A profound sense of helplessness can infiltrate our spirits during adversity and suffering. This sentiment, far from being unique to isolated individuals, is a shared experience witnessed by many grappling with escalating challenges that appear beyond their control. This universal feeling of despair manifests in various scenarios, particularly evident in the pervasive horrors of war, where the shadows cast seem insurmountable, leaving individuals feeling powerless to effect meaningful change from a distance. As we tune into the news, it becomes a deliberate act, exposing ourselves to a narrative that often feels steeped in gloom. The collective sentiment leans towards a poignant acknowledgment of the harsh realities that unfold before us.
Yet, Allah has endowed us with the remarkable capacity to make meaningful choices and exert control over ourselves, provided we make the effort. Undoubtedly, the most formidable battle lies in the struggle against our own selves. We've all uttered the familiar refrain of “why me?” in the face of life's challenges — be it an unfortunate accident, the loss of a cherished one, or the apparent delay in the fulfillment of our heartfelt prayers. Conversely, amid the current global tumult affecting Muslims, the question echoes louder: “why us?” In response, Allah's wisdom, as articulated in the Quran, resonates:
"Indeed, We will test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient, Who, when disaster strikes them, say, 'Indeed, we belong to Allah, and indeed to Him, we will return.' Those are the ones upon whom are blessings from their Lord and mercy. And it is those who are [rightly] guided."
(Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:155-157)
Dua: An Essential Tool
The power of dua, often described as the believer's weapon, is a profound concept in Islam. It beautifully emphasizes not only exhausting all material means in our daily pursuits but also continuously seeking assistance from Allah the Almighty. Therefore, Muslims are encouraged to supplicate and ask for the strength to bear tasks that might otherwise be overwhelming or seemingly impossible. This is particularly comforting in the face of life's challenges that induce anxiety and discomfort.
The Quran affirms this soothing effect of remembrance in the verse:
"Those who have believed and whose hearts are assured by the remembrance of Allah. Unquestionably, by the remembrance of Allah, hearts are assured."
(Surah Ra'ad, 13:28)
An invocation that encapsulates this trust in Allah's providence is also expressed in the popular phrase: “Hasbunallah wa ni'mal-Wakil” translated as “Sufficient for us is Allah, and [He is] the best Disposer of affairs.” This encapsulates the profound reliance on Allah's sufficiency and his perfect management of all matters."
Amidst worldly delusions and distractions, it is normal to experience feeling helpless, but there are several other steps you can adopt to cope with such emotions. Here are some suggestions:
1. Acknowledge your feelings.
Accept that it's okay to feel helpless. This in reality is the first step towards recognizing your emotions without judgment. But, what is not okay is to stay fixated on the distressing situation and not work towards managing your emotions.
2. Identify the source.
Try to pinpoint the specific cause or trigger of your feelings of helplessness. Understanding the root cause of your emotions can be a crucial step in finding a solution or developing coping mechanisms. For starters, it might be helpful to break down the problem. For instance, If the situation seems overwhelming, break it down into smaller, more manageable parts. Tackling one aspect at a time can make the situation feel more manageable and remember to make dua every step of the way.
3. Focus on what you can control.
Identify aspects of the situation that you have control over and concentrate on those. It may be a small aspect, but taking control where you can help regain a sense of agency. Also, setting realistic short-term goals for yourself can be helpful in this regard.
4. Practice self-compassion.
Be kind to yourself. Understand that everyone encounters situations where they feel helpless. Treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding that you would offer a friend but be sure not to fall into a state of self-pity!
At this point, engaging in self-care can ensure that you are taking care of your physical and mental well-being. this could mean engaging in activities that bring you joy, relaxation, and a sense of peace. This might include exercise, meditation, reading, or spending time with loved ones.
5. Learn from the experience.
It is true that everything that we experience, poses an opportunity for growth and learning. Consider what you can take away from the experience that may help you cope better in the future.
6. Seek help when necessary.
If you find that the feelings of helplessness persist or become overwhelming, consider seeking the support of a suitable mental health professional. They can provide guidance and tools to help you navigate through your emotions. Alternatively, you could also seek support and share your feelings with someone you trust, such as a friend or a family member. Talking about your emotions can provide comfort and may offer a fresh perspective on the situation.
7. Be grateful.
Cultivating a sense of gratitude can shift your perspective and help you find strength in challenging times. It may not come immediately, but one can try and make it a deliberate practice to shift their focus on being grateful for what we do have.
Coping with the overwhelming sense of helplessness is undoubtedly a unique journey, where diverse strategies resonate with different individuals. While it might be more manageable for some and mentally or physically taxing for others, one unifying thread is the transformative power of embracing hope and seeking Allah's help and mercy. This not only becomes a wellspring of internal strength for us but also sets a positive example for the younger generation. In navigating the complexities of life, instilling in our children the significance of hope and reliance on Allah becomes a lasting legacy, ensuring they, too, find solace in challenging times.
Umm Ahmed is an early childhood educator and mother of three boys. Always on the quest to learn, she is passionate about seeking knowledge and passing it on to others. A writer in the making, she draws inspiration through deep conversations, laws of nature, and her own children. She and her family are currently living in Abu Dhabi, UAE.