A believer afflicted with a severe calamity should take comfort from the fact that those who have strong faith are given the harder trials. This is established by the Prophet (p). When asked about who suffers the greatest afflictions, he replied:
The prophets, then those who come next to them, then those who come next to them. A man is afflicted in keeping his religion. If he is firm in his religion his trial is severe, but if there is weakness in his religion it is made light for him, and it continues like that till he walks on the earth having no sin. (Tirmidhi)
Why is it, one may ask, that people who are faithful and righteous should have to suffer?
To get an answer, we should ask ourselves: is there any achievement without an effort or any fruit without labor? The obvious pattern that we see in our human experience is that those who work hard and go through the process of struggle are rewarded with success in this materialistic world. The greatest reward of everything that one can imagine is Paradise. In fact, the bliss and happiness in Paradise is so great that one cannot even imagine it (32:17). How can then one expect that he will achieve this greatest success without him being thoroughly tested to see if he qualifies for it?
One should not think that following the rituals, such as making salat five times a day, is enough test for him. The external rituals that we do and the laws of the shari’a that we observe returns immediate benefit to us as they bring peace and happiness to our families and provide us with a healthy social and moral society in which to live and prosper. Thus, one should not expect that observing Allah’s commandments and reaping these benefits in turn is the only tests. The real test is the test of the heart where faith lives, and that is tested with affliction and hardship to check if the faith and trust in Allah is firm and well-rooted or is it weak and superficial:
Do men think that they will be left alone on saying “We believe” and that they will not be tested? We did test those before them and Allah will certainly know those who are true from those who are false. (29:2-3)
Each believer, therefore, must expect to be tested. The stronger his faith, the harder will be the test, and the greater his reward will be if he remains patient having unshakable faith and trust in Allah (swt). The Prophet (p) said:
The magnitude of the reward goes along with the magnitude of the affliction. (Tirmidhi)
And the believers will continue to go through trials and tribulations in their life until their sins are wiped and they die and meet Allah (swt) free from all sins:
The believing man or woman continues to have affliction in person, property and children so that they may finally meet Allah, free from sin. (Tirmidhi)
That is so because Allah (swt), in His Mercy and Generosity, not only rewards one when he is patient through his trials, but also sheds his sins for the pains and sufferings that he or she goes through. No matter how small the trial or how insignificant the discomfort, Allah (swt) will reward him for that and eliminate some sins. Said the Prophet (p):
No calamity befalls a Muslim but that Allah expiates some of his sins because of it, even though it were the prick he receives from a thorn. (Bukhari)
The question one should ask himself is: “What is my reflex when I do get a prick of a thorn, or stumble on the street and hurt my toe, or my computer suddenly crashes making me loose some work? Does some uncomely word slips through the mouth to release anger and frustration, or do I stay in control and remain calm, patient, and thankful to Allah?”