But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold. My feet have closely followed his steps; I have kept to his way without turning aside. I have not departed from the commands of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread. Job 23:10-12 (NLT)
When you think about it, what good are tests? When we were in school, any of our teachers usually had us figured out and could predict our test results with relative accuracy just from observing our study habits (homework assignment efforts) and class participation. So if they already knew how we were going to do, what was the point?
Here's what I have learned: Tests are not for the teacher. They are for the student. Tests show a student…
Progress. How much they've learned and improved so far.
Weakness. Areas they need to improve.
Advancement. Where they're ready to go next.
It's the same way in the school of faith. The tests of life are not for God; they're for us. God doesn't test us to figure us out. He already knows exactly what we'll do. He tests us in order to teach us about ourselves—how and if we're progressing in matters of faith.
I've been totally tested lately. In fact, I don't remember when I've ever had more pressure and stuff thrown at me all at once. In the past few months, I've traveled more than ever, went through a major move, had to give up two of the best pets I've ever owned, and all the while my mom is in late stages of a five-year battle with cancer. In fact, tomorrow I will accompany her to Minnesota where she will have her 5th surgery. I've been stretched beyond my limit, been taken out of my comfort zone, been sick and out of whack in my sleep cycles, AND I have 4 major events coming up in the next few weeks that require intense preparation.
In the past, stuff a fraction of this crazy stressed me out to the max. I worried how I could make it through, fretted over whether God would show up to help me or not. I was irritable, obsessive, overwhelmed, and uptight. In short, I was a real joy to live with.
So how am I doing now? It's definitely been a test. But for once, a really good one. I've been able to see some progress—progress I would not have seen without the test. In all humility and with great encouragement, I see that I'm finally improving in my quest to trust God to help me through all of life's wacky twists and turns. I think I'm really starting to get it.
What's made the difference for me? In Job's passage, we find four practices that will help any of us learn to rest in God through the most difficult of tests, realizing that these tests are the only way to learn certain truths about ourselves and God. In the past few years, I've been learning slowly how to utilize them.
Follow closely in His steps (surrender to His will).
Keep to His way without turning aside (remain faithful).
Don't depart from the commands of His lips (obey His Word).
Treasure the words of His mouth more than our daily bread (treasure Him through His Word and prayer in daily relationship).
Sure, we can't do all these perfectly, but if we make an attempt to really live by these 4 guiding principles on a daily basis, we'll learn things about our Amazing God that will help us pass life's tests. They will teach us that God is bigger than our problems, and that He will be trustworthy to help us through all of life's hairy and impossible circumstances. We will find assurance that God will never abandon us and that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.
Simply put, when the tests come, we will find that God is enough.
What are your tests currently? What is stressing you out, or making you anxious? Live by the 4 principles of The Teacher, and you will find that God is always big enough for you.