In his well-known book, Al-Hikam (Words of Wisdom), sheikh Ahmad Ibn `Ataa’illah As-Sakandari says:
Perhaps clouds of darkness will come by you, so that He acquaints you with the extent He has Graced you.
The meaning of this piece of wisdom can be summed up as follows:
Perhaps lusts and lapses which are similar to darkness will come upon one so that Allah the Almighty acquaints him with the lights He Graced him with. This will make one increase his thanks when he is referred back to the light which was distanced by lusts, and will make him keen on performing the dues of His blessings in all times. Indeed, there is not a time where Almighty Allah does not have a blessing that one owes thanks for.
However, to detail this a little bit further, one is commended to read through the following lines.
What is meant by “darkness” in the words of Ibn `Ataa’illah is the darkness one finds in his heart because of committing sins and pursuing lusts and sinful desires.
As is stated by Ibn `Ataa’illah, all sinful deeds committed by man are darkness, while the faithful feelings which dominate the heart and which are represented in the love for Allah, glorifying Him, and fearing of Him are lights that illuminate the heart.
Naturally, light does not coexist with darkness in one place. If they meet, feelings of restlessness and alienation are to be found in one’s heart; a matter which may remove any feeling of artificial pleasure away from the heart of the disobedient. Thereupon, one flees from these feelings of restlessness and alienation to the wideness of Allah’s Mercy, asking for His aid as well as relief.
Consequently, one is received with mercy, acceptance and relief from his distresses by Almighty Allah, the Most Merciful. At this, the darkness of one’s lustful desires and disobedience are overcome by the light of guidance and faith. Eventually, the disobedient returns as overburdened with two favors from Allah:
First: the favor of guidance, acceptance and conferring relief upon him; and,
Second: the favor of letting him know that Allah cares about him through answering his du`aa’ and rescuing him from the darkness of disobedience.
Certainly, the second favor is greater than the first. This can be understood from the words of Ibn `Ataa’illah as he says, “So that He acquaints you with the extent He has Graced you,” instead of saying, “So that He honors you with the extent He has Graced you,” for example.