How do you take tests?

Life is full of tests. Most of us spend our lives dreading them, avoiding them, and ignoring them. For many, the anxiety, fear, and stress leading up to, and during a test —no matter what kind of test it is—are worse than the outcome of the test itself.

If you’re old enough to remember TV before cable and satellite, you probably recall the shrill warning tone that randomly interrupted programming and the announcement that followed:

photo by Filipão 28 via PhotoRee

“This is a test. This station is conducting a test of the Emergency Broadcasting System. This is only a test. If this had been an actual emergency, you would have been instructed where to tune in your area for news and official information.”

That test used to terrify me. What if there was an actual emergency? What if we didn’t get the instructions because we didn’t get the right channel? What if we weren’t prepared for whatever emergency had struck?

I had my first mammogram last week, then the dreaded “call-back” for additional diagnostics, and ended up having a needle biopsy on Monday. (The results, thank God, were benign.) Those same kinds of questions assaulted me when the doctor told me a needle biopsy would be prudent, to rule out the possibility of cancer.

What if the test was positive? Could I face that diagnosis? Had I made enough faith preparations to battle cancer and win? Would it destroy my family? Would we survive?

After the biopsy, sporting a new bright blue and purple bruise, I asked friends and family to agree with me in prayer, and then I sought the Lord for myself. F.F. Bosworth wrote, “Faith begins where the will of God is known.” We have to know God’s will for ourselves, personally, in order to take an effective stand in faith.

My past response to tests has always been to fight, fight, fight. Not from a position of faith, but from a place of fear. In school I studied (and over-studied) out of fear of failure. I practiced for piano exams until my fingers ached, unaware that my stress levels contributed to my inability to properly perform.

Airplane travel is a test for me now. I fight, struggle, and battle with fear and nerves from the time the ticket is purchased until the plane lands at my destination. That internal war starts again on the way back to the airport to fly home. Vacations, as a result, are exhausting.

photo by Jack Fussell via PhotoRee

So as I sought my heavenly Father’s “further instructions,” He surprised me. (He’s good at that, you know.) He gently directed me away from my usual litany of war and battle scriptures to a couple of verses in Psalm 103 and a song we sing at church to settle my fussy mind and emotions.  

Hmm. This was a different kind of testing response. No frantic activity, no “I must” or “I need to” or “I will.” It was like sitting on the bench, watching someone else take my place in the game. No matter what the results were, I could rest in faith as long as I kept my mind on Him. The battle, I remembered, is the Lord’s. The victory, He promised, is mine.

Not everyone faces tests the same way. Not every test requires the same kind of preparation or response. But if you are stricken by anxiety, fear, and terror whenever that test alert goes off in the back of your mind, that automatic reaction may well be the REAL test to take!

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