When I was young I didn’t understand that when things went wrong, they were often going right. I used to waste valuable time and energy resisting outcomes rather than accepting them. But faith taught me to suspend judgement when things didn’t go my way and simply wait, because good news often arrived under the guise of bad news.
There are countless stories I could relay to illustrate this point, but here’s a recent episode. After my father passed away, my elderly mother came to live with us and we showered her with love and attention, indulged her every whim and made her feel like a cherished monarch. As the Covid era unfolded, we took every precaution to keep her safe, especially when she was unable to have a vaccine (for medical reasons).
So imagine our horror when an innocuous ear infection veered dangerously towards an abscess and the consultant insisted on immediate hospitalisation. Every conceivable nightmare scenario played through our minds as we wrestled with mixed emotions. We wanted my mother to get better, but were anxious about leaving her in hospital. Meanwhile, my mother refused to be admitted; fearful she’d never leave. She’d heard horror stories about people contracting Covid whilst in hospital and didn’t want to suffer the same fate. Yet, there was no feasible alternative and eventually she consented. Even so, leaving her in hospital was a shocking experience for us.
You may question why it was so distressing? After all, she wasn’t being left alone and would be looked after by health care professionals, whose only motivation was to help her. True, but anyone who’s taken care of the elderly will know that old people are like children and require a great deal of patience. They are innocent, vulnerable and need to be treated with immense kindness. Such attentiveness is the preserve of family and couldn’t be expected from nursing staff. Our concerns were also compounded by anxieties about the severity of the infection and the inevitable Covid risk.
At times like this there is little to stem the tide of terrifying thoughts, but I remembered an Arabic word – Tawakkul. It describes the Islamic concept of reliance on God – i.e. to completely trust in God’s plan. My father would frequently say, “Allah Tawakkul”, when he was in a serious predicament and trusting God. So, I decided to do the same. I reminded myself that God was not a silent bystander in our lives, but an active participant. It was God who had escalated matters to get my mother to hospital and that had to be for a good reason. We had to trust God and let Him do His work. God was keeping my mother company and would take care of her needs. We had to trust that all would be well. Suddenly, the fear lifted and I felt peaceful enough to fall asleep. Days later, my mother returned home with the infection under control and Covid-free.
Looking back, it was Tawakkul that got me through that difficult time. Trusting God anesthetised the anxiety and stress, enabling me to continue with daily life when I was powerless to do anything. Now, whenever I find myself the recipient of bad news, I take a deep breath and say Tawakkul!