No matter what we may think we know, we show our true selves, our real level of spiritual development, by our reaction to the bad things that happen to us. Often we rebel. Why is this happening? Why now? Why me? (I admit that my own level of spiritual development by this standard is often on a par with a potato. I’m working on it). We forget that a) this is happening because we made it happen or b) this is happening because it is a part of life and c) this happens to everyone at some point and is happening at this very moment to hundreds or thousands of other people, so why are we so special? And then of course we forget the all-important d): this is happening for a reason so we can learn from it and improve and move on to the next level.
The humble person does not waste any emotional energy rebelling and bemoaning his fate. He accepts that this is happening now and what is the best thing to do, or to be? What if we were to welcome obstacles instead of resisting them? The following is my translation of a passage from Imitation de Notre Seigneur Jesus Christ:
The truly patient man does not examine who is testing him, whether it is his superior, his equal or his inferior, a good man or a bad man. But, treating all indiscriminately, he receives from God’s hand, gratefully, and as often as He likes, everything contrary that happens to him, and considers it a great benefit.
The great thing about uplifting our attitude to obstacles in this way is that we cease being victims. Whatever happens to us we can transcend through humility and patient attention. By our very nature we are equipped by God, the Tao or whatever power we recognise, to handle everything that comes our way. We managed so far didn’t we?
I like the following story I came across in ‘The Discovery of Happiness’ edited by Stuart McCready:
The disciples of the Hasidic leader Rabbi Dov Ber (d.1772) were discussing the Talmudic statement that one should accept suffering with joy. “How is this possible?” they asked. Rabbi Dov Ber advised them to visit another of his disciples, Rabbi Zusya, who lived some distance away. He would explain to them how to accept suffering with joy.
The disciples were pleased with this advice. All knew that Rabbi Zusya lived a life of poverty, illness, and suffering. He would surely be able to explain.
When they reached the hovel in which he lived he jumped up with joy to greet them. They explained why they had come: “Our teacher told us to enquire from you how to accept suffering with joy.”
Rabbi Zusya looked puzzled. “Why did he send you to me?” he asked. “God is good and sends me all I need – I have never known suffering at all. So how can I help you?”