The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the Lord tests hearts.
~ Proverbs 17:3 ESV
My children have taught me a great deal about parenting. For instance: when I was a starry-eyed parent-to-be I said things like, “I’ll never yell at my children. I’ll never say, ‘because I said so.’ My child will never do that.”
Are you chuckling yet? I certainly am.
My children have been great instructors in humility. I have been tested repeatedly. Sometimes I fail. Being a parent has provided insight into how our Heavenly Father looks at us. To Him, we are like growing children—lovable, learning and fallible. He extends us grace when we fail and trains us that we might be better equipped for the challenges ahead.
About 6 weeks ago, my child had to write a short blurb for school about what she’d do if she were president. (I had no idea that she had socialist tendencies…)
I chuckled to myself when I read the line: “there would be no tests.” In many ways, I can’t blame her for hating tests—the schools make them take heaps more tests these days than I ever took at her age!
Testing is an excellent way of gauging comprehension and retention. As much as I hate giving and taking tests, they are necessary and not a “necessary evil.”
When God tests me, I don’t often recognize it as such. Mostly, I wonder why such-and-such is happening to me instead of looking at it as a growth opportunity. I ask “why”; I long for it to end; I wonder what I did to deserve it. When I think this way, I am looking at the situation like my 8-year old: “if I were in charge…there wouldn’t be any tests!”
God, being the loving, omniscient Father that He is, longs for us to have luxurious spiritual blessings, not cheap dollar-store gifts. Becoming like Him and desiring the greater, more heavenly gifts requires testing—can we handle the gifts he wants to give us?
My 6-year old wants to have a jeep when she turns 16, so we have a 401-daddy plan: for every dollar she saves, we’ll match her dollar. She has to commit to putting a minimum of $2 per week into the fund if she wants to meet her goal within the next 10 years. You know what? She’s been doing it! She’s also found ways to earn extra money. Who do you think will be getting more advanced testing in money matters? This little one who already has an aptitude for it! Her older sister gets commission and it burns a hole in her pocket. Her tests are more basic—can you divide your money properly? Can you refrain from touching your gifts envelope when you want something? Can you keep yourself from dipping into your savings? Are you willing to work a little harder?My 6-year-old already tested out of that and is on to bigger things. It doesn’t make one child better than the other—they simply have different skill sets. It’s my job to hone those skills and improve the ones they struggle with.
In the same way, God tests and trains us. He does not tempt us—there’s a big difference. Satan tempts us so that we will fall deeper into his clutches. God tests us to lead us on to greater things.
People used to say this often: “Don’t pray for patience. God will make sure you get all the practice you need.” There is a certain degree of truth to that statement. I’ve prayed for patience and then 5 minutes later had to deal with behavior from my children that demanded “the patience of Job!”
God does not foist attitudes upon us; we have to learn them. When we request things like patience, contentment, or self-control, He will help us by providing opportunities to learn. If we work with God, we’ll learn faster. If we resist, we have to constantly be retested.
I’ll say it one more time: testing and tempting are not the same. Satan tempts with the intent to destroy. God tests with the intent to refine.
Are you taking a test right now? I’ve got some great news for you: God allows us to take open-book tests! If you don’t know what He expects from you, use His Word as a reference. If you aren’t sure of the answer, you can raise your hand in prayer.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
~ James 1:2-4 ESV