People often talk about the strength that comes through spiritual tests. But the questions I have are: Who exactly is administering these tests? Who will be grading my test paper? And, what happens if I flunk!
From my own experiences, I feel that I draw these learning experiences to me from the magnetism of my past thoughts and actions. I think that I also grade my own tests through my intuition, and my grade is my level of joy and expansiveness in my closeness to God.
Every night I have a chance to introspect, to assess my daily activities, to be an outside observer of my own actions. I might like to think that I am kind, cheerful, willing, and expansive, but after careful observation I might find that this is not as true as I would hope. I need to ask myself regularly if am I experiencing more love, joy, and closeness to God.
If we don’t look carefully at our day-to-day activities, we may wonder why we are manifesting a life we seemingly don’t deserve. We have heard the saying, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” In my case, I’ve always been able to trace my failures or successes back to my own behavior.
During Ananda’s Sunday Service we celebrate the Festival of Light, which includes the story of the little bird who is afraid to fly in the darkness. Then, guidance comes: look to the source of all power within. When we encounter difficult tests or opportunities, we are forced to look within to find that inner strength. We discover what has always been inside of us. We go beyond the seemingly little self and begin to remember our divine nature. Yoga is the art of remembering, or Self-realization.
In my early years at Ananda I experienced a particularly difficult test that wasn’t going well. I expected to gain sympathy from my spiritual friends. Instead, they congratulated me for the difficult situation I was immersed in. I asked my closest adviser, “Why are they all congratulating me? Don’t people see how difficult this is for me?” I will always remember the answer I received: “God would never have given you this test if He thought you couldn’t handle it.”
It is good not to be reactive when encountering a difficult test, but instead to become inwardly quiet and introspective. A good meditation practice helps you do this. If we can lift the consciousness to a level of higher awareness, we often can see the solution instead of only the problem. If we let go of expectations and desires and try to find a dharmic solution where all people involved benefit, we have better results. If we see tests as opportunities for inner growth, we will see them for the blessings that they are—a means to grow closer to God.