Tests and Anxiety
“I’m calling to let you know we have the results of your test. There is no sign of cancer.”
I breathed out a quiet sigh that felt like I had been holding in forever. After more than a month of detailed medical screenings, those anxious thoughts tapping on my shoulder, I knew I would always honor prayer requests from people undergoing tests.
Tests are crucial in the medical field. Other tests are important to the health of an organization or company. Our reputation depends on competent people with valid degrees and certifications working for us and with us. If we’re dealing with a product, we need assessments, trials, and studies to verify its excellence.
Some tests aren’t all that exacting. Good cooks will test a broth for seasoning. But without a specific scale to determine when the balance is correct, they will “season to taste.”
The tests that almost everyone is familiar with are the ones we encounter in education. Those quizzes and exams were everywhere from the moment we stepped into a classroom to the time we were handed a diploma. Measuring knowledge and proficiency seemed like an endless process.
When I finished my master’s degree I congratulated myself that at the age of forty-six, I was finally through with papers and exams.
But in reality life is full of evaluations and tests.
For much of my professional life my job was to ensure my students not only passed the subjects or grade I was teaching, but also understood the value of what they were doing and learning. Over the years I became better at evaluating the use of my time in class with students. I learned to test the validity of my assignments and discussions to see if they had true educational value or were just fillers … the busy work that was easy to fall back on.
But the evaluation process extends beyond the classroom. At the heart of any organization, family or company are underlying policies. To be sure that an idea or approach continues to be useful, it’s always prudent to evaluate its effectiveness.
Continuing down a well-traveled path simply out of habit is never wise.
God and Tests
When God is involved, testing comes with a warning. The Lord Jesus warned Satan to keep his suggestions to himself about jumping off buildings: “Do not put the Lord your God to the test” (Matthew 4:7). But that’s just what the Israelites did time after time (Psalm 78). The teachers of the Law tested the Lord Jesus. They thought they had the upper hand with their questions but were silenced again and again (Matthew 12:2-8; 15:2-9; 16:1-4; 19:3-6; 22:17-22).
At the same time, Scriptures urge us to conduct our own tests on what we hear or read: “Does not the ear test words as the tongue tastes food?” (Job 12:11) This testing is commended in the New Testament as well (1 Thessalonians 5:19-22; 1 John 4:1).
But what happens when we turn the spotlight on ourselves? As uncomfortable as that is, Christian leaders should it do on a regular basis. Time studies reveal how we’re spending our days and if we’re being diligent in not wasting those precious hours.
Time management is important, but a deeper evaluation is critical to our Christian leadership. What is the true value of what I’m doing or asking others to do? Do I include my Lord Jesus in my life? Is He truly central to my day and my thoughts or just an added feature?
This self-examination is encouraged in Scriptures (Lamentations 3:40; 2 Corinthians 13: 5-8). But it’s the hardest test of all … testing ourselves. Asking if what we are doing now or planning to do in the future is the right path, the right choice. Checking to see if we are as faithful and trusting as we could be if we truly put ourselves in the hands of the Lord Jesus.
It’s so difficult to be completely honest with ourselves. It reminds me of those rare times when the teacher allowed me to correct my own paper and I was tempted to change an answer. It’s too easy to justify and make excuses for behaviors and choices that are only self-serving.
It’s so much better if we ask someone we truly trust to test us. Are we on the right track? Are we making a faith choice that will stand the test of time?
It’s in those “let’s be perfectly honest” times that I cry out, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts” (Psalm 139:23). He asks me who I am really trying to please. Is it my Lord Jesus? Or is it someone else? The world? Myself? And if I listen carefully, I will hear His answer … I will know what I should do.
The one thing I know for sure is that I’ve been tested and approved by my Lord to serve Him alone, to tell anyone who wants to listen about the wonderful gospel message of love and hope, forgiveness and joy (I Thessalonians 2:4). That’s the only earthly test that really matters. And I’m certain there is no test for eternal life that my Lord Jesus hasn’t already passed for me.
If there is a question for heaven, it will be the same one He asked His disciples: “Who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15) Of course He will already know the answer because He knows my heart and soul, every part of my mind and thoughts. Even so, I will proudly and confidently and joyfully proclaim: “You are the Christ! The Son of the Living God!”
Leaving my guilt at the cross,
First published at Lead Like Jesus July 2019