Spiritual growth on earth is all about learning to turn one’s attention away from the affairs of the world and onto the divine realities of the Kingdom. The human soul works like a mirror, which always reflects what it is facing. If the soul is turned toward the earth, it will reflect earthly realities, and if it is turned toward the Kingdom, it will reflect the heavenly realities. The difference between heaven and hell is the direction in which a person is turning. A person turned toward earth will be absorbed into the dramas of this world and be thrown about emotionally by them because they constitute that person’s whole reality. And if a person is turned toward the Kingdom, they will be absorbed in its divine attributes, which are all based on love. That person will reflect love, forgiveness and patience and so on, and experience an inner life where these sentiments dominate.
Suffering trains people to gradually shift their affections from things in this world and onto the realities of the Kingdom. People find themselves in impossible situations, or they experience events that cause overwhelming grief. These circumstances show people that worldly happiness can be quickly stripped away, which leads them to question the reliance they have placed on earthly things as a source of happiness. Having exhausted all options, they shift their perspective from the physical world and look for a solution from the spiritual realm.
“Say: People of the earth, do you not see the transformations occurring in the land, and the changes the earth is undergoing, such that no second goes by without most affairs therein suffering an alteration? Therefore, what sign reassures your hearts and souls? Woe unto you! Upon what basis have you acted in this vain life? … Say: By God, you are only as a wayfarer resting in the shade of a tree. But that shade is of necessity ephemeral, and you must not repose your confidence in it or in anything that will pass away. Put your trust in what does not perish, in what endures in the immortality of God, the everlasting, the eternal, the glorious.”Baha’u’llah: City of Radiant Acquiescence, paragraph 11