Prepare for the test [29:2&3]

blog Apr 16, 2023

Here is today's reflection from the Quran:

In Chapter 29 of the Quran, Sura Ankabut [The Spider], verses 2 and 3, Allah says: Do men think that they will be left alone on saying, we believe, and not be tried? And certainly We tried those before them [Holy Quran 29:2 & 3]

These verses are informing us about a fact of life: there will always be challenges to face and obstacles to overcome. In other words, we should not be surprised when we encounter challenges and upsets to our comfort and ease.

What is the purpose of these trials?

Shows us the extent of our faith: Reveals to ourselves since He already knows. Reveals to us if our faith is Faith of the tongue or faith of the heart.

Building strength and resilience: It is interesting that the word for trial or test in Arabic is fitna, one of the meanings of which is "to melt gold in order to separate its impure parts". Just like the true beauty and strength of gold is revealed once it is put in the furnace, our strength and resilience as human beings is revealed when we face adversity and obstacles.

More than just revealing, trials and challenges allow us to build our resilience muscles.

We can think of it this way: when we want to build our physical muscles, we may go to the gym to lift weights. The weights we choose need to be those that will challenge our strength. We will not chose Styrofoam weights to lift if we are serious about strength building. Similarly, we do not grow, become stronger or more resilient during times of ease. It is during times of stress and challenge that we can build our emotional, psychological and spintual strength.

Many people who go through a very difficult situation in life, such as an illness report that it made them stretch and grow spiritually in ways that they could not have imagined. Although they would not have chosen the test, they say, they know that are better for it.

Imam Ali (AS) said: Many a person who is afflicted is made stronger by his affliction.

Revealing strength and gaining confidence: People who go through challenges are often surprised at the inner resources that show up to encounter these challenges.

Recognizing what is important: When human beings go through difficulties in life, our old way of seeing the world is often shattered.

Amidst the trials, there is an opportunity to wake up to the true priorities of life. It is an opportunity to shift from a pleasure seeking way of living to a more meaningful and purposeful way of living.

Imam Ali (AS) said, When you see that Allah, the Glorified, is continuously testing you [with hardships], then [know that] He has woken you [from your slumber of negligence].

Fosters a closer relationship with Him: Trials and tests also provide us opportunities to practice reliance on Him, patience, perseverance and gratitude.

Building our status in the Hereafter: For believers, tests and trials are not in vain. Every challenge that we go through is an opportunity to raise our status with Him. Imam Ali (AS) said, The reward for [bearing] hardship is greater than the extent of the hardship [itself]. He also said: Verily great reward accompanies great trials

So how do we become amongst those who grow and not drown as a result of trials? How do we bounce back - rather bounce back better - from adversity?

Firstly, we need to embrace the face that adversity and obstacles WILL show up. Allah has promised that He will try us so we need to remind ourselves that nothing has gone wrong when challenges do indeed show up.

Secondly, we can use these situations to practice what we know but may have not paid attention to: connection to the Divine, patience, compassion. This is the time to live up to and practice virtues that we aspire to.

Thirdly, we need to trust that He has not put anything in our way that we are not capable of handling.

Once we come out on the other side of challenges, we will be able to recognize the treasures that we found along the way.

As Abraham Maslow once said about the self-actualizers he studied: "the most important learning experiences [for them]. . . were tragedies, deaths, and trauma . . . which forced change in the life-outlook of the person and consequently in everything they did."

Of course, that doesn't mean that we are expected to enjoy those challenges, especially while they are happening, but simply that we recognize them as opportunities for growth, an opportunity to realign our priorities in life and an opportunity for awakening to our true nature.


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