A very common concern that plagues many students is test anxiety. Whether their minds go blank, they hyperventilate, or they make themselves physically ill, their reactions to taking tests are usually pretty extreme. They often tell me that they can’t wait to get out of school so they will not have to take any more tests. Apparently, they have not read the Bible.
Over and over again, the Bible talks about God testing people. There are many instances in the Old Testament where it is used as a warning to remind people to remain faithful. In the New Testament, the writers used it to talk about trials they were going through, or even in discussing tests that others in their narratives were facing.
God testing us is something that has always troubled me. I have always had so many questions about it, and the Bible seems to be all over the place as far as how, when, and why God tests His people. As I have continued to read and pray about this, I have come up with some conclusions that I would like to share.
First of all, I have found that scripture often interchanges the words “test” and “tempt.” So much so that many people interpret them to mean the same thing. In fact, I have heard Christians refer to a temptation to sin as a test from God. That has never felt right to me.
If God is tempting someone to sin, then that means He is pushing you toward sin. That seems impossible. That is against His nature and does not mesh with His character revealed to us through the Bible. God hates sin and loves us so much that He would never tempt us to sin. So if you are struggling with a sin, you are safe to assume that God is not putting you in that situation for any reason.
When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone. (James 1:13 NIV)
So if God does test us, and it is not to see how well we fight temptation, why would He do it? Maybe He is testing our faith to see how much we trust Him. Perhaps He is testing our dedication to see how obedient we will be. Or He could be checking our spiritual maturity to see how much responsibility we are ready for.
Yet, there is one major problem with all of those things. God already knows how faithful we will be, how dedicated we are, and how ready we are to take on more responsibility. (Note: How ready we are for anything never really matters, since most of the good fruit we produce comes through us and not from us.) So does it make any sense for Him to test us so He can learn something about us? No way. Not even a little bit.
So here is my ultimate conclusion: God tests us so that we can accurately assess our relationship with Him.
Sure, it is easy for me to say that God and I are on good terms when my fridge is flowing with milk and honey and I’m kickin’ it with my homies on my bass boat. I am usually feeling good about my relationship with Him when He is blessing me and I am really doing my best to serve as I am called.
But when I am tested, when God puts a decision in front of me that requires me to take a blind step of faith, I find out how faithful I really am. When I am called to obedience in a way that makes me really uncomfortable, my level of dedication will become very clear. When I experience a spiritual battle I don’t think I am ready for, my actions will show who I really trust and rely on.
God tests us to make us aware of where we stand spiritually. If we see a weakness, we know that we need to spend more time on that area. If we completely fail, we learn many lessons about being prepared and we usually find out that we have been soaking in the wrong stuff. His tests show us who we really are when we take off our swagger masks.
But what if we pass the test? If we are tested by God and we are faithful and obedient enough to follow Him no matter what, that probably means that we were so focused on Him that we did not even know there was a test. To me, that is the goal. While I should be ready for any trial or test that may come my way, I pray that I will be too focused on God to even notice.
How has God tested you lately?