It originates with a small spring, or a series of small streams, a few bodies of trickling water. Then Allah makes them all coalesce, come together and join forces, growing stronger and moving faster until the flow of water meets some resistant rocks and obstacles. It seems insurmountable, but at this point, the water is forced to slow down, while more water accumulates around the bedrocks, accumulating strength, speed and quantity. This eventually builds up volume and pressure needed to flow over the rocks.
This process is repeated again and again as the water flows across the terrain. From our naked eye, the water seems to be slowing down, but in reality, it is actually harnessing force and power for the next phase of its journey. Each set of obstacles is a preparation for a different terrain, a different landscape, a new beginning.
With each cycle, the flow of water gets stronger and more defined. The water accelerates until it meets another set of obstacles, and again, the gush is forced to slow down until it builds up sufficient force and quantity to overcome the next obstacle, and the next, and the next. However, after each set of blockades is overcome, the volume of the water increases and its speed becomes swifter. The momentum peaks and when at its maximum velocity, it becomes a powerful waterfall, gushing over the edge of a precipice. From there, the water lands in a reservoir or lake, and a new chapter begins.
Our journey in life is quite similar.
Think of us as starting out in life, slowly at first, but as we build up confidence and strength, we always end up going too fast. And then, something breaks our speed. We face our personal roadblock - a trial or a calamity. An obstacle in life, where we are forced to take it slow until we figure out what to do. At times like these, we feel that we can’t see beyond the tribulation and we don’t even know how we can get to the other side.
Water is filtered when it is forced through the rocks, reeds and minerals obstructing it. The barriers not only slow the streams and rivers, but also rid them of impurities. After that, the water gathers volume and momentum for the next stage, where the process is repeated. Again the water is cleansed and strengthened afresh.
Our lives are the same, we face different challenges and difficulties. Sometimes we feel defeated, as if this is the end, but in reality, our trials in life cleanse us and purify us. The obstructions teach us to be patient, but more importantly, to take a step back and strengthen our iman (faith). It is this strength which we harness that gives us the maturity and ability to go into different cycles and phases of life. Trials and tribulations are the necessary training ground for us to develop our inner strength.
Having overcome a tribulation, we can often see how Allah takes us from one state to another, using us for different things, with different people, and with a different vision. He does not send us obstacles and complications in life to kill us, but rather to prepare ourselves for the next phase in life. He does not send down calamities to break us, but to make us. With each tier in life, we become stronger and more capable. This is why we should not despair when life appears to fall apart. Trials are our avenues for us to regroup, rethink, go back to the basics, and develop strength. These issues may take time to overcome, but those who indeed overcome them find that what lies on the other side made the journey worthwhile.
And once the waterfall has reached its destination, a new journey begins. It can irrigate, nourish and water. Once our journey of iman reaches enough strength, so too can we then nourish those around us, in ways that we could never do when we were just tiny springs and trickling streams.