Photo Credit: Dina Al-Mahdy
There are moments in our lives when the world seems to fall apart, and our first response is to grieve over our bad luck. Yet, with time, we look back upon that event and tinge it with the afresh value, like a gem emerging from the thick earth, and we end up calling it a “blessing in disguise.”
We think that blessings have to be worth bragging about, we think that blessings mean happy tears and ecstatic joy. We think that blessings mean big gains or promotions or weddings, and while all these are indeed blessings to be thankful for, we forget to look at the blessings in disguise, the ones that come with painful endings, breakups, losing jobs, failures, sorrows and late night tears. The gifts that are presented as losses or farewells.
These are the hardest blessings to understand but they’re the most important ones. The ones that we don’t usually know how to accept but we know that we’re being protected from something unfavorable and guided towards something better. These are the blessings in desguise that we grasp after hardships pass away. The blessings that we only recognize after we heal.
Hardships come in many forms, and they can certainly seem overwhelming and invincible, but – however difficult – they never truly are. Unless, of course, we allow them to be.
So what do I know about hardships, you might ask. Well, I’ve had my fair share of disappointments, failures and losses. Just like you undoubtedly did; it’s simply part of the human condition.
Years ago, my life began to crumble around me and I suffered one setback after another. My plans cracked down, I was forced in a new direction, which paved the way to the most profound, life-changing spiritual awakening. Had life not cleared the way, there would have been no space in my life for all the divine teachers – also known as losses – who opened me to higher states of consciousness. Through that experience, I came to appreciate that identifying our blessings in disguise is a tremendously powerful spiritual practice. I’ve come to learn that looking for silver linings when ‘bad things’ happen, is not naive.
Looking for the blessings in hardships has nothing to do with ‘wishful thinking’, unlike many people might tell you when you try. If anything, it’s essential. Because blessings are there, but we might overlook them.
I am not asking you to remain happy in the face of loss or pain. But I want you to embrace your grief and tell yourself that whatever you’re feeling, it will eventually pass. You won’t be sad forever. At some point, you will be happy again. You won’t be anxious forever. In time, you will be calm again. You don’t have to fight your feelings or feel guilty for having them. You just have to accept them and be good to yourself while you ride this out. Resisting your emotions will only cause you more pain, and you don’t deserve that. You deserve your own love, acceptance, and compassion.
What happens when we start training ourselves to look for blessings in disguise?
We shift our outlook and start to see our lives differently. That transformation has a number of stages, each building on and leading to the next until one day it dawns on us that these losses are blessings in disguise.
- First, we don’t really understand it at first, we try to come up with the most logical reason for why it happened.
- Then, we just mourn that loss. We mourn the ending. We start thinking to ourselves why good things never last, or so we think.
- Until a good amount of time has passed, we finally start seeing why we had to lose this one thing or this one person.
- Then finally we start seeing the blessings that follow that loss. We finally find ourselves again. It only hits us when we start realizing that this whole time we weren’t ourselves, we were fighting so hard to keep something that wasn’t meant to be ours. We were so focused on making it work that we overlooked all the other possibilities that surround us – the possibilities that come knocking on our door while we’re so busy banging on the one door that’s closed. It only hits us once we realize that God has given us so many signs to change directions but we were too stubborn to follow them. It only hits us once we start repairing all the damage this loss has caused.
Even though we tremble at the thought of losing someone we once cared deeply about or still do, the mere thought of knowing that this loss can lead to something far better for us makes the pain a little bit easier to swallow. It makes the sad ending a little bit easier to endure. It reawakens our faith that at the end of the day we can only surrender to the bigger plans God has for us. Even though we await the great blessings that we prayed for to happen the way we imagined they would at a certain time, sometimes they come disguised as everything we despise, everything we want to avoid or everything we fear. Sometimes they’re disguised as losses that we will later be so grateful for and a confirmation that we will never truly lose what was meant for us.
Below are a few life lessons I learnt after going through hardships, failures and losses.
Lesson 1: We stop making initial judgments. It is not easy to remain happy in the face of loss or pain. Life often asks us to endure enormous change. When we practice looking for blessings in disguise, we learn that our initial snap judgments are often wrong. Our reaction that this is “bad” turns out often to be an overreaction.
The truth is that we cannot fully acknowledge the role that any given event will have in our lives. When we are able to see events from a broader time horizon, our perspective shifts. Countless people have gone through divorce or lost their jobs, only later to say that it was the best thing that ever happened to them. I have witnessed a painful end of decade-long relationships that weren’t working which eventually opened the doorway to finding true love a few years later.
By looking back on our lives and counting our blessings in disguise, we stop seeing ourselves as victims in life. The next time something “bad” happens to you, just pause and say to yourself, “Perhaps. It might be a bad thing or a good thing.” Recognize that you are making an initial snap judgment which might turn out to be wrong. Realize that you cannot see the full picture just yet. As the saying goes, time will tell.
Lesson 2: We learn the power of positive language to shape our perceptions. Identifying the blessings in disguise demonstrates the power of language to shape our outlook. When we label a situation as “bad,” we’re often reacting to how the experience makes us feel. When we recast that same event as a “blessing in disguise”, we use the power of our words to change how we regard that same event. We can use that power at any time, even before we see the blessing.
When we endure some painful events or setbacks, we often generalize and conclude that life is cruel or unfair. Unfortunately, we are setting ourselves up to experience more of the same. If our expectations are that we live in a bitter world, life will confirm that for us.
Re-framing these supposed tragedies with a different language is a powerful response. Let go of words like “bad” and start referring to them as “challenges” or “lessons.” Does the caterpillar regard its struggle to become a butterfly through the cocoon as a disaster or a challenge that will transform it into a miracle? By using different words, we can take some of the sting out of the situation and make it less unpleasant.
Lesson 3: We learn positive lessons about our lives. Nothing happens purely by coincidence; everything happens for a reason. The blessing in disguise is often a lesson about life and how to respond to it. Through loss, change, and grief, we may gain insight into our character. We become more resourceful or courageous than we thought.
Looking for “blessings in disguise” allows us to re-frame seemingly awful calamities to identify their life lessons. When we view them as teachers, we begin to perceive the way forward through the situation. Many people have suffered life-threatening health issues or financial disaster—calamities that later gave them a new appreciation for life and taught them how to take better care of themselves.
The moment we look for the lesson, the situation often begins to resolve itself. The next time something happens to you that wish hadn’t happened or seems bad, pause and ask yourself, What is life trying to teach me? As you develop a sense of what the lesson might be, you can draw on the previous step and re-frame the entire episode as part of a larger story of your spiritual evolution.
Lesson 4: Tragic events often teach us to be thankful and grateful for our lives. Identifying the blessings in disguise boosts our capacity for gratitude. By taking responsibility for our feelings, re-defining a situation with new language, and giving it a new meaning in our lives, we can regard it with gratitude for all that it has done for us.
As we develop our sense of gratitude from our past experiences by seeing them as blessings and life lessons, we develop a new skill: We learn to react to new events with greater calmness, tranquility and poise, knowing that in a short while, we will look back at this latest chapter and realize that it was not nearly as bad as we initially thought. Knowing that the lesson will soon emerge allows us to regard the current situation we are facing with greater ease. An impressive tool is to write a diary of all the events that turned out to be pivotal and positive moments for you—your own list of past blessings in disguise. Keep this list in mind the next time something occurs in your life and use it to foster a sense of balance in the face of the new obstacle you’re experiencing.
So if you ever asked why some people seem to go through life with incredible ease and flow, while others seem to encounter nothing but struggle. If you ever wondered ‘why does this always happen to me?’, or ‘why did this have to happen right now?’, read this article and rest assured that every hardship is a blessing or a lesson for as long as we choose for it to be.
In conclusion, I will leave you with a video for one of the most inspiring women of strength, Oprah Winfrey talking about how to turn losses into victories in the interview below:
“You get as much from your losses as you do from your victories, because the losses are there to wake you up.”