As a teacher, it’s important that I assess students. I have to keep them accountable to what they need to learn. There are all sorts of assessment tools out there. There are essays, projects, quizzes, tests, and so on. The purpose of these is for me to discover whether or not the student has learned what they needed to learn. The whole point of testing is to uncover what the student does or doesn’t know.
God tests his people a lot in the Bible. One of the well-known examples is Israel in the desert. In Psalm 81:1 God says, “I tested you at the waters of Meribah.” This is a reference to Exodus 17 which tells the story of when God led the Israelites out of Egypt through the desert. In this case, God was testing Israel to see if they would trust him not only in times of happy deliverance but also in times of difficulty and struggle. In that case, they failed the test. There was a long road ahead of them to become the nation of priests that he was calling them to be.
Another example is Abraham in Genesis. God tests Abraham’s faith by asking him to sacrifice Isaac, his one and only son. When Abraham obeys God’s command, Abraham’s faith is revealed (even though God stops Abraham from sacrificing Isaac at the last second). At the end of the story, God says to Abraham, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me” (Gen. 22:12).
Job is another good example of testing in the Bible. As the story goes, Satan proposes to God that Job is righteous only because God has blessed him. He then suggests to God that he take everything away from Job to reveal the true content of Job’s character. Satan was out to prove that Job was selfish and only saw God as a means to the greater end of his own wellbeing and happiness. God allows the testing of Job, and Job prevails. At the end of the story, Job is not righteous simply because of what God has given him.
But if God is all-knowing, why does he test us? Doesn’t he already know where we are in our faith? Nothing is hidden from God (Hebrews 4:13), so why does he need to discover what’s in our hearts? Wouldn’t it be cruel of God to allow suffering only to reveal something that he already knew?
I think the answer is that God reveals what is inside of us through testing not for _him _to see, but for _us _to see. Often times we think that our faith is solid, but in fact, it’s not. On the other side of that coin, I think often we can think that our faith is weak, when in fact, it’s quite strong. One thing is certain and that is that when we come into times of difficulty, what is inside comes out.
Testing is good for us. Testing makes us stretch. Trials and difficulties help us to grow into the Jesus-shaped versions of ourselves. Romans 5:3–5 says, “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
If you’re going through a time of trial, is it possible that God is preparing you for something greater? Is it possible that he’s strengthening your character for an important role to play in his world-redemption plan?