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Abstract:
Hardships lead to spiritual growth. Grief is sent by God to perfect us, and comfort comes from passing through difficult times.
Notes:

Celebrating Survival

by Ted Slavin

published in St. Catharines Standard
St. Catharines, ON: 2011
I had a rough week. I won't bore you with the details but I felt like life was just cruising along like a beautiful boat on a smooth lake when, out of nowhere, a big, ugly, uncharted rock appears in the water and turns the boat into the latest addition of wreckage for future scuba generations to explore. Have I ever mentioned that I'm not a good swimmer?

As the situation stands now, I'm clinging to a chunk of floating wreckage and feeling grateful for the boundless support from my wife, Lindsay, who had a rough week of her own recently. On Friday evening, we decided to celebrate our survival of the week with our daughter by cashing in some gift certificates and burying my woes in some delicious ribs, replacing one pain of anxiety with another of overeating. Lindsay got a philosophical look on her face after the meal and asked, "Why does everything have to be in peaks and troughs? Why can't life just be steady and great?"

Her peaks and troughs comment came from one of our favourite books, The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend this fantastic insight into human behaviour, but Lindsay's comment referring to a steady life, with no rocks in the water, got me thinking. If the week had gone by with no bumps, would I have been enjoying this time with my family to sit and relax as much as I was? Sure, we learn to enjoy the good times in contrast to the bad, but how many bad times do we need for that to happen? What's the point?

I'm always amazed when I ask a question and within a relatively short period of time an answer pops up from the Bahá'í Writings. Sometimes I find it by accident when reading about other subjects; sometimes I remember part of something Bahá'u'lláh has written and I manage to track it down. In this case, what I was looking for was written by 'Abdu'l- Bahá, Bahá'u'lláh's eldest son who was the perfect example of how to live according to the Bahá'í teachings.

'Abdu'l-Bahá wrote: "Grief and sorrow do not come to us by chance; they are sent by the Divine Mercy for our perfecting. When grief and sorrow come, then will a man remember his Father Who is in Heaven, Who is able to deliver him from his humiliations. The more a man is chastened, the greater is the harvest of spiritual virtues shown forth by him." For me, it has often been hard to remember that the sorrows are actually purposeful, but even thinking of a difficulty as having a meaningful cause somehow makes it a little easier to bear, like it's some sort of puzzle. We seem to love puzzles. How else can one explain the hours we spend trying to remove a spyware virus (if you own a PC) before dragging it off to the techies who really know what they're doing?

Comfort also comes from knowing that hardships pass in time. The final, big hurdle for me is not to only endure hardship with something resembling the grace I see exercised so well by those plainly more mature than I, but to even be thankful for it -and be sincere in my gratitude.

There's no chance that life can just be steady and great, but given the joy of the peaks and knowing the lows are a mercy to the growth of our souls towards God, I hope that, in time, I'll become a little more accepting of this roller coaster of life, especially since we've spent all our ribs gift certificates.
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