“Where there is love, nothing is too much trouble, and there is always time.”
This quote is often attributed to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, but did He say it?
It’ s a favourite quote for many people, and a song by Elika Mahony, but there is no obvious record of where the quote comes from, at least not in this form.
There are two sources with similar wording which are the non-authoritative (unverifiable) records of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’ s words.
When Elika Mahony asked the US Bahá’í National Review Committee for the reference for the quote, they replied that she should credit the words as “Based on words attributed to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá as recorded in Portals to Freedom, p. 52.”
The relevant words – written by Howard Colby Ives in that book – about ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, are:
“All His life had been spent in prison and exile. He bore still upon His body the marks of man’s cruelty, yet there were no signs of His ever having been other than free, and evidently it was a freedom which no earthly wealth ever bestows. And He seemed never to be hurried. Amidst the rushing turmoil of New York He walked as calmly as if on a lofty plateau, far removed from the tumult and the shouting. Yet He never stood aloof. He was ever at the service of any or all who needed Him. From five o’clock in the morning frequently until long after midnight He was actively engaged in service, yet no evidence of haste or stress ever could be seen in Him. “Nothing is too much trouble when one loves,” He had been heard to say, “and there is always time.””
There is a similar recollection in the pilgrimage notes made by Ella Goodall Cooper:
“‘Abdu’l-Bahá brought us flowers or oranges or grapefruit from the wonderful Ridvan nearly every day and also gave us delicious grapes from a vine that was planted by His own hand. (This vine yields seven corps of grapes every year, and these particular grapes were the seventh yield.)
“His constant shower of material and spiritual favors caused us to exclaim that we did not deserve so many blessings, and while we received and received everything from Him, we were unable to give Him anything in return.
“He replied, simply, “that is what I am here for — to give, and not to receive.”
“When we deprecated the trouble it must be to answer so many questions and to give us so much time, He replied, “Whatever is done in love is never any trouble, and — there is always time.””
There are some clear similarities between the two, firstly ‘Abdu’l-Bahá is addressing concern that He is doing too much, and – especially in the second version – seems to be saying that where love is involved, the things we do are never any trouble, which is perhaps a bit different from the better known phrase “Where there is love, nothing is too much trouble” which could imply that we should be able to do anything if we have love, rather than that the things we do with love are no trouble for us.
Secondly, in both of the above recollections there appears to be a break between the statements about trouble and time. Speculating on the meaning of unverifiable notes is not really a good use of time, but it is even possible that in addressing concern about ‘Abdu’l-Bahá doing too much, He simply appended a basic fact to His response, that “there is always time”.
Certainly it is fair to suggest that the non-authoratative nature of the sources, and the altered form of the quote, combine to nullify any claim somebody might make that – based on this quote – a lack of time to do something can be equated to a lack of love, which is apparently one way in which this quote has been used.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá was exemplary in love for others, in servitude, and in devoting His time to service. Bahá’ís are obviously encouraged to try ever harder to emulate this behaviour, whatever the authenticity of the quote.
Although the probable sources for this quote arise from’ Abdu’l-Bahá’s selfless service and sacrifice to others, it has often been used as a statement about marriage.
Elika Mahony’ s song also includes some words by Khalil Gibran: