Have you ever felt a sense of divine intervention at work in your life?

The Baha’i teachings assure us that whatever assistance we need is available in our personal lives if we but ask for it:

God is merciful. In His mercy He answers the prayers of all His servants when according to His supreme wisdom it is necessary. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 247.

Of course, what God as divine physician deems an appropriate response to our behests may not always accord with our present desires or personal estimation of what would be propitious for our growth and development.

That means we cannot always predict when or how God will intervene in our lives, or in what way He will respond to our entreaties. We know only that intervention will occur if we earnestly seek it, if it is beneficial for us, and if we develop the perception to recognize it when it occurs—and that’s a big “if”! For how do we know when something occurs following our supplication whether or not it is divine intercession or simply some random event?

The answer: in this life, we can never know for certain. Consequently, our best course of action is always to assume that what occurs is meant to teach us something about ourselves. If we strive to discern what that lesson is, we will inevitably discover a lesson there, because all of our experiences during our physical existence are endowed with the power to educate us spiritually.

This observation brings us to a second axiom about the question of why God does not prevent our negative experience. More often than not the events we perceive to be negative have an immense capacity to educate us. Such tests are part and parcel of the whole metaphorical scheme in which we are spirituality transformed by our physical experience. To understand the merits or rewards of such negative experiences, we can return to our earlier analogy of the athlete.

To an athlete, stress, even stress to the point of pain, is not perceived as negative. The intelligent athlete is aware of the objective of training and knowledgeable about how the seemingly negative experience of daily stress will in the long run gradually increase strength and power. The athlete perceives the “end” in the “beginning.” As a result, the well-trained athlete comes to view training as exhilarating, beneficial, and often even enjoyable.

For our own education in the metaphorical classroom of physical reality, all testing and suffering is similarly crucial. The Baha’i writings are replete with discussions affirming this principle:

Tests are benefits from God, for which we should thank Him. Grief and sorrow do not come to us by chance, they are sent to us by the Divine Mercy for our own perfecting. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 50.

The mind and spirit of man advance when he is tried by suffering. The more the ground is ploughed the better the seed will grow, the better the harvest will be. – Ibid., p. 178.

As to tests, these are inevitable. Hast thou not heard and read how there appeared trials from God in the days of Jesus, and thereafter, and how the winds of tests became severe? Even the glorious Peter was not relieved from the claws of trials. He wavered, then he repented and mourned the mourning of a bereaved one … – Abdu’l-Baha, quoted in The Divine Art of Living, pp. 86-87.

The teachings of Baha’u’llah thus respond to the questions raised by both sorts of negative experience and thereby resolve the dilemmas presented in the Book of Job and in The Consolation of Philosophy. As an integral part of the metaphorical acting out of virtue, testing assays the degree to which we have truly understood and habituated spiritual attributes: “Were it not for tests, pure gold could not be distinguished from the impure.” – Ibid., p. 87.

Doubtless it is for this reason that “the tests and trials of God take place in this world, not in the world of the Kingdom.” Yet, even though we are assured that through suffering we “will attain to an eternal happiness” and that “soon (God) thy Lord will bestow upon thee that which shall satisfy thee,” we are also told that our refusal to recognize our weaknesses ensures that we will be subjected to the same test recurring with ever greater severity until we learn how to respond appropriately:

Tests are a means by which a soul is measured as to its fitness, and proven out by its own acts. God knows its fitness beforehand, and also its unpreparedness, but man, with an ego, would not believe himself unfit unless proof were given him. Consequently his susceptibility to evil is proven to him when he falls into the tests, and the tests are continued until the soul realizes its own unfitness, then remorse and regret tend to root out the weakness.

The same test comes again in greater degree, until it is shown that a former weakness has become a strength, and the power to overcome evil has been established. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Baha’i World, Volume 18, p. 950.

The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of BahaiTeachings.org or any institution of the Baha’i Faith.

4 Comments

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  • Saniata M. Darapiza
    Mar 27, 2018
    Thank you for this inspiring and enlightening article, Dr. Hatcher.👏🙏🏽
    • John Hatcher
      Mar 28, 2018
      I am pleased it proved helpful.
  • David Petrie
    Mar 27, 2018
    Wonderful article, and greatly needed at this time. Thank you!
    • John Hatcher
      Mar 28, 2018
      I agree with you completely. Knowing that it all ends well does not, by itself, ameliorate the patience and endurance required to see it through to that end.