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Testing in Progress!

The words could be stamped across everyone's birth certificate. Invisibly tattooed across one's forehead. Entered permanently into a person's personal database never to be deleted. Once we are born the testing begins. Growing and aging and experiencing the testing is always in progress. How will we do? Will we measure up? Stand up to it?

We generally link the idea of being tested with being tempted... and with good reason. Coming through difficulties we say that our faith has been tested. Meaning we felt tempted to give up on God and/or God's people and/or the tie that binds us to the fleeting communion of it all we once knew. Sometimes we claim that God is the great and powerful cosmic taskmaster who intentionally hurls us into circumstances that stretch us. Threaten to undo us. Lead us to the breaking point. And all "designed" to determine the depth of our devotion. The length of our love. The makeup of our mettle. And we consider what the Bible and history tell us Jesus (perfect human? Son of God? sinless one?) experienced and we feel justified in believing in a God who regularly engages in testing us.

While it's certainly true we may be more confident of friendships that have been through the fire or loves that have endured or organizations that have withstood both time and scrutiny, perhaps a better approach is to examine what's in us rather than in others. In other words, to ask ourselves "Am I a trustworthy friend?" "A faithful lover?" "A loyal member?" And perhaps the stickiest wicket is to wonder whether questioning if God is testing us is actually us putting God to the test?

Rob Bell uses the illustration of a trampoline to talk about faith. He says it's way different from a brick wall in which all of the bricks have to be in place for it to stand. In his book Velvet Elvis he writes, "A trampoline only works if you take your feet off the firm, stable ground and jump into the air and let the trampoline propel you upward... In brickworld, the focus often becomes getting people to believe the right things so they can be 'in.' It's possible to believe all the right things and be miserable. It's possible to believe all the right doctrines and not live as Jesus teaches us to live... And what is the point, while we're at it, of a trampoline?

The point is our joy. God takes great pleasure in us living as we were made to live. Now this joy doesn't rule out suffering, difficulty, and struggle. In fact, taking Jesus seriously almost guarantees that our lives will be difficult. But the kind of joy God speaks of transcends these struggles and difficulties." In light then of our leaping, would God intentionally set things up so we'll fall? Crash and burn?

Sure, we've got lots of choices. And yes, we are faced with many circumstances driven by a wide variety of forces and impulses (within us and around us) as long as we live. But if we trust in a God who wills our good rather than our destruction, we may jump in the joy of knowing that "God is faithful, and will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing will also provide the way out..."! (that's Paul writing to the Corinthians who were pulled in many directions as they struggled to live into the ways of Jesus [I Corinthians 10:13]). So, shall we bounce?

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