Do you remember the first time your parents trusted you to be left home alone? I can’t say that I remember the exact incident but I do remember thinking to myself, “Wow, this is weird. I’ve never been left alone before.” Like most parents, they gave me the typical warnings, “Don’t do anything you know we wouldn’t permit, OR ELSE!” Every child knows exactly what the “or else” means, it means punishment of some sort or another. What is at stake here is our parent’s ability to trust us. Leaving us alone for the first time was a test of that trust. It is also a test of how much we love our parents.
Do parents have the right to impose such tests on their children? Being left alone is all part of the social growing process—learning responsibility and accountability. Really, if the child never learns those he (or she) becomes a burden to society. So yes, a parent needs to train their child to act responsibly. What then about God training mankind? His tests on us are pretty much the same—tests of trust, loyalty and love.
The very first test recorded in the Bible was one of trust. Jehovah told the first human pair not to eat from just one tree. If we parents need to train our children how to act responsibly, it certainly is not wrong for God to train mankind using the same simple and straightforward lesson. Another such lesson of loyalty and obedience is recorded at Exodus 16:4. The “test” was whether or not the masses would trust in God enough to not hoard the manna and to not go looking for it on the seventh day. Both in this case and in the case of Adam and Eve, God generously provided and all he wanted in return was trust and obedience. In researching the word “test” as used in the Bible and in reference to what God does toward mankind, this was the only type of test God imposed on us—he blesses us richly and then asks back proof that we love and willingly, uncompromisingly trust and obey him. (See the additional references below.)
There is another type of test we face, but it is not something God brings on us. It is a test of our character that Satan and this godless world we live in put on us. Returning to the parent/child illustration, consider the situation when the child gets old enough to start socializing outside the family circle with minimal (maybe no) adult supervision. The parents’ hope is that the training they gave their child is enough to help him or her make wise decisions. So say the child goes to a party with his peers and finds liquor and other recreational drugs being used. Now, the parent didn’t put that test on their child—the situation and peer pressure did. This type of test is one that a parent would rather spare their child from, but they know that eventually they will need to trust that the child has to start being self-accountable. This is in essence the test that Job underwent—would he keep loyal to God or would he get angry and blame God. In fact, at one point his wife told him to blame (curse) God and die. Likewise, even Jesus went through such testing. Why does God allow this? There is a benefit both to our resilient character and to God to have a tested quality that proves the type of person we are. Yes, just as a parent praises a child that faced up to the challenge in an adult way, just so God commends and rewards us for standing firm for what is right.
Finally, there can be tests that no one in particular initiated. The Bible calls those “time and unforeseen circumstances.” They fall on people indiscriminately. These could be adverse weather, or earthquakes and other natural disasters that destroy homes and lives. The “test” in this case is how we react. Will we find fault with God--for him allowing this to happen? Maybe even blaming him for causing this to happen? Or will we see it as a challenge to remain in God’s love, realizing it is not him doing this? In fact, in some cases (as in the Job’s case) it is possible that it is Satan causing these “natural” disasters.
So, according to God’s Word, the Bible, the tests God puts on people are designed to show us how we can reciprocate his love and are very gentle and kind. The tests that those opposed to God put on us are designed to destroy our confidence and loyalty in God and are harsh and cruel. Finally, “time and unforeseen circumstances” should never be blamed on God. Our loyalty and unbreakable love under all such situations is what God is looking for in us.
Judges 3:1-6. Here, Jehovah God allows certain foreign nations that do not serve him to continue occupying some of the promise land. It was a test on the Israelites to see if with such an influence they would still remain loyal to instructions handed down through Moses and the other representatives of God (Joshua, the loyal kings, the prophets).
Psalms 26:1,2. This is a very interesting passage. Here, the writer actually asks God to test him because he wants to demonstrate how much he really loves God. In a much lesser sense, don’t we do the same with people we are trying to impress? Candidates vying for a job may ask, “Just try me out. See if I don’t prove myself worthwhile.”