Life isn't always fair, but I love it anyway!
"Does the soul progress more through sorrow or through the joy in this world?"
`Abdu'l-Bahá. -- "The mind and spirit of man advance when he is tried by suffering. The more the ground is ploughed the better the seed will grow, the better the harvest will be. Just as the plough furrows the earth deeply, purifying it of weeds and thistles, so suffering and tribulation free man from the petty affairs of this worldly life until he arrives at a state of complete detachment. His attitude in this world will be that of divine happiness. Man is, so to speak, unripe: the heat of the fire of suffering will mature him. Look back to the times past and you will find that the greatest men have suffered most."
Paris Talks: Addresses given by `Abdu'l-Bahá in Paris in 1911-1912, 11th ed. (London: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1979), pp. 178-79.
I never think about personal suffering, in fact, I have trouble accepting the concept of suffering and applying it to myself. I have tests, life challenges. My issues never involve anything that can't be overcome, one way or another. For the longest time (most of my life, in fact), my biggest challenge has been food addiction and morbid obesity. God has answered my prayers and guided me to a 12 step program of recovery from both conditions. (I discuss this more in depth on my other blog, BerthaButtNoMore. You can read all about it on http://noberthabutt.blogspot.com/ Shameless plug alert.)
However, there have been long term consequences for being so large for so long. I've had two hernia ruptures (and emergency surgeries) in the past two years, and I'm scheduled for abdominal wall repair surgery on April 1 so that I won't have any more hernias breaking open and wrecking havoc with my life. I also have a two inch tear in a tendon in my right foot. Walking is painful. I'm wearing a big Frankenstein velcro-fastened boot/cast thingy now, but in two weeks I will be wearing a specially designed brace that will hopefully correct my collapsible arches and take the pressure of that abused tendon so it will heal. If that doesn't work after four months, then I will be looking at tendon repair surgery.
These are tests, challenges. Friends who have seen me in rapidly declining health over the past twenty years have said pretty same things, with a few variations: "Oh my God, you have suffered so much already and now THIS? That isn't fair! You've lost so much weight and you're STILL dealing with health issues?"
Well, yes. I STILL have major health issues. Don't get me wrong; a few weeks ago I was having hourly talks (aka serious wailing and moaning) with God about the unfairness of it all. And through the loving support of my Baha'i friends and my 12 step recovery group, I got through my little tantrum. No, what I'm going through are definitely challenges, issues that with the Divine Assistance of God and the people in my life, I can get through. I am getting through them so I can actively and more effectively do what I'm supposed to do--be of service to mankind.
The Baha'is of Iran are SUFFERING, along with their countrymen. The people of Haiti, Somalia, South Africa, Uganda, India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Uzbekistan, Russia, Bosnia, Croatia, Romania...they are SUFFERING, and most of their suffering is not of their own doing. Their plight is caused, in my opinion, by the monumental disparity between the uber-wealthy and desperately poor. These are situations that are beyond any one person's control. It will take world-wide spiritual awakening to bring about justice and healing to those who are such great need.
Would I want to be tested in the same manner of far too many people in this world? Of course not. Nor would I want any family member or friend to be put through such pain. But I keep in mind this basic spiritual teachings that are fundamental in both Christianity and the Baha'i Faith: God will never give you more than you can handle, and even those will eventually pass. It's not fun to go through tests, but it's reassuring to know that they are not only part of the great cycle of life, and they are surmountable. I am learning that when I get out of being so self-centered and caught in the supposed drama of my life, I am more available to be of service to those around me. One day, I will be strong enough to be of service to an even wider circle of people.
After all, that's what being a Baha'i is all about, isn't it?
From "Paris Talks" by Abdu'l-Baha', pg. 100:
It is my dearest hope that you may all become a blessing to others, that you may give sight to the spiritually blind, hearing to the spiritually deaf and life to those who are dead in sin. May you help those sunk in materiality to realize their Divine son-ship, and encourage them to arise and be worthy of their birthright; so that by your endeavour the world of humanity may become the Kingdom of God and of His elect. I thank God that we are at one in this grand ideal, that my longings are also yours and that we work together in perfect unity. Today, upon the earth, one sees the sad spectacle of cruel war! Man slays his brother man for selfish gain, 101 and to enlarge his territories! For this ignoble ambition hate has taken possession of his heart, and more and more blood is shed! Fresh battles are fought, the armies are increased, more cannon, more guns, more explosives of all kinds are sent out—so does bitterness and hate augment from day to day!
But this assembly, thank God, longs only for peace and unity, and must work with heart and soul to bring about a better condition in the world. You who are the servants of God fight against oppression, hate and discord, so that wars may cease and God’s laws of peace and love may be established among men.