But he knows the way that I take;
when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold. — Job 23:10
When we are confronted with a life challenge, a God-given test, most of us want to run the other way. However, the Jewish sages taught that if we really understood the value of tests, we wouldn’t run from them – we would run to them. As one person put it, in adversity we usually want God to do a “removing job” when He wants to do an “improving job.”
A test is a chance to become better, and that’s why those who understand what can be gained are eager for the opportunity.
In the book of Job, we read, “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.” God knows what we’ll do in a test. He knows exactly what we are capable of becoming. But we don’t always know. We are all born with great potential, but it takes a test to bring out our best.
As Job said, we will come out of our tests as gold. Challenges refine us and define us. If we are willing to rise to the challenge – and God never gives a test which we cannot pass – we will emerge greater than ever before.
In Hebrew, the word for test is nisayon. The sages point out that the word is intentionally rooted in the word nes, which has two different meanings. Firstly, nes is a “banner.” Just as a banner is held high to relay a message, so, too, does a God-given test announce our abilities and qualities. It takes those hidden treasures buried inside us and raises them up and out for us to see. Through our test, we can raise a banner that says, “I am incredibly strong,” or “I am unusually patient” — things we may not have known about ourselves before our challenges.
The second meaning of the word nes is “miracle.” What do our difficulties share in common with miracles? Everything. A miracle is when God intervenes supernaturally and lines up events so that something wonderful happens. Well, a God-given test isn’t all that different. We may not like it as much, but it’s also in our challenges that God intervenes in order to design a test tailored to our spiritual needs. When we pass our tests, it’s just as wonderful. In Job’s words, we “come forth as gold.”
Just as an Olympic hopeful does everything possible to get into the competitions so that he or she might win the gold medal, so should we welcome the chance to participate in God’s challenges. Next time you are faced with a life test, embrace it. Through God’s test, we don’t just win the gold; we become it.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President