For the most part, I consider myself a fairly well put together person. Alhamdulillah, I’m not easily given to panic or woe-is-me-ism. Lately though, I find myself being ambushed by sudden, overwhelming feelings of hopelessness and futility. Am I depressed? Not nearly as much as I was last month or so. I think I’m just emotionally vulnerable. And here I am blogging about it, because sometimes the only way to conquer the monster under your bed is to put your head under there with a flashlight and see that it’s only an old pair of bunny slippers.
I haven’t been able to drag the monster out of the dark yet (and to date, I’ve never owned a pair of bunny slippers) but the first step towards a solution is admitting that there is a problem. So I am. And here it is. I, Abez, deliberate Muslim and earnest (if not part-time) seeker of The Straight Path, suddenly find myself face-down in a pot hole when I thought I had been doing a jaunty two-step on the road to spiritual completion and peace. We all hit speed-bumps, but sometimes I feel like someone has laid out a trip wire. And thumb tacks.
Yes, I know, the straight path is bumpy and uphill. It’s supposed to be that way. The easy path is the wrong one. It’s the one with the smooth, fluid, downhill descent into the pleasure of distraction. I could read books all day, I could numb reality with non-stop nonsense, I could fall face-first into the gooey decadence of self-indulgence and then I wouldn’t have to think about anything that stressed me out, because I wouldn’t have to *think*. And if I didn’t think, I wouldn’t worry.
It would seem that I worry a lot. I worry about Khalid, his future, his teeth, that funny rash on his back, whether his pants are too tight, his shoes too small, his hair too long… And Iman- SubhanAllah- I spend hours worrying about her, but not as a mutually exclusive activity. I worry about her while doing other things- like when brushing her hair- how can I teach her to do hijab with passion and eagerness and the certainty that you can only have when the decision comes from both the mind and the heart? Will she be intelligent? Will she be a compassionate person? If she’s not, how can I teach her? Will she pray? Will she resent me for trying to make her?
And then I worry about random people. I only have to step into the waiting room of my doctor’s office to have my mind suddenly awash with hopelessness- all these people waiting around me are worried too, they all need help, they all have something wrong, some things major, some things minor, all of them painful, many of them debilitating. Will they find purpose through their trials? Or will they think they were ok until they hit a speed bump, stepped on a thumb tack and then fell face first into a pot hole, where they then rolled over and found me laying next to them?
On a side-note, the view from the pot hole can be amazing. If you just turn over, you can see the stars. But maybe this isn’t the side-note, maybe this is the whole point. Maybe I lose track of the destination while plodding along, staring at nothing but my feet. Maybe I need to get knocked to the ground so I can turn to the sky. I don’t know if this is entirely true, but I do know that I am never closer to Allah than I am when in pain, in fear, and in need. And in the closeness is a sweetness that you can’t find anywhere else, and that closeness is the direct result of desperation.
I know I am suppose to stand up, thank Allah for the lesson, and keep on climbing, but sometimes I feel like my legs are giving out on me, or that there’s no way I’ll ever make it to the top. I lose hope, though Alhamdulillah, I have yet to lose purpose.
Correction: I refuse to lose purpose. I will not lose purpose. Even if I’m laying in the dirt without the will to get up again, I will still know why I’m there and what direction I’m going to go in once I can find my feet. I need to remember, and God, please help me remember, that if fate gives me a black eye it’s because Allah ordered it. And there is good in it, provided I am willing to see it and that I am humble enough to admit that I deserved it, and Lord knows I have enough sins to warrant some expiation. God give me the strength to admit that Allah knows best, and that losing hope in anything good ever lasting for too long is losing hope in Allah’s Mercy, His divine will, and His greater purpose in all things.
I can’t blame anyone but myself, even though sometimes my fits of hopelessness feel almost out of my control. One minute I’m ok, next minute I’m thinking about how hard all the day-laborers and construction workers have it, how they don’t see their families for years at a time and earn less money a year than most people earn in a month. And I’m thinking that it’s just not fair.
Aha! I lose hope because it’s not fair. To them. Or to me.
Oh boy. I didn’t know my spiritual angst was still a teenager. I bet if my discord had tiny feet, it would be stomping them right now. I’m pretty sure I haven’t whined ‘It’s not fair!’ since I was a baby-faced teenager arguing over how my brother got to stay out late on the weekends but I always had to be home before dinner. At some point I grew up and learned things like:
- God is just, but people can be cruel and small
- This world is just a big board game with live pieces
- Allah will even out all the imbalances on the Day of Judgment, so all ‘unfairness’ is just temporary
- Setbacks, handicaps, physical flaws, mental deficiencies are a function of the hand you are dealt in a game we all play. And no one has all the aces anyway
And I also learned things like:
- Allah has promised to not test anyone more than they can bear
- All pain, worry, illness, stress, etc- when handled with patience and faith, simply erase previous sins in addition to make you stronger
- Allah has promised refuge to those who seek refuge in Him
- And if you go to Him walking, He comes to you at speed
So now I need to add some new lessons. And it may be a statement of the obvious, but I think it helps round off the previous lessons nicely. Here it is:
- Trying to be righteous is hard work
- When they said uphill, they really meant it
- Spiritual struggle can be quite a … struggle
By Abez, The End.