The Purpose of Life’s Tests

Yael Eckstein  |  October 1, 2021

Flame of fire around a coin.

The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold,
    but the LORD tests the heart.
— Proverbs 17:3

We continue with devotional thoughts from the Book of Proverbs every Friday. One of the 11 books in the Torah known as the Ketuvim, Hebrew for “writings,” Proverbs is part of the “wisdom tradition,” which also includes Job and Ecclesiastes.

The other day, one of my kids was grumbling about the fact that she needed to study for a big test coming up. “Why do they have to give us tests?” she complained. After I gave her a hug, she took a deep breath, got a snack, and got back to work.

Her question got me thinking. Any teacher who spends time in the classroom knows full well which students are getting the material and which students are struggling or not paying attention.  So what is the purpose of a test?

I asked a teacher friend of mine this question. “You’re right,” she said. “I know exactly how well the students are doing. But that’s not what a test is for. A test accomplishes two things. First, it creates a reason for the students to work hard preparing for the test. This is a skill they need to learn. Second, it allows the students to see for themselves what they are capable of and how much they have learned.”

The Purpose of Life’s Test

What she said about tests in school is equally true throughout our lives. After all, isn’t life full of tests?

In Proverbs, the tests that God gives us in life are compared to “the crucible for silver and the furnace for gold.” In other words, just like my teacher friend explained, the purpose of life’s tests is not to tell the teacher how well the students are doing. God knows exactly how we are doing. The purpose of life’s tests is purification.

Using the analogy of what my friend said, the purification process that we go through when God tests us happens in two ways. First, life’s tests force us to put in effort, to struggle, to work hard. Through these challenges we grow and improve. Second, like the silver and gold coming out of the fire, by working through trying situations we reveal our hidden value to ourselves.

We discover strengths that had been obscured by impurities. We discover the gold and silver that we didn’t know was there. God always saw it. But through the tests that He gives us, we see it, too.

That’s the purpose — and value — of life’s tests!

Your Turn:

Think about something that you learned about yourself through struggle. Give thanks to God for showing you your own hidden strength.

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