Be generous in prosperity and thankful in adversity. This extract from the Baha’i writings encapsulates an ideal about how we should strive to live our lives.
I’ve lived in a faith community throughout my life, but this ideal is difficult! I find it much easier to be generous in prosperity than thankful in adversity, especially when I’m experiencing hard times.
When your car dies on a remote highway, it’s pretty difficult to be thankful for the chance to rise above the experience and learn from it, not to mention express gratitude for what you do have. It’s only later, maybe, that you realize those car payments were more than you could afford, or the car was a total lemon you are better off without. Or that you can be proud of yourself for managing your anxieties and fears enough to simply get the job done. In the meantime, you’re stuck on the side of the highway with no cell service 60 miles from home with three kids in the back seat.
It is impossible to truly know the adversity others have overcome to reach the present day. For many, their lives have been beset with perpetual financial difficulties. Others have never suffered materially but have been woefully deprived of love. Still more have lost, and lost, and lost again.
To say in the midst of adversity that a person should be thankful seems horribly condescending and cruel. We fear tests, especially those we’ve encountered before and don’t want to endure again. We pray to have them taken away or resolved. And yet, spiritual and emotional growth comes from those times when “bad” things happen.
If we’re given every material benefit, we become spoiled and soft. Just as physical tests help our bodies grow, spiritual tests help our souls grow. This is true for everyone.
I wonder whether the current attraction of apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction derives from some deep desire to be overtly tested. It may feel easier to face down a zombie horde than to figure out how to pay the bills on Monday. A sudden apocalypse would free us from our daily lives and give us the opportunity to really show our mettle.
That said, I am quite sure the Zombie Apocalypse would do me in right quick. Better to face the real future without fear. Even more — and this is a really startling idea — better to ask God to give us those very same tests we fear, so we can face them and our fears, and overcome them both.
As the Baha’i writings also say: The troubles of this world pass, and what we have left is what we have made of our souls.