I know you are struggling.
I also know the last thing you’d like to hear right now is “Everything is going to be ok.”
Of course, you know that. You know everything is going to be ok – you just don’t know how things will work out and how long it’ll take. You don’t know if you’re going to last long enough before you break. You don’t know how to feel.
So I’m not going to tell you that. I’m going to tell you something else.
I’m going to tell you that whatever you are feeling is valid. All the fear, sadness, anger and whatever else you are feeling – they are valid and real. They make you human. It isn’t your fault.
I’m also going to tell you that you are not alone.
I’m struggling too. I know of at least 5 other people who are struggling hard as well. We’re all fighting our own battles on a daily basis, much of them unseen to the public eye. Some of us are struggling with depression, anxiety or some other form of mental illness, others are struggling through a death, divorce or a break-up, and some more are struggling with the wait for marriage or a child. The list goes on.
So believe me, you’re not alone.
Whatever you are feeling is valid and makes you human. Stop running away from it. Allowing yourself to feel everything empowers you; what you are able to face no longer controls you.
You see, God never asked that we be constantly happy or excited. He didn’t say we are never to feel hurt, pain or despair. He was the one who created us – He made us human, and humans aren’t meant to be perfect or unfeeling. Even the Prophet pbuh felt love, sadness and fear. He mourned the death of his first wife when Saiyidina Khadijah passed away.
All Allah asks is for us to be patient, repentant and grateful.
When Allah tests you it is never to destroy you. When He removes something in your possession, it is only in order to empty your hands for an even greater gift! – Ibn al-Qayyim
So feel what you must, but don’t be enslaved by it. Your challenges do not define your worth nor your identity.
Now, what if I then told you that you are capable of transforming into something greater? What if I told you that you are exactly where you are meant to be, and that you are prepared to carry the weight of the trial you are going through right now? What if I told you that whatever you are facing is His gift to you, His beloved?
A beautiful gift especially chosen for you – except it doesn’t come wrapped nicely with a ribbon on top.
This is His invitation to you – to be closer to Him, to grow beyond what you believe to be possible, and to prepare you for greater things.
I know it’s easy to say all these and allow the winds to carry it without weight, so here are some practical steps to take to embrace His gifts, even when you feel unworthy.
Lift others up
I’ve learnt that the one of the best ways to rise and heal is to lift others. It’s also one of the easiest. When we help others become better, we are essentially helping ourselves. We transform the pain we feel into compassion and love for others, and we begin to heal.
There are many ways to do this. Start small. Manage your expectations. Be kind to your family and to your colleagues. Give them a compliment. Help them with a chore. Give sadaqah unquestioningly to the people who asks for it. If you’re feeling like it and have the resources to, volunteer at the many places that needs manpower: the mosque, an orphanage, the community centre nearest your place. Volunteer for however long you can.
There’s always something to do and some ways to help others. I find comfort in working with children and youth – so I make it a point to spend time with them often. Find the thing that you’re most comfortable with and be consistent with it.
Set your intention and perspective right every single morning
All of us definitely need reminders of our purpose every day (which is why the five daily prayers rocks, alhamdulillah!). It’s also amazing how perspective plays an important role in how we go through our daily lives – it makes or breaks it.
Wake up every morning and verbalise your intention for the day.
Today, I am enough.
Today, I will be happy.
Today, I will be thankful.
Today, instead of asking ‘Why me?’, I will ask myself ‘How does God want me to rise through this?’
Say it out loud. Have it written down and placed where you can see it first thing every morning.
Pro-tip: Have it as your handphone’s wallpaper. You’ll be reminded every single time you’re checking your phone, which is a lot, I bet!
Count your blessings
One of the key takeaways from my therapy sessions is the very practical tip of writing down 3 things I’m grateful for at the beginning and the end of every day.
It can be as simple and diverse as the ability to see and walk, to the invention of cake and chocolates, to the chance to greet another day and make things right.
I keep a notebook handy by the side of my bed to write these down.
There’s always something to be thankful for. Even, and especially, on the tough days – when all you want to do is bury yourself under the covers and will the day away – there is always something to be thankful for.
When you learn to see that there is much greater good than bad happening, that just makes things a little bit easier, y’know?
I recently sat beside a group of highly negative women who were going on and on about how unfair their workplace was, how so-and-so was difficult and a flirt with the bosses, and how their life was just miserable. They kept feeding into each other’s negativity and seemed like they were trying to up one another to prove who had the most tough life. They left the cafe looking quite nearly as unhappy, or even more so, than when they first came in.
I was squirming in my seat the entire time, and felt so nauseous. I desperately wanted to get myself away from them. Why would anyone allow themselves to go through that? Life is hard enough as it is without anyone making it a competition of ‘Whose life is worse?’
So be careful of your company. Ensure that the people you keep close contact with are positive influences and help to lift you up. Be mindful of the things they say and how they say it. These will affect how you see things. If you come to a painful realisation that they’re not, try to effect the change by changing the tune of your conversations. Keep quiet if you must and walk away if you can.
Listen to positive and uplifting speeches on a daily basis. Follow motivational accounts on your social media. Befriend people who are positive and optimistic. You have a choice of what energy you surround yourself with, or at least, keep away from!
Another pro-tip: IlmStream is an amazing app that you can download into your phone! It’s the largest library of Islamic audio, and it’s available for free both on Android and ioS! It has talks ranging from imaan boosters, stories of the Prophets and Companions, tafseer of the Quran and so forth, and notable speakers such as Sh Nouman Ali Khan, Sh Omar Suleiman and Mufti Menk! (Head to http://www.ilmstream.com for more info)
Constantly think good of Allah
It seems like a no-brainer but so often, this is the first thing that slips us whenever we feel troubled.
It is good practice to constantly verbalise this:
Allah is kind and merciful. Allah loves me. He is listening. He is with me. He is allowing all these to happen to me, therefore this must be good for me.
It doesn’t take away the pain or the difficulty, but it allows you space to navigate through the emotions and have faith in Him.
“No amount of guilt can change the past, and no amount of worrying can change the future. Go easy on yourself, for the outcome of all affairs is determined by Allah’s decree.
If something is meant to go elsewhere, it will never come your way, but if it is yours by destiny, from it you cannot flee.” – Umar Ibn Al-Khattaab
If we know how to look at life in the best possible manner, all of our experiences are our teachers. We begin to understand that life on earth is a school, and all events the lessons. Constantly ask, “What can I learn from this experience? Why was it given to me? How can I use it to further my growth?” If you think in this way, all experiences will bring you closer to understanding yourself and His Mercy.
Believe me, things aren’t always as they seem. Prophet Musa’s mother was told to throw her son in the river, Prophet Yusuf was left for dead in a well by his own brothers, Saiyidina Maryam delivered a child alone, Prophet Yunus was swallowed by a whale, Prophet Ibrahim was thrown in the fire and Rasulullah saw lost his parents and young children. Yet their stories turned out beautifully and as they must.
Dear you, I am so happy for you, happy that you are going through all these challenges. You are poised to be greater that you are and are being groomed to be beautiful.
“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” – Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
You are enough. Remember that we are not defined by our circumstances, but how we react within our circumstances. I pray that you will be given strength and courage so that you begin learn to react with patience, grace and gratitude for everything that happens.
You are so very loved – by the people around you, and especially by Allah.