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Tests and difficulties

Baha’u’llah

The Hidden Words

The Hidden Words 1858 Baha’u’llah revealed The Hidden Words (kalimat-i-Maknunih) originally designated ‘The Hidden Words of Fatimih, while walking along the banks of the Tigris. (Cameron and Momen 1996:63)

“O Son of Being! Busy not thyself with this world, for with fire We test the gold, and with gold We test Our servants.” Baha’u’llah, The Hidden Words

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“O Son of Man! Thou dost wish for gold and I desire thy freedom from it. Thou thinkest thyself rich in its possession, and I recognize thy wealth in thy sanctity therefrom. By My life! This is My knowledge, and that is thy fancy; how can My way accord with thine?” Baha’u’llah, The Hidden Words

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“O Son of Man! Bestow My wealth upon My poor, that in heaven thou mayest draw from stores of unfading splendor and treasures of imperishable glory. But by My life! To offer up thy soul is a more glorious thing couldst thou but see with Mine eye.” – Baha’u’llah, The Hidden Words, pp. 16-17.

 

The Seven Valleys and The Four Valleys

“There was once a lover who had sighed for long years in separation from his beloved, and wasted in the fire of remoteness. From the rule of love, his heart was empty of patience, and his body weary of his spirit; he reckoned life without her as a mockery, and time consumed him away. How many a day he found no rest in longing for her; how many a night the pain of her kept him from sleep; his body was worn to a sigh, his heart’s wound had turned him to a cry of sorrow. He had given a thousand lives for one taste of the cup of her presence, but it availed him not. The doctors knew no cure for him, and companions avoided his company; yea, physicians have no medicine for one sick of love, unless the favor of the beloved one deliver him. At last, the tree of his longing yielded the fruit of despair, and the fire of his hope fell to ashes. Then one night he could live no more, and he went out of his house and made for the marketplace. On a sudden, a watchman followed after him. He broke into a run, with the watchman following; then other watchmen came together, and barred every passage to the weary one. And the wretched one cried from his heart, and ran here and there, and moaned to himself: “Surely this watchman is Izra’il, my angel of death, following so fast upon me; or he is a tyrant of men, seeking to harm me.” His feet carried him on, the one bleeding with the arrow of love, and his heart lamented. Then he came to a garden wall, and with untold pain he scaled it, for it proved very high; and forgetting his life, he threw himself down to the garden. And there he beheld his beloved with a lamp in her hand, searching for a ring she had lost. When the heart-surrendered lover looked on his ravishing love, he drew a great breath and raised up his hands in prayer, crying: “O God! Give Thou glory to the watchman, and riches and long life. For the watchman was Gabriel, guiding this poor one; or he was Izra’il, bringing life to this wretched one!” Indeed, his words were true, for he had found many a secret justice in this seeming tyranny of the watchman, and seen how many a mercy lay hid behind the veil. Out of wrath, the guard had led him who was athirst in love’s desert to the sea of his loved one, and lit up the dark night of absence with the light of reunion. He had driven one who was afar, into the garden of nearness, had guided an ailing soul to the heart’s physician. Now if the lover could have looked ahead, he would have blessed the watchman at the start, and prayed on his behalf, and he would have seen that tyranny as justice; but since the end was veiled to him, he moaned and made his plaint in the beginning. Yet those who journey in the garden land of knowledge, because they see the end in the beginning, see peace in war and friendliness in anger.” (Baha’u’llah: The Seven Valleys and The Four Valleys, Pages: 13-15)

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“The steed of this Valley is pain; and if there be no pain this journey will never end.” – Bahá’u’lláh, Valley of Love in The Seven Valleys and the Four Valleys

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Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh

“I am well pleased with that which Thou didst ordain for Me, and welcome, however calamitous, the pains and sorrows I am made to suffer.” – Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 89-90

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Prayers and Meditations by Bahá’u’lláh

“Though my body be pained by the trials that befall me from Thee, though it be afflicted by the revelations of Thy Decree, yet my soul rejoiceth at having partaken of the waters of Thy Beauty, and at having attained the shores of the ocean of Thine eternity. Doth it beseem a lover to flee from his beloved, or to desert the object of his heart’s desire? Nay, we all believe in Thee, and eagerly hope to enter Thy presence.” -Bahá’u’lláh, Prayers and Meditations by Bahá’u’lláh, p. 95

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Epistle to the Son of Wolf

“Verily, the breezes of forgiveness have been wafted from the direction of your Lord, the God of Mercy; whoso turneth thereunto, shall be cleansed of his sins, and of all pain and sickness. Happy the man that hath turned towards them, and woe betide him that hath turned aside.” -Bahá’u’lláh, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 46-47

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The Báb

“As this physical frame is the throne of the inner temple, whatever occurs to the former is felt by the latter. In realty that which takes delight in joy or is saddened by pain is the inner temple of the body, not the body itself.” – The Báb, Lights of Guidance, p. 201

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‘Abdu’l-Baha

Paris Talks

The Progress of the Soul

“Does the soul progress more through sorrow or through the joy in this world?”
‘Abdu’l‑Bahá: “The mind and spirit of man advance when he is tried by suffering. The more the ground is ploughed the better the seed will grow, the better the harvest will be. Just as the plough furrows the earth deeply, purifying it of weeds and thistles, so suffering and tribulation free man from the petty affairs of this worldly life until he arrives at a state of complete detachment. His attitude in this world will be that of divine happiness. Man is, so to speak, unripe: the heat of the fire of suffering will mature him. Look back to the times past and you will find that the greatest men have suffered most.”-‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Paris Talks

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“He who through suffering has attained development, should he fear happiness?”
‘Abdu’l‑Bahá: “Through suffering he will attain to an eternal happiness which nothing can take from him. The apostles of Christ suffered: they attained eternal happiness.”-‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Paris Talks

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“Then it is impossible to attain happiness without suffering?”
‘Abdu’l‑Bahá: “To attain eternal happiness one must suffer. He who has reached the state of self-sacrifice has true joy. Temporal joy will vanish.” -‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Paris Talks

“I myself was in prison forty years – one year alone would have been impossible to bear – nobody survived that imprisonment more than a year. But, thank God, during all those forty years I was supremely happy! Every day, on waking, it was like hearing good tidings, and every night infinite joy was mine. Spirituality was my comfort, and turning to God was my greatest joy. If this had not been so, do you think it possible that I could have lived through those forty years in prison? Thus, spirituality is the greatest of God’s gifts….” -‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Paris Talks, Pages: 111-112

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“If we are caused joy or pain by a friend, if a love prove true or false, it is the soul that is affected. If our dear ones are far from us—it is the soul that grieves, and the grief or trouble of the soul may react on the body.” – ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 65

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“It is a blessed thing to gladden the hearts of men, and wrong to be the cause of pain.” – ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 79

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“All the Divine Manifestations sent by God into the world would have gone through their terrible hardships and sufferings for the single hope of spreading Truth, unity and concord among men. Christ endured a life of sorrow, pain and grief, to bring a perfect example of love into the world—and in spite of this we continue to act in a contrary spirit one towards the other!” – ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 121

“The trials which beset our every step, all our sorrow, pain, shame and grief, are born in the world of matter; whereas the spiritual Kingdom never causes sadness. A man living with his thoughts in this Kingdom knows perpetual joy. The ills all flesh is heir to do not pass him by, but they only touch the surface of his life, the depths are calm and serene. – ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 109

Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

“Verily, I have read thy brilliant letter which is elegantly composed. I supplicate God to alleviate thy trials and look upon thee with the eye of His mercy under all aspects. Turn thou to the Kingdom of thy great Lord with a truthful heart and with all devotion, sincerity and great spirituality and ask to be healed from pain and passions and be confident in the great bounty of thy Lord.” -‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v3, p. 636

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“Thou knowest that the people are encircled with pain and calamities and are environed with hardships and trouble. Every trial doth attack man and every dire adversity doth assail him like unto the assault of a serpent. There is no shelter and asylum for him except under the wing of Thy protection, preservation, guard and custody.” -‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v3, p. 619

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The Compilation of Compilations

“When thou wishest to treat nervous pains turn thy whole being to the realm on high with thine heart detached from aught else besides Him and thy soul enraptured by the love of God. Then seek confirmation of the Holy Spirit from the Abhá Kingdom, while touching the affected part with utmost love, tenderness and attraction to God. When all these things are combined, be assured that healing will take place.” -‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 461

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Bahá’í Prayers

“Our Blessed Lord said: It is not the body that feels pain or trouble, but the soul. If we have a pain in our arm, the defect is in the body, but it is the soul that feels the pain and is troubled, not the body, though the body is the cause of the trouble.” – ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í Prayers 9, p. 46

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The Secret of Divine Civilization

“It means, in brief, to regard humanity as a single individual, and one’s own self as a member of that corporeal form, and to know of a certainty that if pain or injury afflicts any member of that body, it must inevitably result in suffering for all the rest.” – ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 39

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Foundations of World Unity

“For example, the people of religions find, in the teachings of His Holiness Bahá’u’lláh, the establishment of Universal Religion—a religion that perfectly conforms with present conditions, which in reality effects the immediate cure of the incurable disease, which relieves every pain and bestows the infallible antidote for every deadly poison.” – ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Foundations of World Unity, p. 31-32

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Bahá’í World Faith

As to what thou hast written concerning “Reincarnation”: Believing in reincarnation is one of the old tenets held by most nations and creeds, as well as by the Greek and Roman philosophers and wise men, the old Egyptians and the chief Assyrians. But all these sayings and superstitions are vanity in the sight of God….”

Because, when thou lookest with the iron sight, thou wilt find that all mankind is suffering in this earthly world; there is no one in such tranquility that this state might have been a reward for his good deeds in a former life and there is no soul so happy that this might be the fruit of his past pain! Had the life of a man in his spiritual being been only confined to his life in this world, the creation would have proved useless; the divine qualities would have no result and effect; nay, all things, created beings and the world of creation would have proved abortive. I ask pardon of God for such false imaginations and for such errors!” – ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, “Reincarnation” Bahá’í World Faith, p. 392-393

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“That honorable personage has been so much subjected to the stress and pain of this world that his highest wish became deliverance from it. Such is this mortal abode—a storehouse of afflictions and suffering. It is negligence that binds man to it for no comfort can be secured by any soul in this world, from monarch down to the least subject. If once it should offer man a sweet cup, a hundred bitter ones will follow it and such is the condition of this world. The wise man therefore does not attach himself to this mortal life and does 379 not depend upon it; even at some moments he eagerly wishes death that he may thereby be freed from these sorrows and afflictions.” – ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 378

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“The people of religions find, in the teaching of His Holiness Bahá’u’lláh, the establishment of Universal Religion—a religion that perfectly conforms with present conditions, which in reality effects the immediate cure of the incurable disease, which relieves every pain, and bestows the infallible antidote for every deadly poison.” -‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 290-291.

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Fire and Gold
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“Never lose thy trust in God. Be thou every hopeful, for the bounties of God never cease to flow upon man.” -‘Abdu’l-Baha in Fire and Gold, p. 134 –

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Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

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O THOU servant of God! Do not grieve at the afflictions and calamities that have befallen thee. All calamities and afflictions have been created for man so that he may spurn this mortal world—a world to which he is much attached. When he experienceth severe trials and hardships, then his nature will recoil and he will desire the eternal realm—a realm which is sanctified from all afflictions and calamities. Such is the case with the man who is wise. He shall never drink from a cup which is at the end distasteful, but, on the contrary, he will seek the cup of pure and limpid water. He will not taste of the honey that is mixed with poison.”
“Praise thou God, that thou hast been tried and hast experienced such a test. Be patient and grateful. Turn thy face to the divine Kingdom and strive that thou mayest acquire merciful characteristics, mayest become illumined and acquire the attributes of the Kingdom and of the Lord. Endeavor to become indifferent to the pleasures of this world and to its comfort, to remain firm and steadfast in the Covenant and to promulgate the Cause of God.”

“This is the cause of the exaltation of man, the cause of his glory and of his salvation.” -‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

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-170-

“O THOU seeker of the Kingdom! Thy letter was received. Thou hast written of the severe calamity that hath befallen thee—the death of thy respected husband. That honorable man hath been so subjected to the stress and strain of this world that his greatest wish was for deliverance from it. Such is this mortal abode: a storehouse of afflictions and suffering. It is ignorance that binds man to it, for no comfort can be secured by any soul in this world, from monarch down to the most humble commoner. If once this life should offer a man a sweet cup, a hundred bitter ones will follow; such is the condition of this world. The wise man, therefore, doth not attach himself to this mortal life and doth not depend upon it; at some moments, even, he eagerly wisheth for death that he may thereby be freed from these sorrows and afflictions. Thus it is seen that some, under extreme pressure of anguish, have committed suicide.”
“As to thy husband, rest assured. He will be immersed in the ocean of pardon and forgiveness and will become the recipient of bounty and favor. Strive thine utmost to give his child a Bahá’í training so that when he attaineth maturity he may be merciful, illumined and heavenly.” -.” -‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. 170

“The Abhá Beauty Himself—may the spirit of all existence be offered up for His loved ones—bore all manner of ordeals, and willingly accepted for Himself intense afflictions. No torment was there left that His sacred form was not subjected to, no suffering that did not descend upon Him. How many a night, when He was chained, did He go sleepless because of the weight of His iron collar; how many a day the burning pain of the stocks and fetters gave Him no moment’s peace. From Niyavaran to Tihran they made Him run—He, that embodied spirit, He Who had been accustomed to repose against cushions of ornamented silk—chained, shoeless, His head bared; and down under the earth, in the thick darkness of that narrow dungeon, they shut Him up with murderers, rebels and thieves.” -‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 262

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“O thou seeker after the Kingdom! Every divine Manifestation is the very life of the world, and the skilled physician of each ailing soul. The world of man is sick, and that competent Physician knoweth the cure, arising as He doth with teachings, counsels and admonishments that are the remedy for every pain, the healing balm to every wound. It is certain that the wise physician can diagnose his patient’s needs at any season, and apply the cure. Wherefore, relate thou the Teachings of the Abhá Beauty to the urgent needs of this present day, and thou wilt see that they provide an instant remedy for the ailing body of the world. Indeed, they are the elixir that bringeth eternal health.” – ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 58

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“Affliction beat upon this captive like the heavy rains of spring, and the victories of the malevolent swept down in a relentless flood, and still ‘Abdu’l-Bahá remained happy and serene, and relied on the grace of the All-Merciful. That pain, that anguish, was a paradise of all delights; those chains were the necklace of a king on a throne in heaven. Content with God’s will, utterly resigned, my heart surrendered to whatever fate had in store, I was happy.” – ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 226

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“O Tender One, Bestowing One, Thou didst calm their pain with the balm of Thy bounty and grace, and didst heal their ailments with the sovereign medicine of Thy compassion. O Lord, make firm their feet on Thy straight path, make wide for them the needle’s eye, and cause them, dressed in royal robes, to walk in glory for ever and ever.” – ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 316

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“All these things bring joy to the heart, and yet ‘Abdu’l-Bahá is sunk deep in an ocean of grief, and pain and anguish have so affected my limbs and members that utter weakness hath overtaken my whole body.” – ‘Abdu’l-Bahá Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 229

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 Shoghi Effendi

The Cause of Human Suffering

“And as to the world’s evil plight, we need but recall the writings and sayings of Bahá’u’lláh, who, more than fifty years ago, declared in terms prophetic the prime cause of the ills and sufferings of mankind, and set forth their true and divine remedy. “Should the Lamp of Religion be hidden,” He declares, “Chaos and confusion will ensue.” How admirably fitting and applicable are these words to the present state of mankind!

Ours is then the duty and privilege to labor, by day and by night, amidst the storm and stress of these troublous days, that we may quicken the zeal of our fellow-men, rekindle their hopes, stimulate their interest, open their eyes to the true Faith of God and enlist their active support in the carrying out of our common task for the peace and regeneration of the world.

Let us take heart and be thankful to our beloved ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, as we remember His manifold blessings and unfailing care and protection, ever since the hour of His departure from our midst. The flames of sedition, so maliciously kindled in the past by those who have dared to flout His will, are gone out for ever, and the fondest hopes of these evil plotters are now abandoned, doomed never to revive. He has indeed redeemed His promise!

It seemed not a long time ago that their agitation, so violently renewed immediately after the passing of our Beloved, would for a time confuse the Divine Message of Bahá’u’lláh, obscure His Covenant, retard the progress of His Cause, and shatter its unity; and yet how well we see them all today, not through our efforts, but by their own folly, and above all, by the intervention of the hidden hand of God, reduced to the vilest and most humiliating position.

And now, with the Cause purified and inwardly victorious, its principles vindicated, its enemies silenced and sunk in unspeakable misery, may we not, henceforth, direct all our efforts to collective action and constructive achievement, and, in utter disregard of the flickerings of their fast-fading light, arise to carry out those urgent measures that will secure the outward and complete triumph of the Cause.
I, for my part, as I look back to the unfortunate circumstances of ill-health and physical exhaustion that have attended the opening years of my career of service to the Cause, feel hardly gratified, and would be truly despondent but for the sustaining memory and inspiring example of the diligent and ceaseless efforts which my fellow-workers the world over have displayed during these two trying years in the service of the Cause.

I cherish the hope that, from now on, the Beloved may bestow upon me all the strength and vigor that will enable me to pursue over a long and unbroken period of strenuous labor the supreme task of achieving, in collaboration with the friends in every land, the speedy triumph of the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh. This is the prayer I earnestly request all my fellow-brethren and sisters in the Faith to offer on my behalf.

Let us pray to God that in these days of world-encircling gloom, when the dark forces of nature, of hate, rebellion, anarchy and reaction are threatening the very stability of human society, when the most precious fruits of civilization are undergoing severe and unparalleled tests, we may all realize, more profoundly than ever, that though but a mere handful amidst the seething masses of the world, we are in this day the chosen instruments of God’s grace, that our mission is most urgent and vital to the fate of humanity, and, fortified by these sentiments, arise to achieve God’s holy purpose for mankind.
Your brother in His Service,
Shoghi.
Haifa, Palestine.
November 14, 1923.”

Unfolding Destiny

Shoghi Effendi Unfolding Destiny UK Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1981 edition Pages: 490

As to your question concerning the meaning of physical suffering and its relation to mental and spiritual healing. Physical pain is a necessary accompaniment of all human existence, and as such is unavoidable. As long as there will be life on earth, there will be also suffering, in various forms and degrees. But suffering, although an inescapable reality, can nevertheless be utilised as a means for the attainment of happiness. This is the interpretation given to it by all the prophets and saints who, in the midst of severe tests and trials, felt happy and joyous and experienced what is best and holiest in life. Suffering is both a reminder and a guide. It stimulates us better to adapt ourselves to our environmental conditions, and thus leads the way to self improvement. In every suffering one can find a meaning and a wisdom. But it is not always easy to find the secret of that wisdom. It is sometimes only when all our suffering has passed that we become aware of its usefulness. What man considers to be evil turns often to be a cause of infinite blessings. And this is due to his desire to know more than he can. God’s wisdom is, indeed, inscrutable to us all, and it is no use pushing too far trying to discover that which shall always remain a mystery to our mind.” – Shoghi Effendi Letter of 29 May 1935 Unfolding Destiny UK Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1981. 434-435

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Lights of Guidance

“Physical pain is a necessary accompaniment of all human existence, and as such is unavoidable. As long as there will be life on earth, there will be also suffering, in various forms and degrees. But suffering, although an inescapable reality, can nevertheless be utilized as a means for the attainment of happiness. This is the interpretation given to it by all the prophets and saints who, in the midst of severe tests and trials, felt happy and joyous and experienced what is best and holiest in life. Suffering is both a reminder and a guide. It stimulates us to better adapt ourselves to our environmental conditions, and thus leads the way to self- improvement. In every suffering one can find a meaning and a wisdom. But it is not always easy to find the secret of that wisdom. It is sometimes only when all our suffering has passed that we become aware of its usefulness. What man considers to be evil turns often to be a cause of infinite blessings.” Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 280

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“As we suffer these misfortunes we must remember that the Prophets of God Themselves were not immune from these things which men suffer. They knew sorrow, illness and pain too. They rose above these things through Their spirits, and that is what we must try and do too, when afflicted. The troubles of this world pass, and what we have left is what we have made of our souls, so it is to this we must look to becoming more spiritual, drawing nearer to God, no matter what our human minds and bodies go through.” – Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 297

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“With regard to your question concerning spiritual healing. Such a healing constitutes, indeed, one of the most effective methods of relieving a person from either his mental or physical pains and sufferings. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has in His “Paris Talks” emphasized its importance by stating that it should be used as an essential means for effecting a complete physical cure. Spiritual healing, however, is not and cannot be a substitute for material healing, but it is a most valuable adjunct to it. Both are, indeed, essential and complementary.” -Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 276

References

Sacred Writings

Baha’u’llah. 1939, 1990. The Hidden Words. Wilmette, IL: Baha’i Publishing Trust.

Baha’u’llah. 1945, 1991. The Seven Valleys and The Four Valleys. Wilmette, IL: Baha’i Publishing Trust.

Bahá’í Reference Library Authoritative Writings and Guidance

‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.

Other sources

Cameron, Glenn. Momen, Wendy. 1996. Basic Bahá’í Chronology. Oxford, George Ronald. 540 pages

Kurzius, Brian. 1995. Fire and gold: Benefiting from life’s tests. Oxford: George Ronald Press.

Kurzius, Brian. 2007. Hidden Gifts: Finding Blessings in the Struggles of Life. Baha’i Publishing Trust. 139 pages

Star of the West

Utterances of Abdul-Baha in answer to questions asked by Dr. Edward C. Getsinger during a few brief meetings at Haifa, Syria, January 26 to February 5, 1915, and recorded by Dr. Getsinger at the time.

The Star of the West was a Bahá’í periodical which began publication on March 21, 1910 and ended publication under this title in March 1935. Star of the West contents are not considered authoritative writings of the Bahá’í Faith.

“In this day every one must be tested, as the time of the “chosen ones” to prove their worth is indeed very short. The day of attainment is drawing to a close for them. The “first fruits” must be ripened in spirit, mellowed in love, and consumed by their self-sacrifice and severance. None other are acceptable as first fruits, and all who fail to attain to the standard through the tests, are relegated to the “many who are called.”

The more one is severed from the world, from desires, from human affairs, and conditions, the more impervious does one become to the tests of God. Tests are a means by which a soul is measured as to its fitness, and proven out by its own acts. God knows its fitness beforehand, and also its unpreparedness, but man, with an ego, would not believe himself unfit unless proof were given him. Consequently his susceptibility to evil is proven to him when he falls into the tests, and the tests are continued until the soul realizes its own unfitness, then remorse and regret tend to root out the weakness.

The same test comes again in greater degree, until it is shown that a former weakness has become a strength, and the power to overcome evil has been established.” Star of the West, vol. 6, no. 6, p. 45.

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