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.
This is the question that Kevan Pitcher asks himself when considering the role that tests play in our everyday life.
“It is most interesting to reflect and meditate on the role of tests and difficulties in human life,” the retired Ballarat psychologist says. “Is it not the truth that we need tests and difficulties to reach our full potential?”
In The Hidden Words, Baha’u’llah has revealed that “The sign of love is fortitude under My decree and patience under my trials.”
He continues to say that “The true lover yearneth for tribulation even as doth the rebel for forgiveness and the sinful for mercy.” 1
“If adversity befall thee not in My path, how canst thou walk in the ways of them that are content with My pleasure? If trials afflict thee not in thy longing to meet Me, how wilt thou attain the light in thy love for My Beauty?”2
He goes on to say that “My calamity is My providence, outwardly it is fire and vengeance, but inwardly it is light and mercy. Hasten there unto that thou Mayest become an eternal light and an immortal spirit. This is My command unto thee, do thou observe it.” 2
“I am totally incapable of being able to understand why God made it this way–why do we need trials, tests, difficulties, pain and hardship?” Kevan asks. “I guess I easily accept it in faith, and having done this I then accept that it is simply a necessary part of our human condition.”
“However, that does not mean that one should be blasé about the sufferings of others.”
Kevan was 23 years old when he first heard about the Baha’i Faith. At the time, he was watching Seals & Crofts perform in Edmonton, Canada during his two-year self-discovery travel around the world.
After investigating for five years, he declared his belief in the Baha’i Faith in Ballarat before setting about “aligning myself with His will: to obey Baha’u’llah’s Teachings”.
“Following advice and guidance from local Ballarat Baha’is, I got a job as a prospective student nurse. That began a 34 year career in mental health, firstly as a psychiatric nurse, then as a registered psychologist.”
In his years of practice, Kevan says he has been blessed to have his faith as a guiding light and influence on his work.
“I strongly believe that by following the Teachings of Baha’u’llah I was able to practice psychology in an uniquely balanced and informed way,” he says. “Whenever a client expressed a feeling of being spiritually or morally compromised, I found I was able (using Abdu’l-Baha as the example) to help them apply the spiritual verities of their faith (or non-faith) for the purpose of improving their mental health outcomes without undermining or challenging their faith in any way.
“Of course, if they ever actually asked me about my faith I answered truthfully and appropriately. But more often than not, by the end of their psychotherapy, I felt they believed I was united with them in their faith.”
Understanding that tests and difficulties are part and parcel of our growth in this world and the next is one thing, but to deal with our sufferings and the trials of our loved ones is a whole other ball game. How do we cast aside the fire and struggles of this world and look deep within to find the light and mercy that Baha’u’llah assures us is there?
According to Kevan, a good dose of detachment can do the trick, but it is not the panacea of all ills. And detachment takes practice.
Luckily, as Baha’is, we have the Writings at our disposal. Baha’u’llah says:
“Were any man to ponder in his heart that which the Pen of the Most High hath revealed and to taste of its sweetness, he would, of a certainty, find himself emptied and delivered from his own desires, and utterly subservient to the Will of the Almighty. Happy is the man that hath attained so high a station, and hath not deprived himself of so bountiful a grace.” 3
“Simply, from a psychological perspective, prayers can be very powerful in keeping our psyches well balanced and healthy,” he says. “Recitation or chanting of revealed prayers has much in common with meditation.
“Prayer is essential for a healthy rational soul. Thank God for revealed prayers. I cannot possibly comment on the ocean of spirituality that exists even in one revealed prayer.”
That being said, Kevan acknowledges the Writings’ tenet that science and religion must agree, and that during times of illness one must also consult competent physicians. Abdu’l-Baha says:
“According to the explicit decree of Baha’u’llah one must not turn aside from the advice of a competent doctor. It is imperative to consult one even if the patient himself be a well-known and eminent physician. In short, the point is that you should maintain your health by consulting a highly-skilled physician.” 4
“As we learn to harmonise science and religion, we all need to find that balance between this material universe and our rational soul,” Kevan says. “In the next world, God knows how much closer to Him we will be than we are now, but for now, let us not erroneously believe that I have a partnership with God that negates my dependency on His creation.
“Therefore, I need to balance all the atoms that make up the science of mental health with my purpose to know and to worship Him. We all need to consult a competent physician when we are out of balance.”
In the Tablet of Medicine, Baha’u’llah says:
“Eschew anxiety (al-hamma) and depression (al-ghamm) for through these twain will transpire a darksome affliction.”
This of course is no easy feat, particularly in a world which continuously asks us to turn inward instead of out.
“It is interesting how many of the Baha’i Writings are validated by the science of psychology. For example, research into happiness shows that it is by service, sacrificing for others, that happiness proliferates–not through the ‘me-ness’ of self-indulgence and pleasure seeking behaviour.”
“The more we search for ourselves, the less likely we are to find ourselves; and the more we search for God, and to serve our fellow-men, the more profoundly will we become acquainted with ourselves, and the more inwardly assured.” 5
And when the Guardian refers to prayer, meditation and service as integral components to a holistic life, his remarks are as follows:
“Prayer and meditation are very important factors in deepening the spiritual life of the individual, but with them must go also action and example, as these are the tangible results of the former. Both are essential.” 6
When I think about those times I’ve experienced personal duress, I see that it has been through prayer, speaking with loved ones and, ultimately, service to humanity, that I’ve been able to find it within myself to overcome my struggles and, as Shoghi Effendi says, become more acquainted with myself. And after speaking with Kevan, and referring back to the Writings, I was reminded that it is indeed through the strengthening of our inner spiritual being (our true selves) and our contribution to society that we can find our true purpose and therefore discover the remedy we seek–whether mental, physical or spiritual.
“Balance, balance, balance,” Kevan says.
National Mental Health Month is marked in Australia every October in a bid to advocate for and raise awareness of Australian mental health and promote better mental health for all.
If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, please know that you are not alone. Help is close at hand. Call the Lifeline Helpline for support at 13 11 14 or 000 if you are facing an emergency.
Dellaram is a Baha'i, wife, and mother of three, who works as a freelance journalist and copywriter in her hometown of Ballarat, Australia. She is passionate about building community and loves the thrill that comes with op-shopping!