Remain optimistic in times of hardship

SHAFAQNA (International Shia News Agency) – Each and every one of us has dealt with and experienced difficult times at one time or another.

Whether it’s facing challenges such as not getting a job, dealing with a difficult neighbor, struggling along financially, coping with health problems, or nursing a damaged relationship, we all at one stage have faced adversity and trials.

As Muslims however we are blessed with the knowledge that every hardship will be compensated, even the prick of a thorn if we bear it with patience.

Being patient and steadfast in times of these hardships requires faith in God and His ways and we should understand that we may be tested with various calamities.

We sometimes feel depressed and sad in these situations and wonder why God allowed us to go through these calamities. Here we are reminded in the Quran:

{Do people think that they will be left alone because they say: “We believe,” and will not be tested? And We indeed tested those who were before them. And Allah will certainly make it known the truth of those who are true, and will certainly make it known the falsehood of those who are liars.} (Al-Ankabut 29: 2-3)

God knows all that before putting them to test.

Life Is a Test

Sometimes struggles are the result of choices we made, and sometimes they are the result of consequences that were completely beyond our control. Regardless of the cause, no trial we experience or pain we suffer should be wasted. These trials can educate us, build our character and help us develop patience, humility, and strength, that is of course if we choose to let them.

Beset with these trials we as Muslims should not only continue being Muslims, but adopt an optimistic approach, and through the process work on becoming better Muslims. Understandably it is difficult but worth the reward and the Quran is replete with stories about Muhammad (peace be upon him) and other prophets.

Reading the Quran we see that all the Prophets went through trials and tribulations. Life is a test and we should learn from the examples of our Prophets who were afflicted with severe poverty, ailments, animosity and hatred in addition to many confrontations. These are all challenges and we must face them.

{Or think you that you will enter Paradise without such trials as came to those who passed away before you?} (Al-Baqarah 2: 214)

The stories of David and Goliath, the pharaoh who had threatened to punish the magicians for their faith in God and Prophet Jacob and his sons are among the stories included in the holy book. We must never however give in to depression or follow the path of feeling sorry for ourselves.

Many times it is easy in life to focus on our trials. I read once that many of us count our blessings on our fingers and toes, but count our trials with a calculator. That statement is all too true and I at times am guilty as charged. If faced with dilemmas, we must not think “Why me”? “Why am I having to struggle? Why do I have to suffer loss? Why, why, why?”

I as a mother try to make sure my children never say ‘why me’? I ask them have you ever thought ‘why not me’?

God tells us in the Quran {And never give up hope of God’s mercy. Certainly no one despairs of God’s mercy, except the people who disbelieve.} (Yusuf12: 87) to remind us that patience and optimism are the keys to overcoming all misfortunes.

How to Be Optimistic

Being optimistic though doesn’t mean that you just have to be happy and simply wait for things to work out your way. Optimism means believing you can make things happen, even when circumstances are at war with you and continue to follow the straight path and never stray. It doesn’t mean waiting for things, situations and people to change. You have to continuously take sincere efforts and supplicate until you see the results you have waited for. Being patient though throughout the process is essential.

The Quran says:

{Bear with patience whatever befalls you.} (Luqman 31: 17)

And again:

{Be not sad, surely Allah is with us.} (At-Tawbah 9: 40)

We must recognize that grief, sorrow and stress are a part and parcel of life; it is part of the plan. As mentioned before we all have gone through this and will continue to do so. What life gives us sometimes cannot be denied or repelled, so the best way is acceptance taking what God has written for us, and deriving positive lessons thereof makes the whole difference. We cannot stop hardships from touching us, and as Muslims we know that everything is preordained but in the end our attitudes can either make us or break us.

During these times of hardships we must remember God in abundance seeking His help with patience and prayer. We have learnt this in the Quran which says:

{And put your trust in Allah if you are believers indeed.} (5: 23; 2: 45; 13: 28; 2: 152)

By leaving our affairs to God depending on Him, trusting in His promise, thinking favorably of Him, and waiting patiently for His help, we will definitely reap some of the greater fruits of faith. By incorporating these qualities, we will be at peace concerning the future, because we will depend on God for everything. For me personally there is some sort of peace remembering and believing that God has His plans which – although we may not understand – will ultimately end favorably for us.

Keep in mind, Islam is a religion that calls for optimism and trust.

Of course there are times when nothing seems to work our way and everything seems to work against us as though the entire universe is conspiring against what we wish. It is at these times that giving up seems, maybe not the best, but definitely the easiest option. However, sometimes it is less complicated to surrender to our belief mentioned earlier that everything is predetermined.

{No calamity befalls on earth or in yourselves but is inscribed in the Book of Decrees – before We bring it into existence.} (Al-Hadid 57: 22)

Giving up though will not only be shameful given the strengths we possess, but will also take away all the chances and opportunities we might get if we had chosen to keep at it. Remember a person can either be sad for what he doesn’t have or he can be happy for what he has. It is after all, our individual choice.

We are surrounded by a variety of people. Some of them we deal with on a daily basis are a joy to be with, and their presence nurtures and encourages us during our most complicated times. Similarly others may have the opposite effect, draining us of our energy, making us feel tired and exhausted and even dragging us into depression.

Keep in mind that Islam is a religion that calls for optimism and trust. Understanding that our well-being can be easily influenced by those around us, we will have greater insights into the quality of our social interactions and their energetic effect on us and in turn be able to deal with our calamity; we are after all human. Maybe at this time we may put such acquaintances on a back burner and surround ourselves more with those believers who remind us of God and His blessings, helping us to get through our misfortunes.

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) says:

“Good expectations are a feature of belief, and nothing can be achieved without belief, prayer, faith and hope. Be optimistic and good shall be found.”

Also by being positive and optimistic, taking one day at a time, and always having hope in a better future is among the traits of believers. The Quran stresses that those who are in this world and are close to God will be raised in the highest of heaven.

{Peace be upon you, because you persevered in patience! Excellent indeed is the final home.} (Ar-Ra’d 13: 24)

O’ afflicted ones, if you are patient you lose nothing; and though you may not perceive it, you are profiting.

Tough times usually put down our morale and tell us that more bad awaits us in the future making us feel that things aren’t going to get better anymore. At such times, we need to believe that tomorrow will be another day and depending on our outlook a better one.

Maintaining a hopeful positive, yet real, perspective in the face of adversity can be a real challenge as we agreed but it is essential to living peacefully and happily just as it is important to recognize what is unfair and unjust in our lives it is equally important to see the beauty, love, generosity and goodness as well. We must keep our faith strong and our outlook positive and never give up hope or underestimate the power of prayer; for sure this in itself is a blessing, God says:

{O my sons! Go ye and inquire about Joseph and his brother, and never give up hope of Allah’s Soothing Mercy: truly no one despairs of Allah’s Soothing Mercy, except those who have no faith.} (Yusuf 12: 87)


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