Pain. A brutal throb that physically grips your heart. That feeling of betrayal and hurt. Choked, suffocated. They promised you everything. You gave everything, beyond the material. Spiritual generosity. Abstract giving. And it still wasn’t enough. Not enough to stop them from hurting you. You were sincere, patient, loyal, even when they evidently weren’t. But still, you were doubted. Still, you were abused. Taken for granted. Dismissed as a fake, as a charade, as though you’ve been meticulously devising a devious mind game for some personal ego-trip at their expense. Instead, you continued giving of your heart without a second’s thought about your own wellbeing, your own flourishing. All you cared about was them. Love. Unconditional. Unbounded.
Life has a funny way of showing up the undeserving people in your life to whom you’ve gifted with your trust and loyalty. There’s a line in a track that somehow, not coincidentally, consistently finds its way onto my shuffled iTunes playlist when I’m feeling down, which succinctly highlights this irony:
“One night I prayed to God;
I asked could He please remove my enemies from my life,
and before you know it, I started losing friends”
When you’re faced with a painful predicament and shrouded in distress, it’s usually a good time to reassess your spiritual vitality. It’s easy to give up. Especially when you’ve taken conscious steps to protect yourself from the very things that bring you pain and yet still find yourself burdened by the same sorrow, days, months, perhaps even years later. What possible benefit could be retrieved from relentless tears and and agonising grief? Why would God deem it acceptable for us to emotionally suffer? I see it as a challenge. The Lord seeks to test us: when you’ve been hurt by someone you cared for more than yourself or, God-forbid, more than Him, to where and to whom will you turn to? You’re in that tearful abyss precisely because He’s inviting you towards His realm of eternal contentment. Will you accept His invitation, or is pain going to consume you until His Light is extinguished from every channel of your being? These questions remind me of a delicate analogy Lauryn Hill drew in an article she wrote earlier this year:
“People, like plants, grow where the light is. When you enclose a plant and limit its light source, it will bend itself toward the light, for the light is necessary for its survival. This same thing happens to people locked in communities where little light and little opportunity is allowed them, survival then forces them to twist and/or bend toward the only way of escape”
Appreciate that you have been brought to your knees to be humbled, to be taught a lesson; that the moment you start serving others instead of the One worthy of your service, undivided attention, and love, you will continue veering ever-deeper into the darkness. Start perceiving your so-called setbacks as intimate blessings, as a means of escape from mediocrity. Be grateful to those who’ve hurt you, because they were the perfect example of how not to be, how not to treat others, and how to find an honest path back to God when betrayal has brought you to the brink of hopelessness. They led you to the Healer of broken hearts.
It’s hard. I’ll be the first to admit that. It’s the hardest thing to overcome because anguish has the propensity to annihilate your confidence, your faith, and your smile, all at once. But it is only in the midst of that all-encompassing darkness, in the pits of despondency, that one can fully grasp (and sincerely appreciate) Light. It is only after we have blindly ventured into the shallow depths of the dunya/matrix/whatever name you want to give this material (and temporary) existence, that we’ll be capable of truly envisioning, and implementing, our complete detachment from the very pastimes and people that divert us from the reality: that, as the little boy in The Matrix explained, there is no spoon. This life is the vehicle for something much bigger, more profound. It is only the human means to the spiritual End. Unless we begin to view our very being within this trajectory, people and passions will continue to maintain a hold on us. And I can think of nothing worse than living a life at the mercy of trivial pursuits when all we need to do to escape these plights is subject ourselves to Love itself. To our sole Sustainer.
“God is near unto those who have faith, taking them out of deep darkness into the light” (2:257)