USC Dornsife College Of Letters Arts and Sciences

University of Southern California

Bridges Over Troubled Waters

“The Help of God is Near” by Chaplain Sondos Kholaki

Bismillah al-Rahman al-Raheem. In the name of God, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful.

Serving as a healthcare and community chaplain, I have the immense honor to accompany our brothers and sisters in humanity in seeking to make sense out of suffering, pain and crisis. Those in crisis may ask questions like, “Why is this happening to me,” or, “Where is God in all of this?”

The most important gift we may provide to ourselves and others is a willingness to hold space for these questions. Rather than assume a lack of, or instability, in faith, can we begin to hear these questions as representing a process to interpret the crisis to regain direction.

When the early Muslim community endured the burden of exile from their home in Mecca, they, according to the verse in the Qur’an, “were touched by poverty and hardship and were shaken until their Messenger and those who believed with him said, ‘Where is the help of God?’”

The response to their verbalized suffering is immediate and striking. God responds to the believers enduring exile that “Indeed, God’s help is near.” Not even an aya, or verse, separates the question asked out of crisis from God’s reassuring response.

Unquestionably, the help of God is near. He who sends us the trials also sends us the tools and resources to overcome them. What I have learned in my ministry over the past year is that, despite tremendous personal hardship, something deep within our souls yearned to know and grow closer to the Most Compassionate. We explored ways in which God revealed Himself to us over this past year. We moved inward to consider our past and reprioritize for our future. We reflected on how we were never really in control as much as we thought we were or wanted to be.

God says in the Quran (31:34), “Knowledge of the Hour belongs to God; it is He who sends down the relieving rain and He who knows what is hidden in the womb. No soul knows what it will reap tomorrow, and no soul knows in what land it will die; it is God who is all knowing and all aware.” The unknown remains unknown for a reason–not for us to fear it, or assume the worst of it, but to recognize our humility in not knowing, not controlling such that we return to the One who does Know, Who is in Control.

We find healing and hope in exploring our questions together, bearing witness to one another, and clearing our mutual paths of the obstacles barring deeper connection to God. This year, we learned that a community may not always look like a large room filled to capacity, but could simply look like two souls in full presence of one another.

I pray that the Most Gentle protects us all, showers us with His gentleness, mercy and compassion, and that He reunites us in the best way, in His perfect timing. Ameen.

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