What is a test?
The idea that God tests us never settled right with me. It was always presented with a very Greco-Roman flavor that tasted bitter in my mouth. As we read through the Percy Jackson series as a family I realize that is because a “test” to the Greek gods meant you were presented with unsurmountable odds and we get to see what you’re made of. Will you survive? If so, how? Will you die? What will be your fatal flaw that leads to your demise? There’s so much for us to learn. It is the epitome of a life pre-test. And the hope of the answers is random at best–we just can’t know for certain what the prophecy means, so we’ll see what happens.
Then, several years ago, we watched Ushpizin. Amazing movie, if you haven’t seen it. And the Rabbi and his wife keep talking about this being a test, and that being a test, and I started understanding some of the arguments over the years about, “The Jewish God is just an angry God and everything is a test.” Except . . . . that isn’t the God I know. And . . . . that isn’t the way they were saying it.
Rather, there was an excitement for the test–praying for God to let it continue! There was hope, and conviction. And I had to understand more.
As I studied, I came to learn that the Hebraic understanding of a test is not a pre-test, like the Greek mythology tests. Rather, it is a post-test. God teaches you all sorts of things in your life–some through those who have been brought to mentor you (parents, parents in the Lord), some through those who have walked alongside you (friends, family), some through those who have been the bane of your existence. When you don’t know the lesson, nothing about it is expected of you. But after you learn the lesson, then you come to an awareness of the opportunity to make that right choice, or do that right thing, or say that kind and loving word instead of the hurtful one. When you become aware of it . . . . THEN it is a test!
The goal is to pass with flying colors. The opportunities to do so seem to be endless throughout our life. And the purpose is our maturity and edification as well as glory being given to God and love being shared among God’s people. This is not a scary test
Yesterday I was presented with a situation that initially had me banging my head and staring at the computer with utter amazement at the bizarre thing going on. My initial, fleshly reaction, was truly like the willow (no fruit or fragrance). Then I heard God prompt me with the question, “Are you being the citron?” and since I had only recently left the sukkah where I had been preparing part 2 of this series I stopped and realized that no, in fact, I was not. So I was prompted with fragrance, but the edits showed no fruit. So I had progressed to the myrtle. Okay, fruit, fruit . . . and I tried again. But that was through my own effort and, honestly, it showed. It was at that moment I realized, IT’S A TEST! A REAL SUKKOT TEST OF MY VERY OWN!
That awareness is what allowed me to be the citron. That understanding of why this thing was happening–now, out of the blue–is what allowed me to even be able to set aside my flesh and desire the fruit and fragrance of Messiah speaking through me. I was moved with compassion, not my own frustration over dealing with this issue again. I was moved with love, not annoyance.
Because of what the situation is, I suspect it will pop up again. But this time, regardless of what the other person read into my words or my effort, I know that I responded in a way that was submitted to the Lord. And if/when it does come up again, I hope and pray I will see it as a continuation of the test that is presented me with full hope that I can see victory because I have been prepared with access to the full armor of God “Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm” (Ephesians 6:13). For the armor girds my loins with Truth, protects my heart with Righteousness, covers my feet with the Protection of the Gospel of Peace, and protects my mind with Salvation. As I face the test, I carry the Shield of Faith, “with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one,” (Ephesians 6:16) and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17). There’s nothing hopeless about that at all!
So put on your armor, and be on the lookout for your own Sukkot test. Trust that if you are facing the test, you have prepared for the battle, and share your victories with those you walk with . . . I believe it will encourage us all.