In times of difficulties most of us pray for relief. Unlike Queen Kuntidevi, the mother of the Pandavas: „ I wish that all those calamities would happen again and again so that we could see You again and again, for seeing You means that we will no longer see repeated births and deaths.“ (1) Kunti understood a very powerful principle — adversities can be an opportunity to grow. It can be an impetus to remember and take shelter of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Most of us do not have to go through as much calamities as Kuntidevi and the five Pandavas did, but certainly we have our own challenges. Whether health problems, difficulties in our relationships or facing a crisis of faith, such as feeling spiritually empty or experience a lack of taste. Whatever it is, we might not be able to embrace these calamities like Queen Kunti, but all the holy scriptures and the saintly teachers advise us to see problems as opportunities.
I have a choice to either think: ‚Oh no, my bad luck is once again approaching me, making my life miserable!‘ Or we can change our vision and tell ourselves: ‚Oh, my bad luck is coming again just to purify my heart, to remove my misconceptions and to help me grow!‘
We need to ask the right questions. It's not about ‚Why me? Why are these calamities always appearing in my life? Why do I have to suffer?‘ This kind of question will not help us at all. Rather we should ask ourselves: ‚What can I learn from this situation? What does Krishna want to tell me with this?’ Immediately our approach to pain and difficulties will change.
Of course, suffering will not disappear just because we have a spiritual practice, but we will be able to see it with a different vision. „It is your reaction to adversity, not the adversity itself, that determines how your life’s story will develop.“ (2)
The more we realize how difficulties are required in order to grow, the more we will be able to deal with it in a more constructive way. “Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.” (3) Or as Mahatma Gandhi used to say: “Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths.”
Feeling a lot of pressure forces us to go deeper. Once I heard a nice story in this connection. There was a rich fellow, who had a fancy holiday house at the beach with a beautiful view on the ocean, but there were two trees growing just in front of his balcony. The man decided to put a rock on top of one of the trees, to hinder this tree from growing so that his view wouldn’t be blocked. When he returned some years later he realized that one of the tress was uprooted by a tornado but the other one was still standing there. It was the tree with the rock in the crown, because of the pressure of the heavy weight the tree developed stronger roots than the other tree and was therefore able to survive the tornado. (4)
Crisis can sharpen our focus on what is actually important and often forces us to go deeper. Why? Because living on the surface becomes unbearable. Jesus’ analogy of the house built on sand comes to my mind: „a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it“ (5) The rain, the floods and winds representing all kinds of tribulations we will face in life. If we do not care about spiritual life, we are compared to a fool who builds his house on sand. To go deeper means to develop a strong foundation, to build our house, our life and understanding of reality on a rock which will not shake even during the greatest tribulations.
Going deeper means to absorb in spiritual practice, to connect with the Lord and to see the world through the eyes of scriptures and personal realizations.
I wish we all can take advantage of the present situation and learn how to use it as an opportunity to go deeper. We might not pray to the Lord to send us another coronavirus, or a longer lockdown but at least we can try to change our approach in dealing with the situation.
1 - Srimad Bhagavatam 1.8.25
2 - Dieter F. Uchtdorf
3 - C.S. Lewis
4 - unknown source
5 - Matthew 7:24-27