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Sometimes Baha’is are surprised that they are tested once they join the Faith; they think signing the declaration card should solve all their problems, where in fact, it’s just the beginning!

I don’t know about you, but my life seemed a LOT simpler before I became a Baha’i! Let’s look at why!

How Are Tests Described?

Bahá’u’lláh describes tests as a salve for our sores; a healing medicine and true life for those who are devoted to His will:

The trials Thou sendest are a salve to the sores of all them who are devoted to Thy will; the remembrance of Thee is a healing medicine to the hearts of such as have drawn nigh unto Thy court; nearness to Thee is the true life of them who are Thy lovers; Thy presence is the ardent desire of such as yearn to behold Thy face; remoteness from Thee is a torment to those that have acknowledged Thy oneness, and separation from Thee is death unto them that have recognized Thy truth! (Baha’u’llah, Prayers and Meditations by Baha’u’llah, p. 77)

Tests are rigorous, and heavy to bear:

It is easy to approach the Kingdom of Heaven, but hard to stand firm and staunch within it, for the tests are rigorous, and heavy to bear. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 274)

Who is tested?

Everyone is tested – even the prophets and saints:

The Prophets and saints were, each and every one, subjected to the bitterest afflictions that the world has to offer, and were targets for all the cruelties and aggressions of mankind. They sacrificed their lives for the welfare of the people, and with all their hearts they hastened to the place of their martyrdom; and with their inward and outward perfections they arrayed humanity in new garments of excellent qualities, both acquired and inborn. (Abdu’l-Bahá, The Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 34-35)

Becoming a Bahá’í doesn’t prevent us from having tests: in fact they become more severe:

O maid-servant of God! The circumstances will be severe for every thankful servant (i. e., believer in the Teachings) in those boundaries and countries. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of Abdu’l-Bahá v2, p. 268)

How Are We Tested?

‘Abdu’l-Baha tells us some of what we can expect!

  • people will rise against us with the most bitter hatred, opposition and envy
  • persecution and curses will be thrown at us
  • tests and trials shall fiercely blow

The people shall arise against you with the most bitter hatred, opposition and envy. Swords of persecution and curses shall be thrown at you by all the nations. The wind of tests and trials shall fiercely blow and thereby the weak trees, which are not firmly rooted in this wonderful vineyard, shall be uprooted. But the trees which are strong, thriving and green will be strengthened, their branches extended, their leaves opened, their appearance beautified and their blossoms and fruits increased. I ask God to make thee one of those firmly rooted trees and an extended branch in this most great vineyard, and to make thy heart like unto a cup overflowing with His love in every assemblage. Verily He is the Powerful, the Generous! (Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of Abdu’l-Bahá v2, p. 268)

Shoghi Effendi shows us ways we can be confronted with severe tests, which include:

  • a long period that separates us from ultimate victory
  • arduous tasks
  • formidable exertions demanded of us
  • the dark days which mankind, perplexed and sorely-tried, must traverse
  • afflictive darts rained upon us by our enemies
  • temporary separation from the heart and nerve-center of their Faith

 No matter how long the period that separates them from ultimate victory; however arduous the task; however formidable the exertions demanded of them; however dark the days which mankind, perplexed and sorely-tried, must, in its hour of travail, traverse; however severe the tests with which they who are to redeem its fortunes will be confronted; however afflictive the darts which their present enemies, as well as those whom Providence, will, through His mysterious dispensations raise up from within or from without, may rain upon them, however grievous the ordeal of temporary separation from the heart and nerve-center of their Faith which future unforeseeable disturbances may impose upon them, I adjure them, by the precious blood that flowed in such great profusion, by the lives of the unnumbered saints and heroes who were immolated, by the supreme, the glorious sacrifice of the Prophet-Herald of our Faith, by the tribulations which its Founder, Himself, willingly underwent, so that His Cause might live, His Order might redeem a shattered world and its glory might suffuse the entire planet. (Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 145-146)

 Where do our biggest tests come from?

Our biggest tests come from other Bahá’ís:

. . . and often our severest tests come from each other. Certainly the believers should try to avert such things, and if they happen, remedy them through love. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 113)

For more information see the posting on Understanding Tests from Other Baha’is 

Here’s a prayer we can say for them:

Glorified art Thou, O Lord my God! Thou beholdest my low estate and the habitation wherein I dwell, and bearest witness unto my perplexity, my crying needs, my troubles, and the afflictions I suffer among Thy servants who recite Thy verses and repudiate their Revealer, who call on Thy names and cavil at their Creator, who seek to draw nigh unto Him Who is Thy Friend and put to death Him Who is the Best-Beloved of the worlds. Open Thou their eyes, O my God, and My Master, that they may gaze on Thy beauty, or cause them to return unto the lowest abyss of the fire. Potent art Thou to do what Thou willest. Thou art, verily, the All-Glorious, the All-Wise. (Baha’u’llah, Prayers and Meditations by Baha’u’llah, p. 203)

Where do tests take place?

The tests and trials of God take place in this world, not in the world of the Kingdom

As to the second question: the tests and trials of God take place in this world, not in the world of the Kingdom. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 194)

What are the Causes?

There are two kinds of tests – one is for tests, and the other is for punishment of misdeeds:

Thou hast asked about ordeals, adversities and tribulations, whether they are of God or the result of man’s evil deeds. Know that there ordeals are of two kinds: One is for tests, and the other for punishment of misdeeds. (‘Abdul-Bahá, Divine Art of Living, p. 85)

Let’s look at them separately.

Tests

These sufferings come to the Faithful of God:

Other sufferings there are, which come upon the Faithful of God. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 49-50)

They come as an evidence of God’s tender mercy:

Every trouble that toucheth us in our love for Thee is an evidence of Thy tender mercy, every fiery ordeal a sign of the brightness of Thy light, every woeful tribulation a cooling draught, every toil a blissful repose, every anguish a fountain of gladness. (Baha’u’llah, Prayers and Meditations by Baha’u’llah, p. 135)

They come to melt the hearts of non-Baha’is:

If something of this nature comes upon them, it is for some reason, which may have to do with the spiritual development of the one affected, or the spiritual development and welfare of the loved ones; or even for the melting of the hearts of non-Baha’is, who will be affected by the Divine Spirit, through the manner in which the Baha’i meets such an ordeal. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 280)

They come to refine endeavor, purify motivation and make us worthy of so great a trust:

The trials encountered by the Bahá’í community in the decades since 1963 are those necessary ones that refine endeavour and purify motivation so as to render those who would take part worthy of so great a trust. (Commissioned by The Universal House of Justice, Century of Light, p. 110-111)

 To welcome tests into our lives and the lives of others, here is a prayer we can say:

Inspire them, O my Lord, with a sense of their own powerlessness before Him Who is the Manifestation of Thy Self, and teach them to recognize the poverty of their own nature in the face of the manifold tokens of Thy self-sufficiency and riches, that they may gather together round Thy Cause, and cling to the hem of Thy mercy, and cleave to the cord of the good-pleasure of Thy will. Thou art the Lord of the worlds, and of all those who show mercy, art the Most Merciful. (Baha’u’llah, Prayers and Meditations by Baha’u’llah, p. 47)

 Punishment

We are punished for failing to recognize Baha’u’llah:

God shall of a truth cause your hearts to be given to perversity if ye fail to recognize Him Whom God shall make manifest; but if ye do recognize Him God shall banish perversity from your hearts. (The Báb, Selections from the Writings of the Báb, p. 147)

We are punished as a consequence of our actions:

The trials of man are of two kinds. (a) The consequences of his own actions. If a man eats too much, he ruins his digestion; if he takes poison he becomes ill or dies. If a person gambles he will lose his money; if he drinks too much he will lose his equilibrium. All these sufferings are caused by the man himself, it is quite clear therefore that certain sorrows are the result of our own deeds. (b) Other sufferings there are, which come upon the Faithful of God. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 49-50)

We are punished when we don’t do the Bahá’í thing:

Generally speaking nine-tenths of the friends’ troubles are because they don’t do the Bahá’í thing, in relation to each other, to the administrative bodies or in their personal lives (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 113)

We are punished for educational purposes:

That [ordeals, adversities and tribulations] which is for testing is for one’s education and development, and that which is for punishment of deeds is severe retribution. The father and the teacher sometimes show tenderness towards the children and at other times deal harshly with them. Such severity is for educational purposes; it is true tenderness and absolute bounty and grace   Although in appearance it is wrath, in reality it is kindness. Although outwardly it is an ordeal, inwardly it is a cooling draught. (‘Abdul-Bahá, Divine Art of Living, p. 85)

 What can we do in times of tests?

Prayers and supplications at the sacred Threshold:

Prayers and supplications should be offered at the sacred Threshold, so that thou mayest remain firm in tests, and patient in ordeals. (‘Abdul-Bahá, Divine Art of Living, p. 85)

Why do people fail their tests?

Because of a test they don’t pass:

Sometimes, of course, people fail because of a test they just do not meet (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 113)

Because they don’t do the Bahá’í thing:

Generally speaking nine-tenths of the friends’ troubles are because they don’t do the Bahá’í thing, in relation to each other, to the administrative bodies or in their personal lives (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 113)

For more information, you might want to read

The Nature and Challenge of Tests 

Understanding Tests from Other Baha’is 

Tests After Becoming a Bahá’í

 How has this helped you understand the nature of tests and the causes? Post your comments below!