‘When Bad Things Happen in Life’: How to Change Your Perspective to Cope with Pain and Be Grateful

“But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And Allaah knows while you know not” [al-Qur’an; 2:216]

“I’m a good person, so how could this happen to me?”

We must have heard it, for sure many times, from friends and family when some calamity strikes or when ‘bad things’ happen to them.
Maybe we’ve even said something similar to it ourselves when something unpleasant happened to us.

“No one should ever have to experience what I am going through.”
“Why me?”

Wait a minute, I object.
“Why not me?”

Yes, ‘why not me’. And, by the way, what audacity do we have to grant ourselves this ultimate accolade that bad can’t happen to us.

This mindset that we or someone we know don’t deserve to experience a certain bad event in life and to say ‘it’s unfair’ is actually unfair, not the life. And, clinging to this mentality is the reason of our failure to cope when bad things happen.

Having said that, I know it’s tough. I know it seems unbearable some times. I know it tires in bones and shatters in spirit.

I remember, some time back I was accompanying my sis-in-law in the hospital where she was admitted for some procedure. As I was lying there on the couch I started hearing a faint moan from somewhere nearby. Sooner the faint moan grew bigger and bigger and I realised that behind the wall of our room was the delivery ward. The lady was crying badly in pain. This was the first time I was hearing the pangs of labor.

“O Allaah! Make it easy for her.”
“Please Allaah, relieve her.”

I was supplicating without break. Ultimately, when I felt that I couldn’t take that anymore I decided to move and left from the room. To my surprise, when I came out, I found the family and friends of that lady waiting outside, smiling, talking and giggling.

“How on the earth they could smile right now”, I wondered. However, the next moment I realised something that simply changed my mindset.

“My friend is having a baby”, one of the ladies told me smilingly.
“MashaAllaah”, I replied smilingly back ear to ear.

You know what’s amazing here!
Since the family knew the reason why it was happening, the pain didn’t seem so bad to them.
Since the lady knew what blessing was on the way, she had the strength to bear that pain. (by the way, inspite of knowing what labor pain is like, people still go for another child after having the first. Just because they know the fruits of their labor.)

You know what’s even more amazing here!

It was tough for me to hear her crying as long as my mind was focussed on her pain only. The moment I could think beyond her pain, I was not restless anymore.

The principle applies to every other kind of pain and suffering in life. If you realise that there is a reason and wisdom behind every pain it will become a whole lot easier for you to bear the situation. And, the only key to cope with pain is to change your perspective to look for the wisdom behind the pain. Not only it gives you the strength to combat it makes you an immensely grateful slave of God and a better person of course.

better me

And, what is essential to change your perspective when bad things happen in life is to know the reason and wisdom behind the pain. Well, theories and hypotheses might be many; for me, the ultimate way to formulate the response is to take the guidance from the ultimate guide, the Holy Qur’an.

But before sharing that I would tell you a story, what happened to me the other day.

I got up quite early in the morning and thought to quickly have my breakfast and then finish a certain task before hubby would finally wake up.

Straight to the kitchen…

I gave a quick stir to the piping hot tea bubbling froth in the pot in a 12 to 12 motion whipping the pot with the flick of my wrist. And, taking a step away from the stove to take out the milk from the fridge I placed the pot back stretching my hand. Though I managed to maintain a fine balance on feet like some ballet dancer in motion, the tea-pot simply couldn’t take this much of art and fell on the floor.

It all came right where I was standing a fraction of second before, my morning tea on the floor.

tea on floor

“Alhamdulillah”

Lest I have not moved, the boiling tea would be on me.

Taking a deep breath, I looked at the floor. I looked at the tea that fell flat on the floor along with my idea to quickly have breakfast to finish the task. Apparently, it seems a bad start of the day. Probably adverse and antagonistic too. I wanted to save time and it happened otherwise. Not only that I had to make the tea again but had to clean up the mess too. It appears discordant, like many other things in our lives that happen with us.

However, it is not like what it seems (just like many other things in life). Let me tell you how.

Let’s go back to my kitchen.

I was standing right next to the stove swirling around the boiling water spinning the tea-pot round and round. It was just the matter of a second that I took a step away and the tea fell. What were the odds against that?

If I would have not thought to reach the fridge precisely at the same fraction of second, the tea would be on my forearms, probably on my tummy too. My feet as well. It could have scalded my skin right then and there. My husband won’t be sleeping anymore. We would be rushing to medical aid. Blisters would take anywhere from days to many weeks to fully heal. (not to mention leaving the scars for years or forever). That simply means no cooking, cleaning, writing, typing, wiping…in that period. Moreover, as the clothing affects the burns I might not go out as well. That simply means no classes, no walk, no grocery, weekdays & weekend all spoiled. Other than the obvious pain and scars, who knows if I could get infection too. We would have to cancel a few of our plans too. You never know if hubby had to take off from work too.

You just never know what life gives you next. It is not just the tea or any other mishappening that spills. Spillover effects on you and on all those who are dependent on you can be substantial. Calmly this time, unhurried, I put another cup of water to boil on the stove and cleaned the floor meanwhile. It hardly took me ten extra minutes to do so.

No, my ten minutes were not wasted.
My thousands and thousands of minutes, in case the tea would have spilled over me, were saved.

And, the same holds true for every other bad thing in life. You never know from what worst you are saved by the bad.

Now, please don’t say, “why in the first-place tea fell” just like those who say “why in the first place God put the forests on fire” when you tell them to thank God for sending rain. Here comes the crucial need to study about the creed in Islam, matters which are believed in, with certainty and conviction, in one’s heart and soul, not tainted with any doubt or uncertainty. Here comes the importance of reading about the Lordship of Allaah SWT and about His divine decree.

perspective

As they say, “If you can’t change your mind, you can’t change anything in your life. Sometimes you need to look at things from a different perspective.” That’s the key to be more grateful in life.

Now, let’s see from the lens of the Holy Qur’an and Sunnah at the bad things that happen in life, from a different perspective. 

Perhaps you hate a thing that is good for you

The problem is we always want to see life in pure black and white, which it is not. Rather life is shades of the mix, complex; it camouflages, it obscures. Things in life do not necessarily appear as they are.

You might covet something, yet in reality, it is not good for you. However, the Creator and the Lord of everything in between and beyond skies and earth is always all-knowing. He has better knowledge than you of how things will turn out to be in the end, and of what benefits you in this earthly life and the Hereafter.

“But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And Allaah knows while you know not” [al-Qur’an; 2:216]

Al-Hasan al-Basri (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: “Do not resent the calamities that come and the disasters that occur, for perhaps in something that you dislike will be your salvation, and perhaps in something that you prefer will be your doom.”

So, next time when bad happens, take a moment and think ‘but perhaps it is good for you.’

Everything that Allaah does is good, wise and just

When we talk about the reasons why bad things happen in life, we must realise that our intellect is limited to comprehend much of the divine wisdom behind things. We may know some of the reasons behind things; general reasons behind general decrees. However, to speak on behalf of God doesn’t befit us. Nevertheless, the firm belief, as Ibn al Qayyim (may Allaah have mercy on him) also mentions that  Allaah is Most Wise and He does not do anything in vain or for no purpose as indicated by His words and the words of His Messenger (PBUH), gives us much strength.

And, to build this confidence in Him when tides are rough, our belief in ‘qadar’ (divine decree) should be rock solid. Qadar means that Allaah has decreed everything that happens in the universe according to His prior knowledge and dictates of His wisdom.

Most of the times when we fail to find the reason behind things we forget the limitation of our vision. The One in Whose Hands is the soul of everything, has the full view of something. So next time when bad things happen in life and you fail to see the ‘why’, just have full faith in Him and realise that you can’t see what He is seeing.

If you are still confused if the bad things that happen in the universe happen by the will of Allaah, read here.

Worst that could happen

The worst that could happen is a fear that might be debilitating for many. However, thinking about the worst that could possibly happen in a hostile situation you are already into, gives you the feeling of gratitude about your current state and instant energy to look at the brighter side of life, just as it happened with me when all of my tea spilled on the floor (remember the story?).

If we look at what has befallen us, we will find that what our Lord has left for us is similar to it or better than it. Being patient in this situation not only rewards us many times greater than what is lost through calamity, the realisation that if He wanted He could have made the calamity even greater gratifies us instantly.

A Blessing in Disguise

Easier said than done, accepting misfortunes as ‘test & trials’ from God, not only gives us the strength to bear the things but to strive hard to come out with flying colors.

With no iota of doubt, bad things in life are a test. And, Allaah SWT tries those whom He loves.

In the saheeh hadeeth it says: “The greatest reward comes with the greatest trial. When Allaah loves somebody He tests him. Whoever accepts that wins His pleasure but whoever is discontent with that earns His wrath.” Narrated by al-Tirmidhi (2396)

And, here is another angle too. Inspite of so many faults within us and so many wake-up calls we getting received, we can’t claim that we are absolutely free of self-admiration and arrogance. Just imagine a life without any bad thing happening to us, we could be the next Firaun. These are the bad things happening to us that keep us in check sometimes. They humble us. They make us aware of our own incapabilities and limitations. They keep us away from developing attitudes that might lead to our doom in this world and the next.

Bad things happening to us in life are a blessing in disguise that keep our submission and servitude sound.

Whatever of Evil Befalls us, is from Ourselves

Now, this is what you might call contradictory having said above that whatever happens, happens by His will only and for the best. However, it’s not.

As a Muslim we firmly believe that whatever of good reaches us, is from Allaah, by His grace, bounty, kindness and mercy and whatever of evil befalls us, is from our own actions.

“And whatever of misfortune befalls you, it is because of what your hands have earned. And He pardons much” [al-Qur’an; 42:30]

However, the problem is many of us out of our own ignorance fail to understand this and see it as a contradiction in Qur’an. We fail to understand if ‘all is from Allaah’ as mentioned in the Qur’an, why evil is from ourselves mentioned in the same Qur’an. Though the truth is that the word of Exalted has no contradiction, no flaw. To reconcile we need to know what exactly the Qur’an tells us about the divine decree and learn more about this theological debate. (You can read more on this from here.)

However, I say it again. Even if it is a punishment of what our own hands have earned, there is a lot of khyr in it. 

Narrated by Qataadah, Prophet of Allaah, may peace and blessings be upon him, said, “By the One in Whose hand is my soul, no worry or grief or hardship befalls a believer, not even a thorn that pricks him, but Allaah will expiate some of his sins thereby.”

Calamities are good for the believer in the sense that reward is stored up for him the Hereafter thereby; how can it be otherwise when he is raised in status thereby and his bad deeds are expiated?

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “When Allaah wills good for His slave, He hastens the punishment for him in this world, and when Allaah wills ill for His slave, he withholds the punishment for his sins from him until he comes with all his sins on the Day of Resurrection.” Narrated by al-Tirmidhi (2396); classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Tirmidhi.

 

Let’s learn from our mistakes, let’s work on our faults, let’s turn back from sins when bad things happen to us. Turn it into a force for doing good.
Blessing in disguise!

For me, I am sure Allaah SWT simply saved me always from what could be worst.

Alhamdulillaah for what all He gave me.
Alhamdulillaah for what all He didn’t give me.
Alhamdulillaah for what all He gave but Took back.

Alhamdulillah for the spilled tea, on the floor, not on me.

And, this is my perspective, my way of looking at life when bad happens.
And, this is how I cope with my pain.

Sisterly Yours
The Might of Pen

 

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