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

Learning to Swim in an Ocean of Trouble

Jaine Toth | Nov 14, 2017

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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Jaine Toth | Nov 14, 2017

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

Can you imagine experiencing a sense of gratitude for your trials and tribulations?

“If misfortune falls upon you, smile,” wrote Patricia Thuner Jones. She went  on to explain that “Lightning may be needed to rip the hem of the cloud that will pour you out the blessings of spring.”

That is but one gem of wisdom amongst many from this lady I wish I’d known. Her philosophic musings, published in a limited edition by her children after her passing, was lovingly handed out to friends and family who attended her memorial service. I never knew Ms. Jones, but we had a mutual friend who on reading the little volume, gifted it to me, knowing how much I’d appreciate and treasure it.

I now hold dear to my heart this woman who I never had the fortune to meet in life. She may never have heard of the Baha’i Faith, but the pearls that gleamed forth from her heart and mind through pen to paper, resonate with the teachings of that most recent of the great religions of the world.

Another of her sayings echoes the one above,

Endure the seasons of your life by learning what the garden already knows.
Within every ending lies the seed of its beginning.

These remind me of this lustrous pearl of wisdom from The Hidden Words, a collection of Baha’u’llah’s advice and admonitions:

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. – Baha’u’llah, The Hidden Words, p. 15.

At first reading all of these idealistic sayings may seem like pie in the sky—a fantasy—a pipe dream—something you wish would be true, though you don’t believe they can or will happen. But then you get to thinking about things you’ve gone through, or something that happened to someone else that at first seemed sad, or a burden, or even tragic. When you reflect on those people and their so-called misfortunes, you start to see how they rose above their challenges and came out all the better. You stop and say, “There is truth in those sayings—they’re not just wishful thinking.” You begin to realize that something you perceive as a calamity at the time really does look like providence and bounty later.

I can share a personal example. I gave up a job I loved, one that never caused me a day of thinking in the morning that I’d rather stay home or go out and do something more interesting. I actually looked forward to going to work each day. But I left it for an opportunity to move in a totally different direction and to a completely different environment, embracing a new challenge and an opportunity for growth. My husband took early retirement in order to support me in this new phase of my life.

I made sure someone competent and able was there to take my place, so my office and co-workers wouldn’t suffer. We had already found renters for our house and they’d even had checks printed with their new/our old address. But at the eleventh hour my dreams dissipated. The person who seemed so eager and positive about hiring me decided he’d made a mistake, and I was not the right person for the job. He asked me not to take the position—to give it up voluntarily. I could have fought it and won, but didn’t want to go into what would likely turn out to be a negative environment.

What happened next reminded me of what friends described when going through a break-up. First self-doubt and loss of self-esteem. Then anger. Then confusion. As it turned to resentment I realized I didn’t want to own those feelings, so I sought guidance from my Local Spiritual Assembly. A Baha’i Local Spiritual Assembly is a body of nine members, elected annually, who serve the community. (The Baha’i Faith has no clergy.) Their counsel helped me, and my husband Don, and I found we could manage financially on his retirement and my occasional temporary work assignments.

Then came the A-Ha! moment, the clear understanding of why the job didn’t work out. Approximately six months after being “fired” before even starting the job, Don’s mother Lucille became terminally ill. She’d always dreaded ending up in a nursing home. We flew out from Southern California to Ohio and moved in with Lucille, becoming her caregivers during the last three months of her life. We took her out as frequently as possible and invited family in to visit.

Our presence, and her being able to remain at home and live as normal a life as possible, were a comfort to Lucille and a better challenge and opportunity for emotional and spiritual growth for us than the job could possibly have been. Moreover, if the position had gone through as planned, which included a full-time volunteer position for Don in which we’d have a rent-free apartment in exchange for his services, neither of us would have been free to offer such comfort to her. She’d have had to enter a nursing facility. Our supposed calamity truly turned out to be our providence.

So the next time you go through some tough tests and difficulties, think of this sage observation from Patricia Thuner Jones:

At life’s lowest ebb the luck shall turn.
The tide must recede before it comes back in.

Then, compare it with this eternal wisdom from the Baha’i teachings:

The doors of heaven have been opened unto you. The Sun of Reality is shining upon you, the cloud of mercy is pouring down, and the breezes of providence are wafting through your souls. Although the bestowal is great and the grace is glorious, yet capacity and readiness are requisite. Without capacity and readiness the divine bounty will not become manifest and evident. No matter how much the cloud may rain, the sun may shine and the breezes blow, the soil that is sterile will give no growth. The ground that is pure and free from thorns and thistles receives and produces through the rain of the cloud of mercy. No matter how much the sun shines, it will have no effect upon the black rock, but in a pure and polished mirror its lights become resplendent. Therefore, we must develop capacity in order that the signs of the mercy of the Lord may be revealed in us. We must endeavor to free the soil of the hearts from useless weeds and sanctify it from the thorns of worthless thoughts in order that the cloud of mercy may bestow its power upon us. The doors of God are open, but we must be ready and fitted to enter. The ocean of divine providence is surging, but we must be able to swim. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 195.

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  • Mark David Vinzens
    Nov 19, 2017
    Beautiful words!
  • Alexander Zoltai
    Nov 14, 2017
    Particularly moving article---thank you...
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