Times of Testing || Dan

Here we are at Dead Week again! How did that happen?! It’s hard to believe that another school year has flown by, and we’re nearing the home stretch! Good luck with end of the semester projects, papers, and Finals! 

For those of us who mark our years based on the academic calendar, the month of May tends to be a month of reflection. I usually end up taking this time looking back on the highs, lows, and in-betweens from August until now. 2017-2018 has been a doozy for our family. In October, we experienced the tragic run-in between my in-laws’ dog and our neighbor’s dog, and the relationship with our neighbor has been tense ever since. In November, my original staff trainer from the University of Illinois lost his sweet 11 year old boy to a freak asthmatic anaphylactic reaction. Horrifically painful to watch their family say goodbye to Jaden. On a ministry standpoint, Cru has been undergoing some organizational changes, and this has been fairly difficult to navigate as we’ve seen dear friends and colleagues decide to step away from campus ministry. And then the month of March rolled around, where I got hit by a service truck while driving to a staff meeting, and then our apartment was robbed while we were on a ministry trip to Paris. To say that I’m glad to wave goodbye to this school year would be an understatement. 

One truth which has been hammered home to me this year has been the reality that life is hard. I spend much of my mental energy attempting to convince myself that if I just take care of everything that needs to get done, tomorrow will be easier than today. Progress towards personal utopia, right? But that’s just not the world we live in. Life is challenging, things go wrong, and hurts happen. Our lives are marked with challenging experiences and hinderances. Sometimes we bring them on ourselves, and sometimes they hit us unexpectedly like a service truck! 

When Jesus was in the middle of His ministry up in the Galilee region, large groups of people would follow Him from town to town to see what He would do. Whether it was healing a sick person or challenging the religious authorities, Jesus always attracted a crowd. During one of those times when He had a large crowd around Him, He shared this parable:

“A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred more than it was sown.” (Luke 8:5-8)

As His disciples asked for clarity, Jesus explained the point of this parable. Part of His answer stands out to me today as I think over this season of difficulty. He said, “Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away.” (8:13)

Challenging words from Jesus. What He’s saying here is that our responses to the seasons of testing are actually spiritual indicators of our faith. There are some who initially indicate a responsiveness to the Gospel, but no longer continue to walk with God as their circumstances become more challenging. Whether this is a passage discussing the potential of an authentic believer losing their faith is a topic for another time. But what is clear is that testing is something which proves the authenticity of our faith. 

Think about your tests in school. They are tools used to determine the authenticity and existence of your knowledge on the particular subject. Their role is to examine what is already there. If you’ve prepared and studied, then a test will reveal your proficiency. Tests don’t provide you with anything (other than stress), they reveal what you already have. 

Testing is something that is a part of life. It’s not a particularly fun part, but it is something Jesus promises will be coming our way. It’s one of those promises we don’t really want to think all that much about, because it’s not necessarily all that fun. No one looks forward to trials and challenges. Particularly painful ones. 

But we can take heart. We have a Savior who underwent the most painful and brutal testing of all. Because Jesus triumphed over the ultimate test at the cross, we rest in the fact that He understands everything we’re going through. There is no test you will experience to which He cannot relate. 

This is also why James can write this: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” (James 1:2-3)  

We can consider our periods of testing as joy, because we know that the end result will be a positive thing. No one enjoys the period of testing, and James isn’t suggesting we undertake a masochistic attitude towards our pain, but we can find joy in knowing that our good Father will redeem these tests by producing in us the character we all desire to obtain. 

Praying for a productive and effective week leading up to Finals! You got this!