In our last reflection we talked about tests being gifts and benefits from God. But, does it seem fair that the tests are the same whether we do good or evil, or whether we serve humanity or are self-serving?
Aren’t tests sometimes the result of chastisement for things that we have done wrong? Abdul-Baha responded to that very question:
“Thou hast questioned concerning ordeals and difficulties and catastrophes: “Are these from God or the result of man’s (own) evil deeds? (1)”
“Know thou that ordeals are of two kinds: One kind is for trial (to test the soul), and the other is punishment for actions. (“As a man soweth so shall he also reap.”) (2)
“That which is for testing is educational and developmental and that which is the punishment of deeds is severe retribution.
The father and the teacher sometimes humor the children and then again discipline them. This discipline is for educational purposes and is indeed to give them true happiness; it is absolute kindness and true providence. Although in appearance it is wrath yet in reality it is kindness. Although outwardly it is an ordeal yet inwardly it is purifying water.
Verily, in both cases we must supplicate and implore and commune to the divine Threshold in order to be patient in ordeals.(3) ”
Abdu’l-Bahá further explains the role of service, steadfastness, and faith during tests:
“Tests endured in the path of God are conducive to confirmation, nay, rather, they are heavenly powers and the bounties of the realm of Might.
But to the weak believers’ tests are trials and examination, for, on account of the weakness of their faith and assurance they fall into difficulties and vicissitudes. However, to those souls who are firm and steadfast, tests are the greatest favours.“(4)
Let’s unpack this. “Tests endured in the path of God are conducive to confirmation.” So, the question we must ask ourselves is, are our tests in the path of God or self? Because, it appears that everything leads back to deeds and faith. Reflect on that it is “on account of the weakness” of our faith that we “fall into difficulties and vicissitudes.”
Often during severe tests, we feel despair and hopeless when we have the choice to respond with faith, assurance, and certitude. Remember ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s promises?
“As ye have faith, so shall your powers and blessings be (5) ,” and that if we have faith, “Nothing is impossible.(6) “
We must be firm and steadfast during tests and not give up; that is what faith is and how we pass our tests. The stronger the faith, the stronger the heavenly powers, bounties, and favors we receive. So, while all are tested, everyone doesn’t fare the same from the tests. Some become impotent from tests while others shine and continue to serve.
I’ll close with another analogy:
“Men who suffer not, attain no perfection. The plant most pruned by the gardeners is that one which, when the summer comes, will have the most beautiful blossoms and the most abundant fruit.(7) ”
Walking the spiritual path together
1. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá: From Tablet to Portland, Oregon, believer; translated 27 July 1909. (SOW – Star of the West, Star of the West – 5)
2. Bible paraphrased
4. (SOW – Star of the West, Star of the West – 5)
5. Abdu’l-Bahá from An Early Pilgrimage by Mrs May Maxwell, (SOW – Star of the West, Star of the West – 5)
7. (Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 51)