Today I’m pondering tests. My boys are wrapping up our homeschool year and that has included standardized testing. They don’t enjoy these tests and basically try to rush through them to be done as quickly and painlessly as possible. At some point during the middle of the three-hour test, they will inevitably ask me, “Do you think I’m doing well?” My reply is always, “We’ll be able to see how well you did after you finish the test.”
I identify with my boys’ curiosity over their testing performance. My husband and I are in the midst of a trial. The Bible describes our trials as the testing of our faith (1 Peter 1:6-7). Some days I wonder, if my trials are tests, how do I know if I’m passing or failing? How do I know if my performance is acceptable?
Honestly, there are many days when I feel like I’m failing this test. My emotions through the grieving process leave me with feelings that are opposite of joy. Fail. My mind is susceptible to doubting the truths that I’ve spoken unwaveringly for decades. Fail. My desire to do even the most basic disciplines of my faith are nonexistent at times. Fail.
There is no shortage of accusations my enemy can make against me in the wake of Gracious’ death concerning my ability to hold fast while suffering. But there is this one thing. This one truth that I’ve previously taken for granted. This one statement that I’ve said and sung but never had to rely on before this trial. He will hold me fast (Psalm 139:10).
The only evidence I’ve found to suggest that I’m passing this test is that I’m staying near him. I’m searching for him. I’m relying on him. I’m hiding in him. I keep going to him. I am steadfastly clinging to Christ.
The only one who could cause this behavior in me is God. My flesh would eagerly choose the fight or flight options. Depending on my feelings in any given moment, I would either want to run as far away from him as possible because he allowed this tragedy to happen, or I would want to fight him in my anger for hurting me. Instead, I’m leaning in, I’m staying near, because he holds me fast.
When I consider this staying power he gives me, I become hopeful that I am passing this testing of my faith (Romans 5:3-4). If I were to be graded on my own merit, I would absolutely fail. But I’m graded on Christ’s merit and he won’t let me fail because he won’t fail me. He has promised to complete the good work he began in me (Philippians 1:6). His faithfulness to me is certain (2 Timothy 2:13).
My success in trials doesn’t depend on me, it depends on him. He is the author and sustainer of my faith (Hebrews 12:2). He created my faith and he tends to it. He holds me fast in him and through him.
I don’t know why God let this trial happen. I don’t know where I go from here. I don’t know when it won’t hurt anymore. But I know what matters. I know who to cling to. I know my God. Knowing him means knowing he loves me, is for me, and has good plans for my future.
The purpose of a test is to reveal what we know. But when God tests us, it’s to reveal who we know. We can’t pass tests of faith by simply answering true/false or multiple-choice questions correctly. We must know the “surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:8). This knowledge only comes when we learn that all other things are mere rubbish compared to this. This knowledge comes at a high cost.
One day, my earthly tests will be done, and I will finally get to see the results that are hidden from me now. My final grade won’t come in the form of a letter, but in a crown of righteousness. I am hopeful that, by his grace, I will be able to echo Paul’s words in 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
I can keep the faith because he keeps me. I have hope that I won’t fail my tests because my God won’t fail me. He holds me fast.