While all results of bad karma are also surely spiritual tests, my understanding is that the reverse is not necessarily true. When caught in a trying situation, I often wish I knew for sure the root cause. If it was bad karma, then I would be prompted to introspect as to what I did wrong and strive to avoid similar thoughts/actions in the future, as well as to respond correctly in the moment; if not, I would take it simply as a cue to focus on the latter. Any tips on distinguishing?
It is helpful to see karma and spiritual tests as one and the same rather than distinct and separate causes of challenges in our lives. We’ve attracted by previous actions whatever tests or karma we face at any moment in time.
The following are helpful quotes from Swami Kriyananda’s Course in Success and Happiness regarding karma:
"Karmic law, though it functions to a great extent automatically, is also guided by a universal intelligence and love, and can be intelligently manipulated or diverted. Divine grace, or kripa, can be won above all by divine devotion and love."
"The primary purpose of karma is to instruct people, by punishment and reward, in the way of upward evolution. Dharmic, or righteous, action on the one hand, and adharmic, or unrighteous, action on the other, affect present-day success or failure."
The important message to remember is to practice living a dharmic and devotional life to God. Then whatever karmic tests you find yourself in will be opportunities for transcendence as long as you choose the righteous path with deep faith and devotion.
May the Master’s bless you in your spiritualized life,