I get angry; should I cry and tear my hair out; should I curse the world; or should I just try to forget about it?
Life hands us these trying tests and difficulties many times over. The Baha’i teachings praise those who patiently endure these tests and trials:
Blessed are the steadfastly enduring, they that are patient under ills and hardships, who lament not over anything that befalleth them, and who tread the path of resignation. – Baha’u’llah, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts
But that seems hard to do. When these hardships occur, we can become anxious or lonely or depressed, plagued by our problems, and then we feel miserable and nobody wants to be around us. Has this ever happened to you?
We think: why do I feel this way? It certainly is not pleasant and I want to stop feeling this way, but how can I do that? How can I get back to my happy space?
Baha’is in general have a different way of dealing with these issues. The Baha’i teachings recognize tests and difficulties as an expected part of life, the inevitable obstacles we all encounter on the path to becoming a better person. Abdu’l-Baha said:
The more difficulties one sees in the world the more perfect one becomes. The more you plow 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 becomes. That is why, in all times, the Prophets of God have had tribulations and difficulties to withstand. The more often the captain of a ship is in the tempest and difficult sailing the greater his knowledge becomes. 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-Baha, Star of the West
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. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks
After all – even when you feel besieged by problems, totally burdened with the tests and difficulties of life, or totally alone and lonely, you are still alive. Your heart still beats, your lungs still breathe and your brain still thinks. A cool glass of water still refreshes.
Your very existence offers a constant interaction with those around you and the world you live in. But if you create a condition where you react negatively to every test that comes your way, you will wind up making mountains out of molehills. The least little thing will upset you.
Perhaps you lost your keys, or had a minor accident with your car. Maybe you broke up with your boyfriend or girlfriend. Maybe you did not do so well on an exam. Maybe you got fired from a job. When those difficulties happen, they can sit right there at the end of your nose and dominate your thoughts. They are all you can think about. Believe me – I recently saw a girl ready to jump from a five-story building because her boyfriend ditched her. I reminded her of her last boyfriend, and she snapped out of it.
In reality, these problems of life just represent the small things that happen to us between being born and dying. Think about it – when you were born, you were born with nothing, and when you die, you will die with nothing. No moving vans will carry your possessions to the next world. In spite of this, most people go around accumulating shoes and clothes and furniture and so turn their homes into warehouses.
Instead of focusing on the material things of life, the Baha’i teachings say, try focusing on the spiritual realities. Learn to handle your emotions and detach from the minor and the miniscule so you can understand and appreciate the big picture:
… when sadness visits us we become weak, our strength leaves us, our comprehension is dim and our intelligence veiled. The actualities of life seem to elude our grasp, the eyes of our spirits fail to discover the sacred mysteries, and we become even as dead beings.
There is no human being untouched by these two influences; but all the sorrow and the grief that exist come from the world of matter – the spiritual world bestows only the joy!
If we suffer it is the outcome of material things, and all the trials and troubles come from this world of illusion.
For instance, a merchant may lose his trade and depression ensues. A workman is dismissed and starvation stares him in the face. A farmer has a bad harvest, anxiety fills his mind. A man builds a house which is burnt to the ground and he is straightway homeless, ruined, and in despair.
All these examples are to show you that the trials which beset our every step, all our sorrow, pain, shame and grief, are born in the world of matter; whereas the spiritual Kingdom never causes sadness. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks
In your life, you will encounter many problems, tests, difficulties, and trials. If you live an active life you will encounter even more problems. No problems means you are living a boring life.
I wish for you an interesting life full of many problems, so you can engage your soul in their solutions.