“And who-other than those who have utterly lost their way-could ever abandon hope of his Lord’s grace” Quran (15:56)
In life, we all face situations which are not what we want them to be. There are situations when you feel stuck. It seems that there is no way out; you have worked very hard and tried many approaches but nothing seems to work. There seems to be a wall in front of you.
What do you do in such a situation? How do you view such a situation?
You can feel hopeless. It is easy and logical to feel this way because all the discouraging evidence is there.
However, there is an alternative if you have faith. You can say to yourself: What I am seeing with my eyes is really a small part of the whole picture. The complete state of affairs is known to God. He is the most compassionate and merciful. His grace is always present. He created me, loves me and is in-charge of my affairs. I trust Him completely. I am sure there will be a positive outcome from the situation I am in. I have placed my trust and hope in God.
But there is an important difference between attitudes of doom and hope.
If you are experiencing fear and doom, you are making pictures of unhappiness in your mind. You are expressing a belief that you are helpless, your life is terrible, and worse is about to unfold.
If you make a different choice and discipline your mind to experience hopeful thoughts, you are making a different forecast about the future. You are saying, I am not alone, God is with me, and He has infinite power. God will turn things in a way that is best for me.
These are attitudes within you, and you have a choice in which you can adopt. In both you are making pictures in your mind about the future. You are here and now, but you are forecasting the future in your mind. Depending on what forecast you are making in your mind, you will experience different feelings and emotions. Your imagination will make different scenes and you will take different actions. What we decide to do emerges from the pictures we have in our minds.
Does this mean that faith in God is enough and we are not to do anything?
The answer to this is clearly no. We change our circumstances by taking action, by doing things. However, what we do and how well we do it originates from the state of mind we are in. The Quran always speaks of “Those who have faith and do good works…..” ; you will notice that in all such verses in the Quran, faith is mentioned first and then action. First we have to do the internal work of centering ourselves in positive belief. We are then guided to the right course of action.
In addition to erasing fearful pictures from our minds and following a positive course of action, we should refrain from discouraging talk. We should express deep faith in our self-talk and in conversation with others. The trick is to do this in all circumstances, even when your situation appears to be bleak. Avoid the company of those who are discouraging and fearful because they can drag you down into negative belief. Fearful and despairing people act differently than people who have faith and hope. They also attract different kinds of people around them.
People are generally concerned about four aspects of their lives: their relationships, their career, health issues and finances. There seems to be a consensus that you need to succeed in these areas in order to be happy. And with the knowledge and resources that are available today there is no reason why everyone cannot succeed in these important areas of life.
Some people are unhappy in their marriage relationship; some have issues with other close family like parents, siblings or children. They experience continuous friction. Others are unhappy because they are not married. This unhappiness can become the all consuming emotion for people.
For many others there are challenges related to health and body. For older people it is the presence of serious illness. In younger people it is the struggle with body shape and appearance. For quite a few people the major struggle is with the condition of their bodies.
For some it is the lack of money. This may be related to the struggle to succeed in their careers. They feel they deserve to do better financially. They make plans and work hard, but somehow they do not feel they are rewarded enough at work. You will find people for whom this type of frustration is what consumes their thinking.
Then there are situations beyond yourself in the world at large that may of great concern to you, such as war, poverty or the environment. One particular concern for Muslims is the unhappiness about the state of the ummah, the powerlessness of the Muslims in controlling their situations. This is a source of great unhappiness for many people.
In all circumstances where we see apparently insurmountable obstacles, the Quran has this advice for us:
“And unto everyone who is conscious of God, He always grants a way out of unhappiness, and He provides for him/her in a manner beyond all expectation, and for everyone who places their trust in God, He is enough” (65:2-3)
Al-Fateha is the canonical supplication most relied upon. It is repeated in every group and personal prayer. You may recall its last verse which says:
“Keep us away from the path of those who have earned Your anger and who have gone astray”.
“Those who have gone astray” is a translation of “Ad-dualleen”, which is precisely the same word used in the verse 15:56 we are discussing here. Thus giving up hope is akin to having gone astray from a perspective of optimism and growth.