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The Difference between Punishments and Lessons

Hardship is one of Godís ways amongst His believing worshippers, and if there are any exceptions from these hardships, the prophets would be the first to be excused from them. It is clear that hardship is one of the means of rising to God and not being bound to the earth. It has been stated that the people who suffer the worst hardships are the prophets, then those next in rank, then those after them, and so forth
God wields many types of hardships: bodily punishments, monetary punishments, and punishments relating to souls. God renders no hardship worse than hardness of the heart. How can someone see the face of happiness when he lives in a strained relationship with the Bestower of Happiness, the one in whose hand lay all the causes of happiness in this life and the Hereafter?!
Hardships come in two main kinds: hardships which are sent as punishments and hardships which are sent as lessons. The sign of the first is that it comes after disobeying the Lord of the Universe, and especially after persisting in that error again and again. God will delay your punishment, but He wonít forget. As for the hardship sent as a lesson, it comes without any kind of shortcoming in oneís worldly or spiritual obligations. How nice it is for the worshipper to pass a short period of suffering followed by eternal happiness! Likewise how awful it would be for the Almighty Lord to send a hardship upon His worshipper without raising him so much as a degree in this life or the
Hereafter!
One of the defenses against hardships is making supplication before the hardship occurs. Making supplication when times are good is one of the causes of supplications being accepted when times of hardship. It is well known that the supplication of the afflicted person shows no kind of special devotion, but it simply shows his desire to get out of the hardship he suffers.
One of the worst kinds of afflictions one can suffer is when the individualís faith is harmed, meaning that he experiences doubt in the articles of his belief. This can gradually reach the level where he rejects them altogether. This is the peak of disappointment and the worst possible outcome of his life. It is well known that the accumulation of grave sins could bring about this terrible end. We understand this from the word of the Most High: {Then the end of those who did evil was to disbelieve the signs of God and make a mockery of them.}
Sometimes the worshipper himself doesnít deserve the punishment, but his association with people who disregard the remembrance of God and those who disobey the Almighty causes the punishment to be generalized to include him. This is what we can understand from Godís word: {Be careful of the afflictions which would not afflict the wrongdoers alone}. As for the one who is forced to associate with corrupt people for whatever reason, he must be careful about the negative effects of this association and ever be cautious in commanding what is good and forbidding what is evil so that he will not be counted amongst them.
One of Godís blessings upon His believing servants is to give him a manageable hardship in order to bring him into remembrance of God and supplication to Him, which would then defend against a greater hardship. If God grants His servant the ability to make supplication after a hardship occurs, it is a sign of the speed with which the hardship will decline. It has been related in a hadith that there is no hardship but it comes from God and it contains a blessing which puts you on guard.
It is wrong for the individual to be pleased with continuous divine blessings. Maybe this is a deception by which God wants to complete His blessings and remove any claims against Him before He renders punishment. Reflect on the hadith which Imam Sajjad (A) related in order to open the door of your patience when calamities occur: ďI would hate to see a man pardoned from this world without being stricken by any calamity at all.Ē
The one individual who bears the greatest hardships in this age is the one who is given to carry the concerns of this Islamic nation throughout the successive ages. How it must be for him to witness the length of history and see the carnage that occurred in the nation of his grandfather Mustafa (S)! How it must be for him to see the unprecedented images of disappointment and weakness amongst the Muslims today! All of this comes in addition to the concern he bears for the suffering amongst his devotees and those who await his governance. Arenít these matters enough for the heart of the Imam (A) collecting all of these concerns and sorrows? What a great thing to reduce his sorrows even by praying a desperate prayer before his Lord in the dark solitude of the night prayer.

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