We all come across various difficulties in our lives. However, not all of us handle them as effectively as we should. As strategies for getting through life’s problems are rarely formally learned, we are constrained to use trial and error, sometimes leading to suboptimal results.
Dealing effectively with our difficulties and problems requires appropriate emotional control, acceptance of realities, charting out a course of action, and finally taking preventive measures to keep future problems at bay. Thus, arming ourselves with the right intellectual, mental, and spiritual strategies to get through these phases can help us achieve successful breakthroughs.
Let’s go over those steps in more detail.
The Emotional Response
An emotional response to a difficulty or calamity is normal and only human. However, emotions have to be managed and channeled appropriately; else they can manifest negatively within our personalities and affect our lives in general. Research, too, confirms that emotionally-reactive individuals confronting even relatively minor challenges in their lives are prone to increased physical problems and diseases.
One potential way people channel their emotions is to act them out uncontrollably and irresponsibly. In such situations, the prophet (peace be upon him) instructed us to exercise patience and to maintain a composed demeanor instead. When his son Ibrahim was dying, the prophet’s eyes filled with tears. Abd al-Rahmaan ibn Awf said, ‘Are you weeping when you have forbidden us to weep?’ The Prophet said, ‘I do not forbid weeping. What I have forbidden is two foolish and evil kinds of voices: voices at times of entertainment and play and the flutes of the Shaytaan, and voices at times of calamity and scratching the face and rending the garments and screaming.’” [Al-Tirmidhi, al-Bayhaqi in al-Sunan al-Kubra (4/69),
In other cases, emotions are channeled to fester, which then leads to the development of a victimized mindset. You may not realize it, but believing that your life is a teary saga may be the anchor weighing you down and preventing you from moving forward.
So, be conscious of how you channel your emotions. You can temper them with positive thinking and a strong faith. If you show any signs of having a victimized mindset then you need to snap out of it and adopt a more positive and reality based mindset instead. That can put you on the right path to get out of your difficulties faster.
Trying to make sense of the difficulties
The divine decree: When facing difficulties, our weak faith can sometimes drive us to question the fairness of it all. In this context, we should remind ourselves that believing in al-Qadr (Allah’s divine will and decree) is one of the pillars of Islamic faith. As the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, it means belief in (1) Allah, (2) Angels, (3) revealed Holy Books (Quran, Bible, Torah, etc.), (4) His Messengers, (4) Day of Judgment, and (5) to believe in al-qadar (the divine decree) both good and bad. Allah also says in the Quran, “No calamity befalls on the earth or in your selves but it is inscribed in the Book of Decrees (AlLawh AlMahfooz) before We bring it into existence. Verily, that is easy for Allah.” [al-Hadeed 57:22].
As part of that belief, we should therefore recognize that Allah does what He wills for reasons that are only known to Him. Any attempt to comprehend with our limited minds His wisdom, or to understand how our current situation fits in His overall plan can only lead us to erroneous conclusions.
The “If-Only” Trap:
Another trap that many of us fall into has to do with using the “if-only” logic. Very often, our minds tell us that “if I could have done such and such, then this wouldn’t have happened.” The prophet warned us against falling into such satanic traps. In a hadith narrated by Abu Hurayrah, the prophet remarked,
“…….If anything befalls you, do not say ‘If only I had done (such and such), the such and such would have happened,’ rather say: ‘Allah has decreed and what He wills He does,’ for ‘if only’ opens the door to the work of the shaytaan.” Narrated by Muslim (2664).
We see another example of this during the battle of Uhud when many Muslims died. This gave the hypocrites an excuse to criticize the divine decree. But Allah refuted their claims by stating (interpretation of the meaning): “Say: ‘Even if you had remained in your homes, those for whom death was decreed would certainly have gone forth to the place of their death’”. [Aal ‘Imraan 3:154].
This further goes to show that what Allah decrees is inevitable. Any attempt to imagine a different outcome based on different actions that we could have taken in the past will only increase our frustrations. This belief is also a blessing because it prevents us from returning to the past that can result in nothing but an added emotional baggage.
In this context, many among us also resort to blaming people, including those close to us. This blaming attitude in turn nurtures a mindset where people (even within families) resist future temptations to recommend anything or engage in an open dialogue. This not only weakens communications amongst people but also causes irreparable rifts and a loss of trust between them.
To summarize, accepting the divine decree can help us in not only forgoing the past but to also win Allah’s pleasure. Suppressing our urge to blame others by maintaining a positive mindset can help us maintain healthy relationships and in also keeping good recommendations and advice flowing.