Why Does God Test Us?

Think back over the past year of your life. When have you grown the most in knowing, loving, trusting and obeying God? For most of us the answer will not be in times of strength but of weakness, not in times of joy but in suffering, not in times of prosperity but in poverty. Certainly that has been the case for me. Yet in the midst of those times I am often so desperate for deliverance that I forget God’s purpose in testing me. In exposing my sin and ordaining my suffering, He reveals Himself to me in a way I would otherwise not have known. One of the books of the Bible that helps us understand why God tests us is the book of Ecclesiastes.    

               The Preacher teaches us that because we live in a fallen world, there will be “wickedness” where there should be “justice” and “righteousness” (3:16). The only comfort in the midst of such evil is that “God will judge the righteous and the wicked” (3:17). “God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you…when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might” (2 Thess. 6-9). In the midst of suffering, God’s people can take comfort in the truth that God is righteous and just. In addition, we can and should reflect righteousness and justice in our words and works. We should be eager to work for that which is just and right in our various spheres of influence. We can begin with prayer, asking God to show us ways, even in the midst of our suffering, that we can be involved with ministries that seek to bring an end to injustice, and asking Him to make those ministries effective.     

               Sometimes people question whether or not God really tests His people, or why He tests them. Perhaps they confuse testing with tempting. But testing and temptation are two different things. God never tempts His people, but He does test them. For example, God tested Abraham (Gen. 22:1; Heb. 11:17). He tested the Israelites in the wilderness (Ex. 15:25; Heb. 3:9). And in Ecclesiastes 3 the Preacher tells us that “God is testing” mankind “that they may see that they themselves are but beasts” (v. 18). The emphasis is on death. The Preacher forces us to recall what the Lord said to Adam, “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Gen. 3:19). When it comes to death both beasts and humankind experience it. And often there’s nothing like death, especially the death of a loved one, or the threat of one’s own health, that God uses to draw people to Himself. 

               The fact of death should also motivate us to rejoice in our work (Ecc. 3:22). The New Testament tells us why. There is One who came to show us what will be after our life here on earth. If “one is born of water and the Spirit” then he or she will “enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). “Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20). When Christ returns “this mortal body must put on immortality” because God “gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:53, 56). Therefore, we should be “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58). This is why Paul could say “it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:20-21).

               God often tests us so that we can see how frail we are and how desperately we need Jesus. As we come face to face with our sin and our weakness, it is also an opportunity to come face to face with our beloved Savior. He faced a far greater test than you and I will ever face. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). Therefore, let us not “receive the grace of God in vain” but recognize that “now is the day of salvation” (6:1-2). For all those who repent of their sins and believe in Christ alone for their salvation, we can rest assured that our future is secure in heaven because there is nothing that “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:39).      

Sarah Ivill (ThM, Dallas Theological Seminary) is a Reformed author, wife, homeschooling mom, Bible study teacher, and conference speaker who lives in Matthews, North Carolina, and is a member of Christ Covenant Church (PCA). To learn more, please visit www.sarahivill.com.


Sarah Ivill