No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it.
1 Corinthians 10.13
Life, physical and spiritual, is full of tests. We may not like it, but there’s really no getting around it. We are tested, and if we pass we grow. Sometimes we grow even more when we fail.
I once drove a car right off a cliff in a snowstorm. I was with two friends, and I cussed myself blue in the face all the way down the hill. I was so ashamed. I failed the test. I was shamed not only by the profanity, but also by my lack of self-control. I hadn’t meant to swear; the words just gushed out of me.
A few weeks later I got a re-test. I slipped while rock climbing with a friend. I was sliding out of control down a sharp slope, with a steep drop off at the end that certainly would have killed me. The whole way down I thought only one thing: please don’t let me swear again I grabbed hold of a branch, and passed the test.
This happens to me all the time. I’m good at failing first.
Two weeks ago someone came to our church and criticized us heavily in the lobby after the service. I became so angry that I screamed at them in front of everyone.
I quickly found my friend Tom, explaining what had happened. I wanted to confess right away to someone I knew loved me and believed in my development. Tom was good to me, talked me down, and helped me profess my failure.
But then our critic came back for round two, only an hour or so after our first encounter. This time I was ready. No anger. No screaming. I even felt strong enough to ask for his forgiveness.
Life works through testing. We are tested in our spending, our desires, our motivations. We need these tests, if for no other reason than to track our development. We need to be able to see how we’re growing and progressing, to find evidence of the Spirit’s work inside us. We need to know that what previously would have been a problem for us we can now overcome by the grace of God and the power of His Spirit.
Once you have gone through some hard things, you are better prepared to go through more. Your competencies grow. Your confidence in Christ swells. Once you make it through one contentious thanksgiving dinner with your in-laws, you know you can make it through them all. Once you’ve had to make a hard decision at work, you know you can make the next one. Once you’ve confronted your accusers with grace and challenged them on their hurtful actions, you know you never have to live in fear of that kind of confrontation again. You are a different person now, and Christ is constantly getting bigger inside of you.
But it takes a test in order to find that out.
Here is one last example, to encourage you that not all tests end in failure. About three months ago I received a string of bad news. Every day for a week I got at least one phone call or email that really affected me. Two people died. I received a really negative review about my work. I was hurt by a friend. I didn’t get into a graduate program I’d set my heart on. I found myself in conflict with someone I loved. All in one week. I remember this moment, at around 3:00 a.m. while sitting with my dog Flash on the basement couch, when it hit me: I’m ok.
Had any one of these things happened even a year ago I would have been a hot mess. Any one of those things would have crippled me, forced me to reconsider my employment, to question my calling, to wonder about whether or not I was loved.
Any one of those.
But now, I stood up under a string of these things and did what previously would have been impossible: I laughed. It all just seemed so obvious. This was a test. And I passed.
I am so thankful, happy, and grateful to God for His work in my life. He continues to grow in me, and I continue to grow in him. In this life you will face many tests, but do not be discouraged. They are one of the many ways God uses to show you how far you’ve come.
This post is from Seasons of Christian Spirituality.