I've never been much a fan of testing, except for the tests which are five-day cricket matches.
Perhaps it has to do with how I tend to with often not thinking like the test creators. No, I've never been a very good standardized test taker.
And I struggle when people opine that my illness is just God testing me. When people tell me this, they are very apt to quote 1 Corinthians 10:13b at me, when Paul wrote, "God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you will be able to endure it." But they miss the first part: "No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone."
Painful illness is not a standardized test. Despite pain scales and medicine dosages, pain is not standardized. I don't believe my illness is a test. Life is not a test, but a gift. What we do with that gift is the test.
The test of my faith is in every day, and pain or no pain, illness or health, the question is: how merciful, how generous, how kind, how loving, how just, how reverent - that is, how faithful - am I?
When we take up a spiritual discipline, as many do with Lent, we are seeking to strengthen our abilities to be faithful, rather like taking practice tests in preparation for college entrance exams or to graduate middle school or high school, or practicing musical scales before a public performance, or practicing on the basketball court before the game. Practicing teaches us the skills we need to rely on to survive and thrive in the challenges that lie ahead of us.
We need challenges, for without challenges, there is no quest for mastery, no experience of achievement. If we were instantly good at everything then where would victory be?
So we set ourselves these disciplines, to examine ourselves, discover our aptitude for fulfilling our faithful promises, and figuring out how to do even better. Yes, life has pain and their sorrow, for we all have some and some of us experience an unjust amount of that (though I would never consider myself in that category). But the pain and sorrow and injustice is not a test.
The test is what we do with the gift of this life.