Life can throw some slippery curveballs at you when you least expect it.
They often seem to come one after another: job loss, illness, broken relationships, money trouble…
Where’s it all coming from?
You may find yourself asking:
Is this some kind of test or trial?…
Does the universe test you?
From ancient religions to modern spirituality, great teachers and traditions have always taught that the universe tests us to see what we’re made of.
Call it God, destiny, karma, or the universe: there is a force that is testing you for two main reasons.
The first reason is to see what you’re made of and how hard you’re willing to fight for yourself and those you love in both a literal and spiritual sense.
The second reason is that the universe is shaping you into a stronger, more aware and compassionate person through the tests and trials it gives you.
7 surprising ways the universe tests you
1) Everything suddenly gets turned upside down
Many New Age practitioners like to talk about the universe as if it’s just a giant cuddle session.
And let me be clear: the universe is on the side of your growth and evolution as a human being.
But the way that it tests you is not always pleasant.
One of the most surprising ways the universe tests you is by throwing a wrench in your plans just when everything seems to be going right.
You’re working hard, making good choices and making progress when suddenly wham! it all comes to a crashing halt.
What the hell is going on?
In many cases, the universe is simply steering you in a new direction that will allow you to reach more of your potential and destiny in this life.
“There are times when you’re going about your life, everything seems to be in order, and all of a sudden, something changes.
“This change may seem random at first, but it might actually be the universe testing you,” observes Julie Collins.
“When the universe sends you these signs, it’s trying to see how you handle unexpected events or situations. It may be testing if you’ll remain calm in this new situation or if you’ll revert to your old ways.”
2) Your ability to cling to fake versions of yourself is gone
Another of the most surprising ways the universe tests you is by stripping off your masks.
In a day and age when wearing a mask has become so literally commonplace, it can be confronting to have your outer layers ripped away.
But the universe will present you with people, situations and crises that don’t allow you to hide any longer.
It will remove all the comfortable layers you usually use to dull the pain and create a comfortable outer image of yourself for others.
There will be certain challenges and opportunities that come up where the universe will demand that you be who you are whether you like it or not.
You’ll find yourself backed into a corner and unable to do anything anymore except utter the cry about the truth of who you are and where you’ve been.
As Conor Oberst sings for Bright Eyes in their song “Trees Get Wheeled Away:”
“So imagine what you want,
And then hold on to that thought…
‘Cause that’s as close as it will ever come.
And believe you’re where you are,
Keep acting out the part…
But at the end of the day,
The trees all get wheeled away.”
3) By giving you an opportunity disguised as a setback
Many of us exist in a fairly binary mindset. Life is either “good” or “bad.”
Things which make us unhappy or disappointed are shitty, and things which make us happy and excited are great.
It seems simple, right?
The reality is that until we look back in retrospect it’s very hard to categorize certain experiences as definitely negative or positive.
Furthermore, even very bad experiences can strengthen us in ways nothing else can
As mindset coach Efia Sulter writes:
“It’s not about *getting it right*, but instead about making moves in the direction you, personally, want to go.
“None of which will have horrific life-ruining consequences by the way, despite the fact the stories in your head may be trying to convince you otherwise.
“Building your confidence is key here.”
4) By pushing you to heal and process ancestral trauma
Ancestral trauma is real and it’s very intense. It’s the unhealed grief, rage, alienation and suffering of your forebears.
Sometimes it’s even physical pain you can feel in your body as you begin moving through those experiences and struggles which they themselves were never able to move past.
Sometimes ancestral trauma can be more direct as well, being the frustrations, complexes and hangups of our parents passed on to us.
It sure as hell ain’t fair, but it is what it is…
“We can also take on board traumas or fears from our parents without consciously realising it,” writes One Grounded Angel.
“And sometimes those traumas have happened in past lives, which means an energy healer or past-life regression therapist is required.”
The good news is that processing through ancestral trauma will make you grow as a person in ways that you never expected and will deepen your empathy enormously.
5) Reopening old wounds in a different way
One of the hardest and most surprising ways that the universe tests us is by reopening old wounds.
This could be abusive or troubling experiences from childhood, injustices which you experienced coming back up and impacting your life and much more…
The difference is that when the universe reopens old wounds it feels different this time.
You’re looking at them with more consciousness and ability.
“It is an opportunity to clearly see those old wounds, heal them, and then consciously make the choice to move forward in a way that is aligned with your deepest desires,” writes energy healer Christie Inge.
Of course it can be a lot harder than it sounds, and sometimes you need to really just submit to the process of letting go of the blame you have for yourself and what you’ve gone through.
6) Bringing down your social life
If the universe wants to help you, it will broaden your social connections, work networking and love life, right?
Well, not exactly…
Sometimes the universe tests you and refines your intentions by narrowing your social circle and bringing down your social life.
The main way this usually happens is by you beginning to see the judgmental and less than optimal side of others, including folks you may have been friends with for years.
You’ll look at them and suddenly realize there’s a distance between you that you never noticed before.
You may feel the sting of their judgments, but instead of cowering and hiding yourself, you express yourself even more fully and unapologetically.
“Judgment from others can be a test from the Universe to strengthen your confidence and self-esteem.
“So your lesson here is to become unapologetic about your desires and rise to your greatness.
“Trust that your confidence and positive vibrations are enough to repel any judgment that’s coming your way.”
7) Offering you opportunities to give more and take less
Many of us, particularly in Western culture, grow up from an early age looking to better ourselves and get ahead in life.
Honestly, there’s nothing wrong with personal success and a hard work ethic, but it can go too far.
In the process of seeking our own fulfillment, we can often lose sight of the absolute necessity of community and giving back to those around us.
The simple fact is that we all need each other: not only materially, but also socially and emotionally.
When the universe wants to test you, it will often take away what seemed like great benefits and achievements you had and set you back to square one.
This “square one” is often a place where you don’t have as much status, but you have a lot more time and opportunity to give back to others instead of only doing what’s best for you…
“The universe doesn’t discriminate, it doesn’t favor one person over the other but it cares about your heart, it cares about your soul, it cares about your intentions and it cares about what you really want to do with your wishes.
“It cares about what you want to give back more than what you want to receive. It cares about how you plan to thank it instead of taking it for granted.”
3 sad ways the universe tests you
1) Giving you disappointment despite you doing your best and the right thing
Sometimes the tests of the universe just plain suck.
One of the hardest to deal with is when you do everything right and live up to your highest ideals but you still seem to always get served a shit sandwich in return.
It can be hard not to take it personally.
In many cases it’s not even a rejection, a failure, an injury, or a setback: it’s the lack of…well…anything.
You work and work, change and progress and look back only to see that apart from your own evolution you’re more or less right where you were 10 years ago.
I’m not going to be a smartass and say don’t worry about it. It’s painful to feel you’re not making progress.
But if failures or indifference are all that seem to be greeting your good faith efforts, you need to stick with it. Whether you know it or not you are making progress and your journey is worthwhile.
As Dave says at Heart Space, “the universe really does reward faith.”
2) Making you let go of what you love
This one hurts. You do what you should and try your best and then the universe, or God, or something, snatches away exactly what you wanted most…
Your girlfriend or spouse, your job, your physical wellbeing, your new financial security…
You feel like a clown who’s having a giant joke played on them but it’s not funny at all, and you’re not getting paid by any grateful dad at a kid’s birthday.
You’re just getting served.
But sometimes you just have to grin and bear it.
As Abundance No Limits writes:
“This ‘something’ you have to relinquish can be anything from friends, jobs, and money to more abstract entities like power, time, and purpose.
“Maybe this is a test run.
“Or the real thing.
“The Universe may be testing your willingness to let go of things that mean everything to you. Or maybe you don’t actually need them at all.”
3) Giving you what you think you want
This can be a really sad experience that the universe uses to test you.
Instead of frustrating your desires or freezing you out, it gives you everything you think you want.
VIP doors open for you, people love you, romantic partners flock to your side, your peers respect and admire you…
And then you turn around and realize that none of what you think you wanted actually completed you.
Meditation teacher Eckhart Tolle calls it egoic thinking: the idea that any amount of outer accomplishments and things can fulfill us.
They can’t. Sometimes the universe will test us just to demonstrate this.
3 hilarious ways the universe tests you
1) Bringing people into your life who overturn all your preconceptions
Whatever your background or core values, one of the most surprising and potentially funny experiences you can have is to have your world turned upside down by a hilarious stranger.
Suddenly somebody comes along who challenges the whole way you see the world in the most amusing and original ways that you can’t help but admit they have a point.
It’s not whether you even agree with them or not, it’s just that your paradigm shifts.
What’s going on here, is that the universe is testing your ability not to take yourself too seriously and to realize that there are many other perspectives and life experiences out there than just yours…
2) Showing you yourself through other people
Another of the funny – and sometimes upsetting – ways the universe tests you is by showing you yourself through others.
I’m not so much talking about people who make your life unhappy, as people who bring up emotional and other challenges that you wish you had moved past.
You may also see aspects of yourself in them if you’re frankly honest and think about it.
“When we attract challenges and hard lessons to learn on our journey it is overwhelmingly because our energy is in alignment with it,” writes New Age blogger Cassady Cayne.
“Often it’s due to core negative beliefs, but it can also be due to unhealed karmic wounds buried deeply in our energy field that keep emitting energies of trauma out into the universe.”
Whether or not this is true, and I do have my skepticism about the Law of Attraction, I will say that the way we look at the world has a big impact on what we see.
3) Making you laugh your way through the pain
Some of the hardest experiences in life only get better with laughter. Not necessarily laughing at the tragedy, loss and confusion, but laughing i spite of it…
Laughing at this mad experiment of life and the intense wild universe we’re all part of.
Laughing at our own growth and setbacks and unrealized potential and how it’s all worth it in the end…
Laughing at all the pitfalls along the way…
Laughing at our own patterns and how we keep repeating them.
Laughing at the chaos itself.
As the shaman Rudá Iandê writes in his book Laughing in the Face of Chaos, many of us take life far too seriously. His book is for:
“Those who dare to laugh in the face of this chaotic world which wants to sell us illusions of greatness, only to turn us into nothing.”
How to pass the test
So, if the universe is testing you, then you’re probably asking yourself how to pass the test.
The truth is that if you’re reading this article you’re already passing the test.
You haven’t given up, and you’re trying to understand the fortunes and disappointments of life. That’s the human struggle, and if you’re still in the ring then you’re already winning.
Survival is victory.
If you have made it this far you will make it farther.
Think about it:
The universe has brought you to many impasses in the past that you never thought you’d cross. Then you did. And you emerged on the other side as a stronger, healthier, surer person.
Whatever you think about the invisible hand that was guiding and comforting you, rest assured that it was there.
As the Killer sing in their 2012 song “Heart of a Girl”:
“Deep in the night, I feel the presence
Of something that was long ago told to me
There is a hand, guiding the river
The river to wide open sea…”
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