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We’ve all heard the platitudes about being friendly, kind, considerate and even happy—but maintaining these qualities in the face of severe tests presented by the myriad temptations in our modern world is a challenge.
Unless we are aware of them, we find ourselves enmeshed in trials and tests of our own or other’s making sooner than we can shout “Oh No!” We often become lost and perhaps succumb to the worst in the animal side of our nature unless we have strength of character and the inner resolve to do our best despite the test. The Baha’i teachings clearly tell us that the material world will test our resolve:
“Busy not thyself with this world,” to me, means being so enmeshed in material, physical realities, to the exclusion of God-given and inner realities of the spirit, that we do not see a clear path to avoid tests or a way out once embroiled in them.
The way I see it, we are the cold iron rod thrust into the fire, while God, the Supreme Blacksmith like the Roman god Vulcan, hammers us on the anvil again and again, shaping us and turning us in that crucible of red-hot coals until we are molded by His unerring guidance into the perfect instrument to carry out His will and purpose in this life.
Advice from all the world’s scriptures adjure us to put our full faith and confidence in God’s almighty abilities and powers, to carry us through our difficulties with assurance after assurance given that these trials are heaven-sent. They not only protect us from the worst that can happen, but usually save us from our own deficient understanding of how God’s healing power will, in fact and in deed, make us stronger.
The Baha’i writings state very clearly that our individual capacity to overcome tests, and to grow strong and tall under their onslaught, is a function of how we were each created. Our souls have a set capacity, each of us capable of education and training in the ways of existence and of God.
However, the size of our individual capacity is immaterial. No matter the size, we feel fulfilled when we reach the limits of that capacity. This is the apex of human achievement and accomplishment, enabling us to accomplish even more incredible, almost miraculous feats while endeavoring to fill our own potential.
So tests—once we understand that their purpose is to grow and develop our powers, not deflect them—become a Godsend to seekers of the truth, life, and love for all humankind.
O Thou Whose tests are a healing medicine to such as are nigh unto Thee, Whose sword is the ardent desire of all them that love Thee, Whose dart is the dearest wish of those hearts that yearn after Thee, Whose decree is the sole hope of them that have recognized Thy truth! I implore Thee, by Thy divine sweetness and by the splendors of the glory of Thy face, to send down upon us from Thy retreats on high that which will enable us to draw nigh unto Thee. – Baha’u’llah, Prayers and Meditations of Baha’u’llah, pp. 220-221.
This is the heart of the matter: Seeing the glory of God’s face in every human being will most definitely ease our tests and difficulties. For God created everyone and everything to help us fulfill our capacities.
Simplicity, patience, compassion.
These three are your greatest treasures.
Simple in actions and thoughts, you return to the source of being.
Patient with both friends and enemies,
you accord with the way things are.
Compassionate toward yourself,
you reconcile all beings in the world.
― Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching,
In the same way, the Baha’i teachings exhort everyone to:
Be generous in prosperity, and thankful in adversity. Be worthy of the trust of thy neighbor, and look upon him with a bright and friendly face. Be a treasure to the poor, an admonisher to the rich, an answerer of the cry of the needy, a preserver of the sanctity of thy pledge. Be fair in thy judgment, and guarded in thy speech. Be unjust to no man, and show all meekness to all men. Be as a lamp unto them that walk in darkness, a joy to the sorrowful, a sea for the thirsty, a haven for the distressed, an upholder and defender of the victim of oppression… – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 285.
This prescription, the divine individual remedy concocted for each one of us by an unerring Physician, asks us to overcome our tests by loving our neighbors, parents, children, siblings, co-workers and strangers, all the world over.