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Health, Healing & Overcoming Difficulties

in Explore > Themes

At some point in our lives, we all suffer from illnesses of the body or the mind and we face tests and difficulties. This collection highlights resources dedicated to physical and spiritual health and well-being, healing, resilience and overcoming challenges.

Finding Peace in Life’s Tests

November 8, 2011, in Articles > Baha'i Life, by

In times of difficulty, it is only natural that we turn to our closet friends and loved ones for support.

They lovingly listen as you talk endlessly about the same thing. They remain patient and kind with you as you struggle to work through your thoughts and emotions, regardless of how ridiculous some of the things you are saying might be. They let you cry on their shoulder without commenting on the tear splotches and mascara stains you leave on their shirt. They give you amazing advice – with a wisdom that comes from knowing you inside-out, and an honesty that comes from wanting to see you overcome the test. And most importantly, they pray with you – and, for you.

This process is how we gain the insight and encouragement we need to resolve our situations.

But more fundamental than all of that, I think, is the ability to change the way we look at all of life’s tests that come our way. One of my closest friends – one of the wisest and strongest people I know – has, in the relatively short time that we’ve been friends, not only been a rock in times of adversity, but has always encouraged me to embrace life’s tests and to find beauty in them. This is perhaps the most valuable skill I could ever hope to learn and an ability that I feel that every person needs to continually nurture in themselves and others!

‘Abdul-Baha said:

Be not troubled because of hardships and ordeals; turn unto God, bowing in humbleness and praying to Him, while bearing every ordeal, contented under all conditions and thankful in every difficulty.

Changing our perspective doesn’t make the test, in itself, go away, but it allows us to stay grounded even when the strong waves of emotion and doubt hit us, and allows us to remain hopeful even in the darkness and dreariness of our pain and anxiety!

The hardest tests for me have been the ones in which I have no real control over the circumstances. In times like this, I am forced to realise that there is nothing I can do but let things take their course and to accept that I will simply have to find peace in the way things unfold.

As someone whose preferred mode of action is to march into everything with a 5-point plan of attack and who is often described by close friends as having “a need, bordering on unhealthy, for control and certainty” (thanks, guys!), this sit-on-your-hands-and-wait approach is excruciating!

Thankfully, the wisdom and counsel of my friends has helped me to do just that. Here are five strategies that I’ve learnt to help me deal with those tests where it seems like there is nothing I can actually do to change the situation.

1. Detachment does not mean denial

Detachment does not mean ignoring your emotions and pretending that you are fine when, clearly, you are anything but fine. Neither does it mean minimising your own pain and suffering. Part of accepting – and even embracing – your tests is to accept the effects that the test is having on you, and accepting that your sadness and suffering is merely a normal part of life.

Should prosperity befall thee, rejoice not and should abasement come upon thee, grieve not, for both shall pass away and be no more.

Baha’u’llah, The Hidden Words

Detachment doesn’t mean that you pretend your problem doesn’t exist. It simply means that you are looking at the larger picture and understanding the spiritual significance of the events and circumstances of your life.

The first step to detachment, however, is to accept and acknowledge the way your tests are making you feel. Tests are meant to be difficult – you’re allowed to feel overwhelmed and admit that you feel overwhelmed.

2. Unwrapping the gift

Something that I remind myself of nearly every day is this quote by ‘Abdu’l-Baha:

… we must realize that everything which happens is due to some wisdom and that nothing happens without a reason. 

The Promulgation of Universal Peace

Knowing this to be a certainty, I find it easier to find the faith and courage to get through a test, while waiting for the divine wisdom behind it to become apparent to me.

There are numerous instances in my life where I have – much later, with the benefit of hindsight – ultimately found this to be true. Some of what I once considered the most difficult and painful events in my life have ended up being the very key by which the door to something far better was opened up to me!

In every one of these instances, the path I ended up on was one that was far more beautiful and filled with goodness. It was also the path that I would never have initially chosen for myself and had often even gone to great lengths to avoid! But God, in His wisdom and providence knew better and the things that initially seemed like horrible tests ended up being precious gifts.

An analogy that I really love – courtesy of the amazingly wise people in my study circle – is that of unwrapping a gift. All tests are gifts. All tests. Not just because of the opportunity for spiritual growth, but because inevitably, there is a wisdom and hidden beauty in the very circumstances that initially bring us sadness, anger, anxiety or pain.

The tricky part is merely the ugly, unattractive wrapping that often disguises the beautiful gift. In times of tests, I remind myself that I just need to be patient as I wade through the layers of wrapping paper, peeling them away one layer at a time, and trying to find the gift buried beneath. It might take a while until I am able to actually enjoy and use the gift, but I know it’s there. Even if I can’t see it.

I’d guess that the first few times I received a wrapped gift as a very young child, I must have been very unenthused. What good was a plain box with a bow on it to me? But over time, as I received more wrapped gifts, I learnt to associate the wrapped box not with the exterior, but with its contents! I learnt that the big, ugly orange parcel was better than the small, pretty yellow one because it must have a bigger (and naturally – as far as being a child goes – better!) toy inside!

As children, we learnt to look right through the exterior of a wrapped gift and to allow our imagination to run wild with what may lie hidden within. If only we could train ourselves to think the same way about tests – reaching out to embrace the most unappealing of tests, undaunted by the immediate realities and focusing only on the hidden wisdom that lies beneath!

3. Look at what you can learn.

Remember that the hardest tests are opportunities to develop skills that you don’t already have – not just to demonstrate the countless ones that you already possess!

I often find myself “bargaining” for a test different to the one God has given me.

“Okay God, CLEARLY you want me to practice detachment. Sure. I get that. Virtues, and all that jazz. But couldn’t you have taught me detachment some other way? [Insert name of friend] is dealing with [insert test that said friend is dealing with] right now. That’s all about detachment too. Why couldn’t I have had that test? That wouldn’t have been so bad. If that were my test instead, I could TOTALLY be detached. But not this. Why this test? In this context? With these people? Do you realise how ridiculous this situation is? And it’s worse because of [insert reasons]. It would actually be funny if it weren’t so horrible. This situation is ACTUALLY impossible. Why, God, why???”

There are always reasons why some of our tests seem impossible to handle! I might feel better equipped to deal with a similar-but-different test that another person is going through, and that person might feel the same way about my test.

But that’s precisely why we haven’t been given those tests! If we had, perhaps we wouldn’t find the situation quite so difficult and agonising – but that also means that we wouldn’t have been given that same impetus for massive amounts of spiritual growth!

I’ve learnt, instead of dwelling on what often seems like Life’s twisted sense of humour, to simply acknowledge the circumstances of my situation that make it so difficult and to try to understand that the magnitude of the test actually directly correlates to the growth I’m going to get from it!

4. Find reasons to celebrate.

Amidst your feelings of hopelessness and your seeming inability to change your circumstances, find reasons to celebrate. Hardship opens our eyes to many of life’s beauties and reminds us of all the blessings we enjoy and take for granted.

I’ve always known that I have an amazing family who love and care about me, but it was only in times of trouble that I was able to observe the superhuman sacrifices they were willing to make for me.

I’ve always been grateful for the way my friends can make me feel optimistic and cheerful about life, but it’s only when I’m sitting with one of them and bawling my eyes out, and they say something hilarious that has the ability to make me start laughing hysterically – while still crying, mind you – that I’m able to appreciate the extent to which their friendship brightens up my life.

I’ve always known that God is good and gracious and kind, but it’s in the darkness and gloominess of life’s biggest tests that I am most able to observe the numerous ways in which He blesses and protects me.

Even the simple act of praying in times of difficulty is a reminder of the immense spiritual and emotional resources you have acquired as a result of your faith. That, in itself, is a huge reason to celebrate!

There is beauty in everything – even sadness. We just need to open our eyes to it.

5. Look forward to the day you are able to share the gift.

No matter how sad, distressed and broken you feel in a situation, remember that one day someone else is going to find peace and happiness because – and perhaps only because – of what you’re going through now.

I often marvel when I talk to a friend and realise that one of us is able to help the other by sharing insights that they learnt from a hugely difficult test they experienced in the past.

Sometimes it seems impossible to find meaning in suffering, but in that moment, when there is nothing in the world that anyone seems able to do to make a friend’s situation better, and you are able to draw from your pool of experience and find the one piece of advice that is able to soothe a distressed soul and help a friend begin to heal, everything you went through  – no matter how long and difficult – seems like it was worth it. There are probably few experiences in life more beautiful than this.

Now, when I find myself unable to find any happiness in a situation, I focus instead on all the things I’m learning and I find peace in trusting that one day I am going to be able to bring comfort to someone dear to me by sharing the things that I am learning. Perhaps it will be years before I have an opportunity to share it with a dear friend, or decades before I pass on the wisdom I have been gifted to my grandchildren – but I know that time will come.

What tips do you have to remain “contented under all conditions and thankful in every difficulty”, as ‘Abdu’l-Baha counselled? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments!

Posted by


In her professional life, Preethi has dabbled in various combinations of education, community development and law. At heart, though, she's an overgrown child who thinks the world is one giant playground. She's currently on a quest to make learning come alive for young people and to bring the world's stories and cultures to them, with educational resources from One Story Learning.

Discussion 20 Comments

Such a BEAUTIFULLY written article Preethi. Thank you for sharing your experiences (gift) with us!


Jessica (November 11, 2011 at 6:32 AM)

I’ll say it with the words of Cecelia Ahern in ‘Thank you for the Memories’

‘Be patient and tough; someday this pain will be useful to you’

or to somebody else.

… we must realize that everything which happens is due to some wisdom and that nothing happens without a reason.
(The Promulgation of Universal Peace)

If we didn’t have difficulties and tests, we would stay blind for certain needs of the people around us. Sometimes we think that we understand the difficulties and the feelings of others. But there are things that you can only understand if you have gone through that same ‘valley’.

Thank you for that wonderful article.


Janet (November 11, 2011 at 5:44 PM)

“But there are things that you can only understand if you have gone through that same ‘valley’.”

Beautifully said! Thanks, Janet 🙂


Preethi (November 11, 2011 at 9:18 PM)

Glad you liked it, Jess! 🙂 It’s so nice to be able to share all this amazing advice that I’ve been fortunate enough to have been given!


Preethi (November 11, 2011 at 9:19 PM)

Thank you for writing such a spiritual, yet “down to earth” blog. The gifts you give us through this blog are truly special. Thank you.

Paula Bidwell

Paula Bidwell (November 11, 2011 at 9:43 PM)

Lovely article. Really touching, inspiring and meaningful. Loved the use of the quotes – I picture myself at each stage of the steps and can see how perfectly they fit. I will print this out – thanks my dear.


Penina (November 11, 2011 at 9:58 PM)

Thanks so much for the kind words, Penina! So glad you enjoyed the article 🙂


Preethi (November 11, 2011 at 12:53 PM)

Lovely post, yet again! I think what I find helps me the most is a line from the “Refresh and Gladden my spirit” prayer : “I lay all my affairs in Thy hand…I will no longer be sorrowful and grieved, I will be a happy and joyful being” – this helps me detach when moments are very hard.
It also helps to remember that God only dishes us what we can handle, and no more. And last but not least in our Spiritual Assembly we feel that the harder the test the Assembly is dealt, the stronger our bonds of unity become.


Cathy (November 11, 2011 at 9:34 PM)

Interesting article.
The subject of tests interests me greatly. I often wonder about the question of tests.
Does God send us tests individually designed for our needs? If so then other peoples lives would need to be arranged around our specific test requirements. For example someone close to me may have to suffer for me to develop from that test.


Are we responsible for the bulk of tests that come our way. To give simple examples, the person who does not exercise and eats junk, smokes etc, ends up with the tests of ill health. The lazy young person who never studies or acquires useful skills ends up with the test of poverty.
Did God provide these tests or do people create much of their own grief.

If where I live is suddenly ravaged by war or some natural disaster does that mean that God is providing a whole range of tests for a whole range of people. In this case it seems unlikely that the people suffering are at fault or that they all required these test at the same time.

My belief is that God will not intervene to solve our material problems. If I loose a limb then praying to God will not result in a limb growing back. However, it makes sense to me that turning to God and realising that He is the only One who can help gives us strength. The act of turning to God when in difficulty will result in Gods grace giving us strength.

I’m sure you will all agree that prayers said when we are under tests are much more sincere and heartfelt than the rushed prayers said in the morning while rushing to work.

A life without tests would be a terrible thing ………… a test actually.

Joe Walshe

Joe Walshe (December 12, 2011 at 12:10 AM)

I am book marking this page. Very insightful, motivating stuff.

I too, am turning a new leaf. Your anxiety, troubles, and worries are in fact opportunities for advancement — if only you choose to see it that way. And life looks really different with those goggles on.


Michael (January 1, 2012 at 3:49 PM)

[…] work is of particular interest to Baha’is or, in fact, anyone who is spiritual and shares the Baha’i understanding of tests and difficulties as being signs of God’s providence and simply opportunities for spiritual […]

[…] on “Tests and Difficulties from a Spiritual Perspective.” We all struggle. What is the Baha’i perspective on life’s tests? This promises to be a inspiring […]

Love this article!

Edith Margaret Gruber

Edith Margaret Gruber (March 3, 2014 at 3:27 AM)

Very nice one… thank you.


Prashanth (November 11, 2015 at 10:22 AM)

Thank you so much Preethi! Definitely I feel that your tuff experiences have helped to be one step closer to overcome my own!

May God bless you!


Alex (August 8, 2016 at 2:50 PM)


For everything there is a sign. The sign of love is fortitude under My decree and patience under My trials.

Loved your article
Helps me start my day in better spirit

Hamid G

Hamid G (April 4, 2019 at 11:07 PM)

I needed this, thank you

Michelle Shoghi

Michelle Shoghi (June 6, 2019 at 12:28 PM)

We’re thankful that you found this useful. Thanks for your comment.

Sonjel Vreeland

Sonjel Vreeland (June 6, 2019 at 9:48 PM)

Dear Preethi Allāh’u’Abhā (this my very first blog)
“Finding Peace in Life’s Tests”
Your article on life’s tests is so relevant to my current difficult situation that caused me so much pain and sadness.
It is such source of joy and peace to know I am not alone and there are other who share my pain and suffering (thank God, the notion of common humanity exist).
Prayer and meditation is my only source of break from this darkness specially when it is completely out my control and I carry the blamed for it.
Dispute of all this suffering, I call myself very lucky to have the Baha’i written and prayers as my only medicine in this difficult time: thank you for the beautiful article.
I like to share writing from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá – The Perfect Exemplar about PAIN AND SORROW:
In this world we are influenced by two sentiments, Joy and Pain.
Joy gives us wings! In times of joy our strength is more vital, our intellect keener, and our understanding less clouded. We seem better able to cope with the world and to find our sphere of usefulness. But when sadness visits us we become weak, our strength leaves us, our comprehension is dim and our intelligence veiled. The actualities of life seem to elude our grasp, the eyes of our spirits fail to discover the sacred mysteries, and we become even as dead beings.
There is no human being untouched by these two influences; but all the sorrow and the grief that exist come from the world of matter—the spiritual world bestows only the joy!
If we suffer it is the outcome of material things, and all the trials and troubles come from this world of illusion.
For instance, a merchant may lose his trade and depression ensues. A workman is dismissed and starvation stares him in the face. A farmer has a bad harvest, anxiety fills his mind. A man builds a house which is burnt to the ground and he is straightway homeless, ruined, and in despair.
All these examples are to show you that the trials which beset our every step, all our sorrow, pain, shame and grief, are born in the world of matter; whereas the spiritual Kingdom never causes sadness. A man living with his thoughts in this Kingdom knows perpetual joy. The ills all flesh is heir to do not pass him by, but they only touch the surface of his life; the depths are calm and serene.
Today, humanity is bowed down with trouble, sorrow and grief, no one escapes; the world is wet with tears but, thank God, the remedy is at our doors. Let us turn our hearts away from the world of matter and live in the spiritual world! It alone can give us freedom! If we are hemmed in by difficulties we have only to call upon God, and by His great Mercy we shall be helped.
If sorrow and adversity visit us, let us turn our faces to the Kingdom and heavenly consolation will be out-poured.
If we are sick and in distress let us implore God’s healing and He will answer our prayer.
When our thoughts are filled with the bitterness of this world, let us turn our eyes to the sweetness of God’s compassion and He will send us heavenly calm! If we are imprisoned in the material world, our spirit can soar into the Heavens and we shall be free indeed!
When our days are drawing to a close let us think of the eternal worlds, and we shall be full of joy!
You see all rounds you proof of the inadequacy of material things—how joy, comfort, peace and consolation are not to be found in the transitory things of the world. Is it not then foolishness to refuse to seek these treasures where they may be found? The doors of the spiritual Kingdom are open to all, and without is absolute darkness.
Thank God that you in this assembly have this knowledge, for in all the sorrows of life you can obtain supreme consolation. If your days on earth are numbered, you know that everlasting life awaits you. If material anxiety envelops you in a dark cloud, spiritual radiance lightens your path. Verily, those whose minds are illumined by the Spirit of the Most High have supreme consolation.
I myself was in prison forty years—one year alone would have been impossible to bear—nobody survived that imprisonment more than a year! But, thank God, during all those forty years I was supremely happy! Every day, on waking, it was like hearing good tidings, and every night infinite joy was mine. Spirituality was my comfort, and turning to God was my greatest joy. If this had not been so, do you think it possible that I could have lived through those forty years in prison?
Thus, spirituality is the greatest of God’s gifts, and ‘Life Everlasting’ means ‘Turning to God’. May you, one and all, increase daily in spirituality, may you be strengthened in all goodness, may you be helped more and more by the Divine consolation, be made free by the Holy Spirit of God, and may the power of the Heavenly Kingdom live and work among you.
This is my earnest desire, and I pray to God to grant you this favour.
Thanks again


Zhila (December 12, 2019 at 3:08 AM)

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