O SON OF MAN!
My calamity is My providence, outwardly it is fire and vengeance, but inwardly it is light and mercy. Hasten thereunto that thou mayest become an eternal light and an immortal spirit. This is My command unto thee, do thou observe it. — Bahá’u’lláh, The Hidden Words, Part One, No. 51
In recent months, the government of Iran has intensified its persecution of the Bahá’ís, and three of my dear friends are currently being detained in unknown conditions. For some time, when I thought of them, I felt desperate, but when I came across this Hidden Word by Baháʼu'lláh my mind was eased. This verse gave me a fresh perspective on the hardships that we, as Bahá’ís in Iran, are enduring.
In the first part of this Hidden Word, Bahá’u’lláh asserts the following: “My calamity is My providence, outwardly it is fire and vengeance, but inwardly it is light and mercy.” I understand “calamity” here to mean those hardships human beings endure in the path of God in order to exalt His Word and to reduce human misery. Human beings were created to move towards spiritual perfection, and this process requires dynamism. If there is no challenge, no suffering, a human being does not grow and evolve. In fact, what causes human growth is the effort exerted and the capabilities cultivated in an effort to overcome hardship, or, to use Bahá’u’lláh’s word, “calamity.” So, there is a meaning in this kind of suffering. It is a precious experience, one of which every human being should be proud. Those who seek their satisfaction in the transitory things of this world, do not see this mercy or the light that shines in their souls and hearts when they triumph over suffering. They only see hardship from the outside, and this view may cause them to despair.
How then can we, as human beings, have anything to do with the infinite source of light? It is as Baháʼu'lláh writes in the next part of this Hidden Word: “Hasten thereunto that thou mayest become an eternal light and an immortal spirit.” God is the endless source of light and spirit. The closer we are to this source, the more we reflect God's light and the more our souls flourish. Human beings can receive light and spirit when their hearts are pure. This purity can be achieved only through suffering, since it is under these conditions that a person learns and masters qualities such as sacrifice, devotion, commitment, endurance, perseverance, bravery, and courage. It is under these conditions that a person does the work they need to do to prepare themselves to reflect the eternal light of God.
Let me make this idea clearer by using an example. Think of a seed when it is underground. The seed barely leaves its shell and only slowly pulls itself up through the hard particles of the soil. Eventually, it turns into a small sprout, but this is just the beginning of its story. It faces severe attacks by wind, rain, and storms. But by surviving these onslaughts, it grows. The stronger the seed grows, the more it is able to absorb the sunlight that fosters its growth. But if the seed does not engage in this process of growth, it will not become a mature tree, one whose fruits will benefit everyone.
When I read Hidden Word No. 51, I feel at peace for I am reminded that life is full of suffering. And I remember that when the meaning of suffering is understood, that suffering loses its power to hurt us. When viewed from a spiritual perspective, suffering can have both meaning and deep purpose. Reflecting on this truth, I am reminded that the calamities I and other Bahá’ís in Iran are facing now, are, in fact, light and mercy from God. Knowing this lifts my spirit and strengthens me.