I always thought that life has to be without difficulties and full of happiness because God wanted it that way. I also observed in my dealings with friends and family, and later on, in my involvement with the education system, that we have imparted this expectation to the next generation.
In schools, we would be alarmed if we saw the sign of unhappiness and would start making arrangements to remedy this condition and, in some cases, use the aids of professionals and medications, which of course, are essential in severe and chronic cases. In most cases, it was an interruption of the process of the individuals finding in a hard way, their place in the universe trying to figure a course of action.
I was not sure that our interference and interrupting were the right thing to do, knowing how the difficulties, such as facing religious prejudice, racial prejudice, health issues, poverty, and being a refugee for a long time, helped me be the person that I am today. Those experiences purified my soul and toughened my ability to deal with unexpected events and happenings.
I am so grateful for those difficult times and happy that nothing interrupted that process even though I hoped it would end.
So the question is if this has been so good for me and how it has made me more reliant on a higher power than relying on my parents, family, and friends, then should I not share it? I am so thankful to have experienced them, and I wish that I could impart that feeling to others and explain the benefits of hardships and tests in life. That would be my gift to the next generation.
The cause of most of the problems in our life is our mistakes, but if we were not allowed to make mistakes, why would God give us the free will knowing full well that we will not listen to His teachings and guidance which He has sent through His Manifestations?
I believe that there is a pearl of wisdom and blessing in tests and difficulties, and there are many writings from all religions that support this.
Industrialization brought freedom from the physical world, and humanity started to master the elements with the help of inventions. With the invention of the steam engine, the process of conquering the forces of nature accelerated. It led to the construction and improvement of roads, railways, ships, airplanes, and other means of comfort.
The sciences opened up new opportunities to improve humanity’s quality of physical life, which was extremely hard until then. These processes stepped up after the second war. Humanity was intoxicated with a great desire to have more of whatever made life more comfortable. Movies — Hollywood in particular — newspapers, television, radio, and other mass media promoted this trend. The education system became a path to achieving money to live a life without discomfort since money could supposedly solve all problems.
Every generation wants the best for the next and tries to make it as easy for them as possible, believing that it is the best way to raise children or educate them, and they go to great lengths and put so much energy to make things easy for their kids. Parents use their influence and wealth to get them to where they want them to go, living a life of ease and comfort, so that they can live happily ever after.
The Baha’i writings remind me of the crucial elements of educating the children, and one of the factors is to “accustom them to hardship.”
While the children are yet in their infancy feed them from the breast of heavenly grace, foster them in the cradle of all excellence, rear them in the embrace of bounty. Give them the advantage of every useful kind of knowledge. Let them share in every new and rare and wondrous craft and art. Bring them up to work and strive, and accustom them to hardship. Teach them to dedicate their lives to matters of great import, and inspire them to undertake studies that will benefit mankind. -Abdu’l-Baha
Going through challenges and overcoming them gives young people self-esteem and confidence, which is essential for their growth. These difficult times are tough and rough on the outside but have a precious gift inside them.
Overcoming challenges are a learning process in the classroom of life. The point that is ignored is that obstacles, setbacks, sadness, illness, losses, and many more things are incredibly essential for understanding ourselves and our role in this world.
I have not yet heard anyone complaining or questioning why everything is going so right for them. No one goes to a doctor or other professionals to get rid of the extreme feeling of happiness. We have been taught that life has to be a bed of roses, so it is natural to be happy. We have not been taught that difficult times are also crucial and vital for our growth.
We can change our mindset. All religions and great minds have taught us that life is a series of tests and difficulties. They are designed by the creator to test our physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual aspects of life to find out and realize how we have done at the end of our lives. The price of failing and the reward of overcoming them are too high.
Badi Shams is a Baha’i and a mystic at heart, whose field of interest is in economics. He has published a compilation "Economics of the Future", and also more recently the book "Economics of the Future Begins Today". He is retired from the educational system. You can read more of Badi's materials on his website www.badishams.net
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