Whatever Hath Befallen You, hath been for the Sake of God
Whatever hath befallen you, hath been for the sake of God. This is the truth, and in this there is no doubt. You should, therefore, leave all your affairs in His Hands, place your trust in Him, and rely upon Him. He will assuredly not forsake you. (Baha’u’llah, Fire and Light, p. 10)
A friend of mine asked how this quote addressed the issues of childhood abuse, particularly when one reads other quotes and the fact that the Universal House of Justice has said that when a parent abuses his rights as a parent, he loses those rights. How can the abuse that has befallen me, be for the sake of God?
I think there are two issues at stake here: one is the purpose of tests and difficulties for the individual and the other is the purpose of justice for the perpetrator.
Let’s start with the purpose of tests and difficulties:
Whatever hath befallen you, hath been for the sake of God:
First of all, there are many quotes which suggest that God will send severe mental tests to the peoples of the West, to purge, purify and prepare them for their noble mission in life:
And yet, how often we seem to forget the clear and repeated warnings of Our beloved Master, Who, in particular during the concluding years of His mission on earth, laid stress on the “severe mental tests” that would inevitably sweep over His loved ones of the West — tests that would purge, purify and prepare them for their noble mission in life.” (Shoghi Effendi, Bahá’í Administration, p. 50)
So what are the severe mental tests that come out of abuse and violence? For me, they include all the negative chatter which can easily dominate my thinking:
- Did it happen or didn’t it?
- Some things are unforgiveable, and childhood sexual abuse is one of them
- I was justified in estranging myself from my perpetrators
- It’s ruined me for life
- I’m obviously unloved and unloveable . . .
I can maximize the list, but it only abases me so I hope you get the idea! God doesn’t want me to abase myself, but to recognize and reclaim my nobility:
Noble I made thee, wherewith dost thou abase thyself? (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words #13)
Noble have I created thee, yet thou hast abased thyself. Rise then unto that for which thou wast created. (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words #22)
God doesn’t want me to believe any of the lies on this list. He wants me to know and worship Him:
I bear witness, O my God, that Thou hast created me to know Thee and to worship Thee. (Bahá’u’lláh, Bahá’í Prayers, Short Obligatory Prayer, p. 3)
He wants me to reclaim my nobility so I can arise to serve His Cause.
Noble I made thee, wherewith dost thou abase thyself? Out of the essence of knowledge I gave thee being, why seekest thou enlightenment from anyone beside Me? Out of the clay of love I molded thee, how dost thou busy thyself with another? Turn thy sight unto thyself, that thou mayest find Me standing within thee, mighty, powerful and self-subsisting. (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words #13)
I think in this quote, He’s telling us how far we stray from His path when we believe that the abuse and violence we’ve experienced as children is the central truth of our lives. Society tells us this; and therapists reinforce it when we “seekest enlightenment from anyone but Me”. This is why we need to spend so much time immersing ourselves in the Bahá’í Writings; so that we can discern truth from error.
We “busy ourselves with another” when we focus on our perpetrators, and give them more attention than our “Creator, Friend and Best Lover”. We can’t draw closer to God when we’re focused on the perpetrator, any more than we can get to Chicago by looking in our rear view mirrors.
How do we “purge, purify and prepare for the next world? Again we need to look to the Bahá’í Writings for insights.
Purging ourselves of the effects of the abuse involves many things including:
- Knowing ourselves (and what leads to loftiness or abasement; and how we can escape from the prison of self)
- Forgiveness (for the perpetrator; for believing the lies of your lower nature which kept you stuck in victimhood; God, for putting you in the position to be hurt by others)
- Detachment (from the experience and its effects)
- Learning how to take care of ourselves through better diet; taking care of your health; laughter and music to name a few
- Teaching and service (so we can have a more outward focus)
By focusing on all these virtues and more, we’re acquiring what we need to prepare us for the next world. For more ideas, please see my book “Violence and Abuse: Reasons and Remedies”, which shows a wider range of virtues and how we can apply them to the recovery process.
Second: There are many other quotes besides this one, which helps us see that God has a plan for our lives (which often is at odds with the life we’d have chosen for ourselves) and that everything that happens to us is part of His Plan:
Know thou for a certainty that the Will of God is not limited by the standards of the people, and God doth not tread in their ways . . . He doeth whatsoever He willeth and ordaineth whatsoever He pleaseth. (Bahá’u’lláh, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 109)
For He doeth whatsoever He willeth and ordaineth whatsoever He pleaseth. Nor shall He be asked of His doings. (Bahá’u’lláh, Gems of Divine Mysteries, p. 61)
He doeth as He doeth, and what recourse have we? He carrieth out His Will, He ordaineth what He pleaseth. Then better for thee to bow down thy head in submission, and put thy trust in the All-Merciful Lord. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 51)
It seems that from these quotes, we need to accept God’s decree and submit to it, whatever form it might take in our lives, trusting that God’s plan for us is unspeakably glorious.
As to those that have tasted of the fruit of man’s earthly existence, which is the recognition of the one true God … their life hereafter is such as We are unable to describe. The knowledge thereof is with God, alone, the Lord of all worlds. (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 345-346)
He promises us a better life, both in this world and in the next:
Sorrow not if, in these days and on this earthly plane, things contrary to your wishes have been ordained and manifested by God, for days of blissful joy, of heavenly delight, are assuredly in store for you. Worlds, holy and spiritually glorious, will be unveiled to your eyes. You are destined by Him, in this world and hereafter, to partake of their benefits, to share in their joys, and to obtain a portion of their sustaining grace. To each and every one of them you will, no doubt, attain. (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 329)
And in case we’re still in doubt about His wisdom in inflicting abuse on children, we learn from the following quotes that it’s the “greatest mercy”; “preferable to a hundred thousand earthly comforts”‘ and that there is a “mighty recompense” in the next world:
As to the subject of babes and infants and weak ones who are afflicted by the hands of oppressors: this contains great wisdom and this subject is of paramount importance. In brief, for those souls there is a recompense in another world and many details are connected with this matter. For those souls that suffering is the greatest mercy of God. Verily that mercy of the Lord is far better and preferable to all the comfort of this world and the growth and development of this place of mortality. If it be the will of God, when thou shalt be present this will be explained in detail by word of mouth. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 372).
On this plane of existence, there are many injustices that the human mind cannot fathom. Among these are heart-rending trials of the innocent … With regard to the spiritual significance of the suffering of children ‘who are afflicted at the hands of the oppressor‘, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá not only states that for those souls ‘the afflictions that they bear in life become a cause for them of … an outpouring of divine mercy and bestowal‘, He also explains that to be a recipient of God’s mercy is ‘preferable to a hundred thousand earthly comforts‘, and He promised that ‘in the world to come a mighty recompense awaiteth such souls‘. Much, indeed, might be said upon this theme, and upon how the afflictions that they bear in life become the cause for them of such an outpouring of Divine mercy and bestowal as is preferable to a hundred thousand comforts and to a world of growth and development in this transitory abode … (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 2 December, 1985).
Trusting in God’s plan and His wisdom; trusting that whatever has befallen us has a purpose, we can leave the justice in God’s hands. As you suggested, one of the ways justice is given in this world is loss of the rights of parenthood:
He (Bahá’u’lláh) has indicated that under certain circumstances, the parents could be deprived of the right of parenthood as a consequence of their actions. The Universal House of Justice has the right to legislate on this matter . . . Such questions could arise, for example, when a parent has committed incest, or when the child was conceived as a consequence of rape, and also when a parent consciously fails to protect the child from flagrant sexual abuse. (The Universal House of Justice, 1992, Violence and Sexual Abuse of Women and Children)
If there is no justice in this world, though, God has pledged never to forgive another man’s injustice:
O OPPRESSORS ON EARTH! Withdraw your hands from tyranny, for I have pledged Myself not to forgive any man’s injustice. This is My covenant which I have irrevocably decreed in the preserved tablet and sealed with My seal. (Bahá’u’lláh, Hidden Words, Persian 64)
I swear by God! The promised day is come, the day when tormenting trials will have surged above your heads, and beneath your feet, saying: Taste ye what your hands have wrought! (Bahá’u’lláh, Advent of Divine Justice, p. 68)
The balance of this quote we started with, gives us guidance on what to do when we trust his wisdom and judgement:
You should, therefore, leave all your affairs in His Hands, place your trust in Him, and rely upon Him. He will assuredly not forsake you.
I’d like to end with this quote, which brings me great comfort:
O thou who art tested with a great calamity! Be not grieved nor troubled because of the loss which hath befallen thee — a loss which caused the tears to flow, sighs to be produced, sorrow to exist and hearts to burn in great agony; but know, this hath reference only to the physical body, and if thou considerest this matter with a discerning and intelligent eye, thou wilt find that it hath no power whatsoever . . . Accordingly, thou wilt then be comforted and thank God for His favor upon thee. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of Abdu’l-Bahá v1, p. 85-86)
For more details on these topics, you can see similar perspectives in previous blog postings:
The Purpose of Tests
You can read two of my favourite stories at:
And more of what I’ve written on the purpose of tests at:
Justice and Punishment
What else comes to mind when you read these quotes? Post your comments here: