When I was a kid, it was common to receive messages from the Emergency Broadcast System through television broadcasting. Our show would be interrupted by a voice announcing the message and then a grating, buzzing sound would come on for a few moments.
That warning sound was so disturbing, I remember times we covered our ears so we wouldn’t hear it.
When the buzzing stopped, that voice would come on and let us know that the pause in our regularly televised program was “only a test” of the system. Had it been a real emergency, the voice said, we would have been given instructions on how to proceed further.
Sometimes I wish God would let me know ahead of time when he’s testing me. It seems that I often don’t know a situation occurring in my life has been a test of my faith until the whole thing has passed.
It’s true what they said about hindsight.
But I wonder. If God gave me fair warning of an upcoming trial and the manner in which I’d be tested, would I listen to it? Would I consider it a grating sound in my ears and cover them so I could ignore that warning?
Frankly, I don’t remember one time when I received advance warning of a trial coming in my life. A test, so to speak. But I remember times when, further into the difficult situation, I realized it was probably a test.
God wants to know how I’ll respond when things get a little “testy.” He wants to see if I’ll trust him through it to do the amazing things he can do in that situation. Will I respond to people and events as Jesus would?
Will I pray, seek his direction and stay out of his way?
A little over a year ago, a friend gave me the opportunity to leave a situation in which we both felt frustrated and somewhat angry. Another individual had entered our happy circumstance and jarred it with an annoying presence. He was only doing what he’d been asked to do and the permission he was given to do it was given by someone who had authority.
Still, the situation was “testy.”
When my friend said, “You can leave if you want,” I told her I’d stay. In this situation, which actually wasn’t a big deal compared to some, I realized immediately that God might have something for me to learn. And that’s what I told her.
While that situation was one in which I knew right off that God could be testing me and watching to see how I responded, that’s not always the case.
Often times, as I said, it takes me a while to recognize that God has a hand in the situation and that his hand is large and in charge. He wants me to do some footwork in most cases, but ultimately, he’s in control.
In the letter Jesus’s brother, James, wrote to Jewish Christians, he said
“You know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete” (James 1:3, 4)
When I read scripture, I’ve learned to pay attention to the places where it says, “so that.” Those two words tell me there’s a good reason for the direction I’m being given by the writer. Because I know the writer’s words were inspired by God himself, I trust them.
Trusting those words, however, doesn’t mean it will always be easy to follow through on the directions. God’s ideas are usually simple ones, but he doesn’t make things necessarily easy for us.
That means if we’re to grow in our faith in God and what he can–and will–accomplish in our lives, we can’t cover our ears when he tells us “This is a test.” Listening–and follow-through–will keep us humbled. It will help us to grow. Listening and follow-through will keep us safe. Just in case of a real emergency.