Times of testing

I hate the thought of being tested.

I spent a morning this week going through a battery of medical tests, and have more to come. My new doctor loves the idea of preventative medicine, which seems to involve his patients utilizing all available diagnostic services, in the good cause of forestalling worse to come in the future. It has nothing to do with my age, of course.

James 1:2-4 tells us pretty clearly that testing is not only from my doctor, but from God. In fact, he says, testing leads on to maturity and the state of lacking nothing.

And there you go. I thought the prosperity gospel had it all figured out that endless financial blessing is what leads to me lacking nothing. Evidently not.

Now admit it - you hate testing as much as me.

But spiritual testing works for the same reason medical testing does. It exposes the state of our well-being.

Does God test us because he likes to do it?

I don’t know whether that ultrasound technician was enjoying having a good look at my right kidney any more than I know whether God enjoys looking at the unsatisfactory state of my heart. Probably not. But it has to be done.

To give one possible brief definition, testing is the process by which God puts us in the pressure cooker to expose the fault lines in our heart. When things are going fine, we look great on the outside no matter what is going on inside. But when the pressure hits, the person within gets exposed. Pressure reveals the person.

That’s what testing is. Here’s what testing does.

It tells me where I am living in self-sufficiency by putting me in difficult situations where my own strength is not enough. Not nearly enough. When my strength runs out, it becomes clear pretty quickly what the state of my relationship with the Lord is.

But in the mercy of God, when we begin to sink and fail that test, instead of condemning us, he comes to our help. When Peter began to sink in the waters of Galilee, Jesus did not walk away from him in disappointment or disgust. He reached out his hand and took hold of him.

In God’s amazing economy of grace, every possible situation of human failure becomes an opportunity to draw closer to him.

Testing may reveal our weakness, but as we acknowledge that weakness and repent of our pride, independence and self-centredness, testing (as James says) draws us into completion, into maturity, into that place where we lack nothing. God pours his abundance into our poverty. We come to the end of our resources in order to come into the beginning of his.

The very place where it is revealed we have nothing and are nothing becomes the place where we lack nothing.

I have to admit God has put me through more testing this year than my doctor has. But my trust is that through it all he is drawing me into the place of his abundant love, grace and provision.

The diagnostic technicians weren’t making judgments on what they saw. They were simply documenting it so something, if necessary, could be done that would draw me into better health.

I guess that’s why James tells us that when testing comes, we are to count it all joy.

No matter what you are going through, never forget that God has a good purpose at the end of it. He has infinite capacity to bring good out of the worst this world and our enemy can throw against us.

And if he uses some of it to test our heart, it’s only so our heart could be healed.

I’m not looking for more testing. But at least I know when it comes, God is only using it for my well-being and, even more importantly, for his glory in my life.