Testing and Strengthening
Key Verse: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.” –Psalm 139:24, 23 NKJV
Who of us enjoys test taking? I know I don’t! As a student in high school and college I looked forward to midterms and finals with the same eager anticipation of someone facing a root canal. On many occasions what should have been study sessions became a contest to see how many spoons it would take to get to the center of a roll of chocolate chip cookie dough (the world may still never know!). These gave way to cram sessions ending an hour or so after the test(s) had been taken. Other times, more so than I care to recall, my sessions consisted of me walking into the classroom on a wing and a prayer and flying by the seat of my pants. Sometimes I’d pass. Other times, not so much.
Looking back almost thirty years later I have come to realize that, while test taking didn’t exactly make the top ten list of fun things to do with my time, they were a necessary part of my academic career. They were a confirmation of learning and acted as a magnifying glass into new and seemingly different information. They were a means of sharpening my memory and strengthening my knowledge. On the flip side, test taking also brought to light what I didn’t know, what I thought I knew, and showed me often glaringly areas that could be and needed to be improved upon.
Daily life is a test, each bringing moments of joy, times of trouble. These seasons bring with them the opportunity to put trust in God to the test. However, unlike academic testing, it is not on a grade scale. There is no “pass,” “fail,” “credit,” ” no credit.” Circumstances test an individual. As one goes through a season of testing, good and bad, God shows the condition of one’s heart and brings him or her to a deeper awareness of His grace. Through these tests, God shines a light on thoughts, attitudes, and emotions. Through these times of testing, God reveals areas of one’s life that has not yet been, and must be, surrendered wholly to Him.
The Psalmist beautifully expresses how God uses testing to know and expose the condition of the heart, how He uses these tests to draw His children closer to Himself, and to make them more like Him and less like the world. Christ followers and followers of the world alike experience testing, walking through seasons of joy and times of trouble. Those who follow the world have difficulty making sense of this and they respond accordingly with attitudes of despair, despondence, many times hopelessness.
As Christ followers we can be assured that there is a purpose for our tests and trials. We have the hope that, as we walk through these seasons of testing, we are becoming as Christ intended for us to be. Through Christ we are able to “count it all joy when we fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of our faith produces patience.” (James 1:2,3 NKJV)
Be still and know that He is God: Take a moment and quiet your heart and mind before the Lord. Shut off anything that may distract your focus from this time with Him i.e. T.V., electronics, etc. Invite the Holy Spirit to sit with you during these moments.
Praise God for who He is: In this time, lift your heart (maybe even your hands) to Him in worship. Praise Him for walking with you through every season of your life. Praise Him for the work He is doing in your life knowing that what He has started He will see through to completion.
Be thankful in all things: Thank Him for the work He is doing in and through you. Thank Him for revealing Himself through your season of joy and in your season of suffering. Thank Him for making the way for you though you may not see a way through at this moment. Don’t forget to thank Him for what He is yet to do as well!
Repent: We all go through our seasons of testing. We all see times of sorrow and trouble. Many times as we experience these seasons we become fearful, doubting His goodness and questioning His promises to see us through these times. Ask God to reveal these moments to you. Ask Him for revelation on anything hidden or secret which needs to be brought to light. Ask for and receive His forgiveness and His promise of renewal.
Present your requests before God: Scripture tells us to boldly approach His throne of grace, that our Father knows what we stand in need of even before we ask it. Give Him your needs, your wants, your heart’s desires, trusting that these things will be yours in accordance with His will.
Be still and know that He is God: In the remainder of your quiet time with Him, allow your mind and spirit to rest and be silent. Quiet yourself before Him. Focus on Him, listen for His voice. Do you journal? This is an excellent time to write your reflections of what God is sharing with you. Did He bring verses of Scripture to mind? Share those in your journal as well.