Tests are not fun. Really, they are the opposite of fun. Many nights in high school, I remember staying on the phone into the early morning hours with various friends trying to cram for an exam the next day in Calc, or Chem, or European History. And then I couldn’t sleep well because of the anxiety of it all. I had a good grasp of the material, but they were still a source of dread for me. Now that I am a professor, at least a few students convey to me the exact same sentiments every single semester. As they say, the struggle is real.
I haven’t personally taken a test like those in many years, but I still get tested on a daily basis. My patience with Maya and Ravi is a constant struggle because they’re kids and so very needy at all the wrong times. My commitment to serving my wife more than myself has been tested. The temptation to do something sketchy in secret to gain success, wealth, and status is regularly tested. And my emotional stability and mental health are regularly tested because of all the noise and nonsense that competes for my attention and allegiance every single day.
My emotional stability and mental health are regularly tested because of all the noise and nonsense that competes for my attention and allegiance every single day.
In this context, I have been thinking so much about my heart, and the tests it faces. I’m not talking about having wandering eyes and any desire to be unfaithful to Rachel. I’m talking about how it’s being purified and refined through various trials it faces. And it’s all fostered and facilitated by God. While there are a number of verses that speak to this reality, here’s my favorite:
The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the LORD tests the heart (Prov 17:3).
Dang. The crucible and furnace are also not fun. Actually, they are the locations where an incomprehensible amount of pressure, pounding, and pain are inflicted. Actually, I cannot think of a worse place to be. But precious metals don’t become precious without it. It’s essential to the endgame of producing something of great utility and value.
And somehow it’s what He wants of our hearts. To get us where we need to go. So that we become something of unrivaled utility and value.
I want that too. Rachel often asks me “How’s your heart?” (which I believe is the most important question you can ask your partner). The reason is that everything flows out of the heart – our motives, our character, our sensitivity towards God and others, our disposition, our priorities, and our ability to truly connect with and inspire people. When my response to Rachel is “Not great,” it’s already manifested itself in a number of suboptimal and problematic attitudes and actions. That is not ideal for my life, and definitely not ideal for the lives of anyone with whom I come in contact.
I’ve found the only way to keep getting better – for myself (humility, peace of mind, stability, strength, wholeness) and for others (grace, compassion, selflessness, wisdom, love) is for my heart to be tested. For it to go through the crucible and furnace. Repeatedly. Regularly. I used to wish there were other ways to become the best version of me, but now I just welcome it. I know that seems masochistic, but I know that it’s doing a good work in me. And I know that He who began a good work in me will complete it.
The only way to keep getting better – for myself (humility, peace of mind, stability, strength, wholeness) and for others (grace, compassion, selflessness, wisdom, love) is for my heart to be tested. For it to go through the crucible and furnace. Repeatedly. Regularly.
Are you there right now? Feeling the pounding and pressure and pain? I want to encourage you that it is for a grand, noble purpose. It’s not just random, and it’s not going to be wasted. God tests our heart because He sees more in us than we see in ourselves. And because He has more for us than we could ever dream of. Not “more” in terms of quantity, but more in terms of quality.
Whatever He has for me, I want – because I know it will be better and more fulfilling than my own ambitions and desires. But my heart has to be purified and refined. There are no shortcuts in this process. I imagine you’ve at least started to come to that conclusion, but allow me to reinforce its truth. The sooner you accept it, the easier it gets because you stop pushing against it and questioning it. When your heart is tested, try to remember His intentions towards you and His limitless love for you, and let that give you hope to face it and, in time, ultimately embrace it. This is how we overcome. And this is how we make Him proud, fulfill our purpose, and get to where we’re meant to be.
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