Suffering

‘Abdu’l-Bahá visited Charles Tinsley, a black employee of Phoebe Hearst who probably came into the Faith through Robert Turner, Mrs. Hearst’s longtime butler and the first African-American Bahá’í. Charles was laid up at home with a broken leg when the Master arrived. When ‘Abdu’l-Bahá asked how he was, Charles replied that he was fine except for the broken leg that kept him from working for the Cause. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá told him:
"Cheer up! Praise be to God, you are dear to me. I will tell you a story:
A certain ruler wished to appoint one of his subjects to a high office; so, in order to train him, the ruler cast them into prison and caused him to suffer much. The man was surprised at this, for he expected great favors. The ruler had taken him from prison and beaten him with sticks. This greatly astonished the man, for he thought the ruler loved him. After this he was hanged on the gallows until he was nearly dead. After he recovered he asked the ruler, if you love me why did you do these things? The ruler replied: ‘I wish to make you Prime Minister. By having gone through these ordeals you are better fitted for that office. I wish you to know how it is yourself. When you are obliged to punish, you will know how it feels to endure these things. I love you so I wished you to become perfect.’
[To Mr. Tinsley] Even so with you. After this ordeal you will reach maturity. God sometimes causes us to suffer much and have many misfortunes that we may become strong in his Cause. You will soon recover and be spiritually stronger than ever before. You will work for God and carry the Message to many of your people.” (Earl Redman, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Their Midst, p. 224)


Many years later, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s concern for the poor and suffering was described by May Maxwell in a letter describing the conversation that had taken place in their home: “I remember when the Master was in Montréal and there‘d been a strike for months in Dublin, women and children starving and a generally desperate condition. It affected me painfully; I had slept little and could barely eat, and had that terrific helpless feeling, not knowing what to do about it. All this Sutherland told to the Master, begging Him to tell me that my attitude was all wrong; and as he spoke the Master turned very white and great beads of perspiration formed on His brow through His own agony in human sufferings; then He said, “If more people felt as your wife does, the world would not be in this dark and terrible state.” Then He added, “However you must strive to overcome these feelings, do everything in your power to help, pray, then leave it with God, because the world will grow steadily much worse, and if you suffer like this you will not be able to survive. Nevertheless his words opened the door of help to those strike sufferers, and on my return to Montréal I went to a very wealthy and prominent Irishmen there, whom I had never seen, burst into tears in his office, to his astonishment and mine, and asked him what he was going to do about it. Well, to end the story, he headed the committee to raise a fund which we sent to Dublin through private channels in which came just in time to succour thousands of women and children.
(Earl Redman, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Their Midst, p. 186-187)


‘Abdu’l-Bahá beautifully tells us how the days that are without pain and suffering in the path of the Blessed Beauty just pass by fruitlessly. When a believer feels the pain and suffering when making the calculations and contributions for the Right of God, then the believer can relax, knowing what ‘Abdu’l-Bahá says. But there is no pain in relaxing, so we make more sacrifices.
(Rafati, Vahid, Sources of Persian Poetry in the Bahá’í Writings, Vol. lll, p. 80)


Early in 1904 Ethel Rosenberg made her second pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Still confined to the city of Akka the Master and His family were living in the prison house. For eight months Ethel stayed there as His guest. She wrote, ‘To sit at ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s table, in His simple home, with Christians, Mohammedans, Jews, and those of other faiths, all of them breathing forth the spirit of living brotherhood is a privilege not readily forgotten.’ During her visit enemies of the Cause became particularly vicious in the attacks against ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and caused Him and His loyal followers enormous problems and indescribable grief. Deeply distressed by this fact, she asked the Master why He, a perfect Man, had to go through such sufferings. He answered her, ‘How could they (God’s teachers) teach and guide others in the way if they themselves did not undergo every species of suffering to which other human beings are subjected?’
(Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá)


Pilgrims’ notes tell us that one day Lua Getsinger was walking with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and some of the friends on the white sands of the sea near ‘Akka. Lua, it is said, suddenly became aware of the Master’s tracks in the soft sand. She was walking a pace or two behind Him. Quite spontaneously she stepped behind ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and began to trace His footsteps by placing her shoes one at a time in each of His footprints. It is said that without turning, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said sharply, ‘What are you doing?‘
Lua replied cheerily, ‘I am following in your footsteps.’ ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was silent for some time. Then He repeated more forcefully, ‘Lua, what are you doing?’ She said, ‘I am walking in your footsteps, beloved Master.’ Without a word, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá strode on. Lua, it is said, felt a chill as she realized the utter futility and presumptuousness of such a weak instrument as herself ever daring to aspire to walk in the footsteps of the ‘Mystery of God‘. Suddenly Lua felt an agonizing pain in her ankle. She looked down. She had been stung by a scorpion. She cried out, but the Master did not turn or slow His stride. Lua walked on with the utmost difficulty. Her ankle was swelling rapidly. The pain was becoming intense. But she clenched her teeth and forced herself to continue. When the suffering had become almost unbearable, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá turned and came back. ‘This‘, He told her, ‘is what it means to walk in My footsteps.’ ‘Abdu’l-Bahá touched her head gently with his hand. Lua’s eyes were brimming with tears. She understood the lesson. The Master turned and continued on His way, Lua limping after Him the best she could. She felt the pain gradually diminishing as she tried to keep up with her beloved Master.
(Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 124)