Some people say God tests us by intentionally placing trials in our paths to assess our faith, character, and commitment. According to this theory, God makes us stronger through the difficulties the Creator throws at us. “God’s testing you,” some say.
For me, the idea of “divine testing” is hard to reconcile with an all-loving, caring, and nurturing God. I can’t imagine a loving parent—and certainly not God—would throw body-blocks at their children to teach them a lesson.
People test us, not God.
God has granted humanity the ability to make choices, and with that freedom comes the responsibility for our actions. The consequences of our choices can lead to various circumstances, both positive and negative.
These outcomes are not necessarily indicative of divine testing. Instead, they result from the interplay between our decisions and circumstances, and the actions of others. We live in an imperfect world where the body-blocks in our lives come from poor choices we and others make.
Divine Guidance and Support
Instead of being a Divine-Tester, the God-who-is-love offers comfort, strength, and wisdom to navigate the challenges we face.
Through prayer and meditation—as well as through seeking spiritual guidance—we can find the support we need to endure and overcome obstacles. If we open our hearts to him, the Creator walks alongside us, showing us the way to grow.
Spiritual teacher James Finley in his recent book, The Healing Path—A Memoir and an Invitation, describes how as a child he was beaten by his alcoholic father. Finley watched night after night as his raging father punched and choked his mother. As an adult, Finley was sexually molested at the monastery in which he lived for over five years.
Finley says that through therapy and spiritual direction, he eventually realized an important truth: God never promised to protect us from evil. Rather, God vowed to sustain us in and through whatever trials and tribulations we endure.
As Finley experienced repeated trauma, he was sustained by God. Finley discovered a place deep within his soul where God lived, a place of inner solitude that let him disappear into God, a place he became submerged in God’s peace, where he became “lost in the secret of His face.” It was a place within Finley’s spiritual heart where no one could harm him.
Life as a Journey
Life throws spitballs and scud missiles at us. Some are caused by our missteps; others are caused by people who inflict their wounds upon us.
When I find myself in difficult seasons of life, I’m learning my pain is not God’s way of testing me. That perspective only leads me to see God as an angry, vengeful, and manipulative sorcerer. God then becomes my adversary, not my healer.
I now see life as my teacher and God as my friend. We’re all on a journey filled with opportunities for growth, self-discovery, and transformation so we can learn how to love.
Adversities and challenges are not necessarily designed to test our faith but to encourage us to dig deeper into God, who guides us into becoming stronger, wiser individuals. By embracing the tough times and seeking guidance from a loving and compassionate God, we become our True Self in God. We learn how to love. We learn we are love.
Finding God’s Face
Over the past several months, my wife and I have experienced multiple battering rams against the door of our heart’s inner peace. In what feels like a dark night, I try to apply the inspiring words of spiritual giants such as Finley to find the wisdom I need to grow—to make sense of a world I can’t understand or control.
My childish ego wants to shake my fist at God and demand he protect me from the world’s evil. Stop testing me, I want to squeal like a baby.
But instead of wailing at God, now I choose to sit alone in solitude weeping upon the breast of the loving Creator who promises to sustain us. It is there, having coffee with the Creator, I find the inner place within my soul where God lives, comforts, and guides me. It is there I get lost in the secret of God’s face.
In those quiet times alone with the Father, I sometimes look up at the crucifix on my den wall. I see the figure of his Son, arms outstretched, horror painted across his body.
God didn’t protect Jesus from evil. He did, however, sustain his Son and made something beautiful out of the evil the world inflicted upon the Savior.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) to the Rescue
Chad, my book agent, recently suggested I try an artificial intelligence app as a writing tool. Using a “chatbot” to help with writing sounded strange, but I thought I’d give it a whirl.
I typed into the AI App this question: “In times of suffering, what can we do to let God sustain us?” The response gave these practical suggestions:
1. Remember that God is always with you. Whenever you’re struggling to cope with challenges from others, remember that God is always present in your life. Take some time to turn inward and pray for strength, guidance, and comfort.
2. Stay connected with loved ones. Having a support network of family and friends can be incredibly helpful when facing repeated trials, as it can provide you with a listening ear, reassurance, and encouragement. Reach out to those around you who care about you and let them know how you’re feeling.
3. Focus on self-care. Engaging in self-care activities that help you feel grounded and refreshed can help alleviate feelings of stress, anxiety, or despair. This may include activities like meditation, exercise, reading, or spending time in nature.
4. Seek professional help. If your repeated trials cause significant distress in your life, it may be helpful to consult a professional counselor or therapist. They can help you develop coping strategies and provide you with the support you need to overcome negative emotions.
5. Remember that no matter what trials you face, you’re never alone. With God’s help and the support of others, you can maintain hope and resilience in the face of adversity.
These words from the AI App felt as if they came directly from the heart of God. My hope is they touch your heart in practical ways too.
The God Who Sustains Us, Not Tests Us
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe God does test us by throwing adversity our way.
But the God of my understanding isn’t like that. God is my friend. When life hits me with scud missiles, I know it’s time to dig deeper into the heart of God and turn to the Holy Spirit for divine direction.
I know the Creator knows me better than I know myself. And even if life’s trials continue, I will never lose hope in the One who gives us life—the One whose love and wisdom sustains us.
I never got that kiss with Teresa. But as I reflect on that long-ago night, I realize Sister Carmella shared two pieces of wisdom I’ll never forget: to leave room for Jesus and the healing power of a smile.
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