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Thriving through Tests

Once you decide to overcome your anxiety, and ask God for help, you can count on the fact that your tests will increase!  He’s giving you a chance to strengthen your resolve and try out your new skills.  After all, reading about what to do is not the same as putting into practice what you’re learning, and the best way to do this is through tests!

Sorrow not if, in these days and on this earthly plane, things contrary to your wishes have been ordained and manifested by God, for days of blissful joy, of heavenly delight, are assuredly in store for you. Worlds, holy and spiritually glorious, will be unveiled to your eyes. You are destined by Him, in this world and hereafter, to partake of their benefits, to share in their joys, and to obtain a portion of their sustaining grace. To each and every one of them you will, no doubt, attain.  (Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p.328)

I love this quote!  During my dark days, when I was writing to the House for guidance, they sent it to me.  Often when they quote from the Writings, they don’t give a source, so I thought they’d written it just for me!  It was a real test for my ego to find it was written by Bahá’u’lláh for the whole world!

I love it because it contains both an assurance that He understands that life doesn’t go our way; and a promise we can count on, that better days are ahead, both in this world as well as in the world to come, even if we don’t see it right now.  It’s very important to hold on to this promise, because it’s what’s going to get you through.

What you’re going through could be a “dark night of the soul” and daylight will surely follow, just as it does every night.

In the Hidden Words, Bahá’u’lláh tells us:

For everything there is a sign. (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words, 48)

The sign of better days to come is found in nature, as day following night; and spring (hope) and summer (ease) following winter (cold, dark, bleak days of grief).

In the same Hidden Word, He also reminds us of how we demonstrate our love for Him:

The sign of love is fortitude under My decree and patience under My trials.  (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words, 48)

Remind yourself that through this process, you are developing faith, trust, fortitude and patience!  Someday you will need these virtues and thank God you had a chance to develop them so you aren’t handicapped in the next world!

As the child in the womb does not yet know the use of its members, it does not know what its eyes are for, neither its nose, nor ears, nor tongue — so also it is with the soul on earth. It cannot understand here the uses and powers of its spiritual gifts, but directly it enters the eternal kingdom, it will become clearly apparent.  (‘Abdul-Bahá, Bahá’í Prayers 9, p. 48)

‘Abdu’l-Bahá shows how the virtues we are developing now are the seeds necessary for the trees of our lives to grow:

We must strive with energies of heart, soul and mind to develop and manifest the perfections and virtues latent within the realities of the phenomenal world, for the human reality may be compared to a seed. If we sow the seed, a mighty tree appears from it. The virtues of the seed are revealed in the tree; it puts forth branches, leaves, blossoms, and produces fruits. All these virtues were hidden and potential in the seed. Through the blessing and bounty of cultivation these virtues became apparent. Similarly the merciful God our creator has deposited within human realities certain virtues latent and potential. Through education and culture, these virtues deposited by the loving God will become apparent in the human reality even as the unfoldment of the tree from within the germinating seed.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i World Faith, p. 267)

When invited back into your life, God comes slowly and gently and He will work with you again but He’s not going to eliminate your fears.  He’s going to bring you back into the face of your enemy through tests and difficulties, so that you can face them with Him by your side. 

God sends us tests for the perfection of our souls; and to help us achieve our life’s purpose, which is to draw closer to Him.  When we understand this, it’s easier to deal with them.

The House of justice urges you not to let it worry you. All through life Bahá’ís are faced with tests of many kinds, and problems and doubts, but it is through facing and overcoming them that we grow spiritually.  (The Universal House of Justice, 1982 Jan 03, Teaching vs. Proselytizing)

It’s important that we understand the purpose of tests and to know that God has sent them to us for the perfection of our souls.

You are encouraged to continue to keep in mind the spiritual dimension of your struggles. We are assured by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in the following words:  “The more difficulties one sees in the world the more perfect one becomes. The more you plough and dig the ground the more fertile it becomes. The more you cut the branches of a tree the higher and stronger it grows. The more you put the gold in the fire the purer it becomes. The more you sharpen the steel by grinding the better it cuts. Therefore, the more sorrows one sees the more perfect one be­comes. That is why, in all times, the Prophets of God have had tribula­tions and difficulties to withstand. The more often the captain of a ship is in the tempest and difficult sailing the greater his knowledge be­comes. Therefore I am happy that you have had great tribulations and difficulties… Strange it is that I love you and still I am happy that you have sorrows.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Star of the West, Vol. XIV, No. 2, p. 41)

It’s easy to say we believe, but much harder to prove it to God and to ourselves:

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)

Whenever we pray for a particular quality or virtue, we can be sure that God will send us unique tests to help develop that quality.  For example, perhaps you’d like to overcome anxiety.  God will give you lots of fearful situations so that you can apply what you are learning.  To a soul who doesn’t understand, we might think that He’s not answering our prayer, because our anxiety seems to be increasing and not decreasing.  It’s just God giving us lots of opportunities to practice.

Even as He hath revealed: ‘Do men think when they say “We believe” they shall be let alone and not be put to proof?’  (Bahá’u’lláh, Kitáb-i-Íqán, pp. 8-9)

Only when we face our fears can we get freed from them.

The more often the captain of a ship is in the tempest and difficult sailing the greater his knowledge be­comes. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Star of the West, Vol. XIV, No. 2, p. 41)

Here’s a story to illustrate how God throws us overboard to teach us to rely on Him:

A king was sailing in a ship with his Persian slave. The slave had never been on the sea before; he began to weep and cry out and to shudder with fear, and however much they sought to quiet him he would not be still. The king’s excursion was in a fair way to be spoiled and none knew what to do. Then a wise man who was on the ship said to the king, ‘If thou wish, I shall quiet him.’ The king answered, ‘Truly this were a gracious deed.’  The wise man bade them throw the slave into the sea. After he had choked down some water they seized him by the hair and drew him toward the ship. He clung to the ship with both hands, and once out of the water he sat in a corner and was still. The king was astonished, and asked, ‘What wisdom lay in this?’ The wise man answered: ‘The slave did not know what it is to drown, and thus he did not value the safety of the ship. Even so doth a man value security who hath known calamity.  (Marzieh Gail, Dawn Over Mount Hira, p. 9)

So what will get us through our tests?

Trust God and the process:

Whatever hath befallen you, hath been for the sake of God. This is the truth, and in this there is no doubt. You should, therefore, leave all your affairs in His Hands, place your trust in Him, and rely upon Him. He will assuredly not forsake you. In this, likewise, there is no doubt. No father will surrender his sons to devouring beasts; no shepherd will leave his flock to ravening wolves. He will most certainly do his utmost to protect his own. If, however, for a few days, in compliance with God’s all-encompassing wisdom, outward affairs should run their course contrary to one’s cherished desire, this is of no consequence and should not matter.  (Baha’u’llah, Fire and Light, p. 10)

Be patient and composed, trusting in God’s grace:

When calamity striketh, be ye patient and composed. However afflictive your sufferings may be, stay ye undisturbed, and with perfect confidence in the abounding grace of God, brave ye the tempest of tribulations and fiery ordeals.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 73)

Grin and bear it is God’s advice to Bahá’u’lláh in the Fire Tablet! 

Thou wert created to bear and endure, O Patience of the worlds.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Baha’i Prayers, p. 218)

Turn towards God and cling to the Writings:

Our intent is that all the friends should fix their gaze on the Supreme Horizon, and cling to that which hath been revealed in the Tablets.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Fire and Light, p. 10)

Understand that it’s not forever and we will emerge more spiritual and closer to God.

The troubles of this world pass, and what we have left is what we have made of our souls; so it is to this we must look—to becoming more spiritual, drawing nearer to God, no matter what our human minds and bodies go through.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 297)

I’d like to conclude with this quote which is full of advice:

Naturally there will be periods of distress and difficulty, and even severe tests; but if the person turns firmly towards the Divine Manifestation, studies carefully His spiritual teachings and receives the blessings of the Holy Spirit, he will find that in reality these tests and difficulties have been the gifts of God to enable him to grow and develop. Thus you might look upon your own difficulties in the path of service. They are the means of your spirit growing and developing. You will suddenly find that you have conquered many of the prob­lems which upset you, and then you will wonder why they should have troubled you at all. (Shoghi Effendi, Living the Life, p. 35-36.)

Tests After Becoming a Bahá’í

Yes, it’s true that since becoming a Bahá’í the tests have been one intense test after another.  Bahá’u’lláh tells us this is what happens:

Even as He hath revealed: ‘Do men think when they say “We believe” they shall be let alone and not be put to proof?’  (Bahá’u’lláh, Kitáb-i-Íqán, pp. 8-9)

Shoghi Effendi tells us:

And yet, . . . it is the lot of the chosen ones of God, the people of Baha, to face adversity and suffer tribulation before achieving ultimate victory . . . (Shoghi Effendi, Baha’i Administration, p. 60)

He understands how hard it is to bear our tests:

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)

He shows us there are two kinds of Bahá’ís – those who are tested and those who aren’t.  The Cause rests on those who are!

There is always an important difference between friends and tested friends. No matter how precious the first type may be, the future of the Cause rests upon the latter.    (Shoghi Effendi, The Light of Divine Guidance, vol. 1, p. 34-35)

The world needs you to pass these tests!

God understands how hard it is:

It is often difficult for us to do things because they are so very different from what we are used to, not because the thing itself is particularly difficult. With you, and indeed most Bahá’ís, who are now, as adults, accepting this glorious Faith, no doubt some of the ordinances, like fasting and daily prayer, are hard to understand and obey at first. But we must always think that these things are given to all men for a thousand years to come. For Bahá’í children who see these things practiced in the home, they will be as natural and necessary a thing as going to church on Sunday was to the more pious generation of Christians. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights Of Guidance, p. 343)

It is not easy for people to learn the Bahá’í way, to overcome their inherited prejudices or to resist their personal temptations. This way takes time, is subject to checks and backsliding, but one can see, looking at the past 138 years, that there is an overall advance that is astonishing in the light of the obstacles to be overcome, and is accelerating with every passing decade.  (The Universal House of Justice, Messages 1963 to 1986, p. 516)

This is what happens when you don’t:

When an individual reaches a point where he recognizes Bahá’u’lláh as a Manifestation of God, his heart becomes the recipient of the light of God’s Faith for this day. If the believer immerses himself from the start in the ocean of Bahá’u’lláh’s Revelation, reads His writings daily not merely in order to add to his own knowledge but to receive the food of the spirit, seeks the companionship of the righteous, and arises to serve Him with sincerity and detachment, then he may steadily grow in faith and become a radiant and enthusiastic soul. He may obtain a deeper understanding of the writings and reach a point where both his mind and his heart work together in harmony. Such a believer will eventually find no conflict between the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh and his own thinking. He will discover many a wisdom hidden in the utterances of Bahá’u’lláh and will recognize the limitations and shortcomings of his own finite mind.  But if a believer, after having recognized Bahá’u’lláh, fails to follow this path, he may soon find himself in conflict with many aspects of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh. His intellect may not be able to understand the wisdom behind many of His Teachings, he may indeed reject some of His precepts and eventually lose faith altogether. Some people struggle for years to overcome this problem, for they long to be confirmed in their faith. Often such an individual may be helped to acquire a true understanding of the Faith by those who truly believe in Bahá’u’lláh and are detached from this world.  (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha’u’llah v 2, p. 217)

The House of Justice tells us:

The souls who bear the tests of God become the manifestations of great bounties: for the divine trials cause some souls to become entirely lifeless, while they cause the holy souls to ascent to the highest degree of love and solidity.  (The Universal House of Justice, 1985 Dec 02, Child Abuse, Psychology and Knowledge of Self)

Don’t become one of the lifeless!  The world needs you!

In the end, it all boils down to one thing:  trust in God!

No matter what happens, nothing is as important as our feeling of trust in God, our inner peacefulness and faith that all, in the end, in spite of the severity of the ordeals we may pass through will come out as Bahá’u’lláh has promised.   (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 237)

Hope this helps you to understand the tests you’re having in a new light!

For More in this Series:

What is Fear? 

What are we Afraid Of?

Reactions to Fear 

Fight, Flight or Freeze

Doubt and Fear  

What is the Purpose of Fear?

What about the Fear of God? 

What Makes us Susceptible to Fear?

Understanding the Link Between Fear and Sin 

Overcoming Fear – Introduction 

Overcoming Fear By Turning to God

Overcoming Fear with Prayer

Overcoming Fear By Reading the Writings

Overcoming Fear By Focusing on the Virtues 

Overcoming Fear Through Love

Overcoming Fear with Faith

Overcoming Fear with Patience

Overcoming Fear through Courage

Overcoming Fear through Teaching and Service

Overcoming Fear By Changing your Thoughts

Overcoming Fear through Forgiveness

Overcoming Fear through Using Role Models

What Can Others Do, To Help Those Who Are Afraid?

 Prayers to Eliminate Fear

 

What has been your experience with tests since you became a Bahá’í?  What helped you overcome them?  Post your comments here: