Why Does God Test Us?
I used to think testing was all about me proving my love and devotion for God. But I’ve discovered it’s actually the other way around…
“Later God tested Abraham and called to him, “Abraham!” “Yes, here I am!” he answered. God said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I will show you.” Genesis 22:1-2
When a teacher gives a test, it’s fair to say that the teacher is the one who is ultimately being tested. And just in case you are wondering, God is a really good teacher.
I believe there are two theologies through which to interpret God’s testing – sovereign control, or sovereign love.
If the story of Abraham and Isaac is interpreted through sovereign control, the conclusion is: God tests us to determine if our faith is worthy of His promise. Can we be trusted?
If this story is interpreted through sovereign love, the conclusion is: God tests us so we can discover His perfect love, be set free to live confidently sure that He is faithful with all He has promised. He can be trusted!
This wasn’t a story of control where God needed to know Abraham loved Him more than anyone else. That suggests God is needy. This wasn’t a story of control where God needed to know Abraham would obey before God would follow through on His promises. That suggests God is petty.
This was a story about Abraham being set free from the horrific bondage of sovereign control so he could walk in the fullness of his promise. God was transforming Abrahams perspective and understanding.
That is always what He is doing!
God didn’t give Abraham a test so Abraham could prove his love. God gave Abraham a test so God could reveal the goodness of sovereign love in an area where Abraham was devastatingly deceived, and living in bondage to his deception. God gave Abraham a test so Abraham could perceive the truth about the nature of God and be set free.
I would like to suggest that every God test is an invitation into a greater revelation of the truth that sets free. And passing a test is always evidenced by transformed thinking, wholeness and greater intimacy.
Sometimes, we are so constrained by a lie we believe about God, sometimes it is so a part of our every thought, a foundational part of our existence, that it requires a radical act of trust to encounter the truth.
For Abraham, the lie was that God required child sacrifice as some act of worship.
Child sacrifice is the vilest act in the existence of humanity, the utmost perversion of worship imaginable.
Child sacrifice is the most desperate act of a slave struggling to ease the harsh reality of his or her existence. The sacrifice of innocence is the ultimate horrific demand of the sovereign control narrative.
When a lie about the nature of God is so ingrained, there is only one way to be set free. We accept God’s invitation to follow Him into the very heart of the broken perspective so the deception can be exposed. How is it exposed? Through a greater revelation of His good sovereign love in the very area that we were deceived, in the very lie that has enslaved us.
In these moments, we are able to see the perfection of His love, that the whole story is better than we thought, and we are set free.
Every test by God is an invitation to transition from one narrative to another, from control to love, from orphan to son or daughter, from bondage to freedom, from fractured thinking to wholeness, from our perspective to His, from our best thoughts about who He is, to the truth about who He is, from our story, to the whole story; the one He is telling.
How we experience testing matters! If we think the test is about earning the promises of God, we will continually miss the point of the test. This will lead us to develop the heart of a Prodigal or a religious Pharisee.
But if we realize every test is an invitation, through faith, into a greater revelation of His always good love, we will navigate from bondage to freedom, we will be transformed, we will know joy and peace, regardless of the circumstances.
When God asks us to trust and obey Him in an area where we are insecure, it’s so He can make us sure in the perfection of His love for us. Testing is the invitation to see God more fully and be set free from fear.
In each test is available to us breakthrough for our thinking, our future experiences and the generations that follow us. This breakthrough is available to the extent that we, like Abraham, go into the test contending for resurrection life, contending for the goodness of God, the sovereignty of love.
I would like to suggest that our freedom and our promises are only available to us to the extent our theology transitions from control to love, to the extent that our narrative is transformed.
Jason Clark is a writer, speaker and lead communicator at A Family Story Ministries. His mission is to encourage sons and daughters to grow sure in the love of an always-good heavenly Father. He and his wife, Karen, live in North Carolina with their three children.
Submit a Comment
YOU ALSO MIGHT LIKE…
With every blog I am overwhelmed by God’s goodness. I have an emotional response. Obviously there is some deep work and healing that is happening through your words. ❤️
Yay God!! Honored to be a part of the story, praying grace in every area of life. Thanks for the encouragement! Blessings!
Amen brother. Oh how I need that transition from Orphan to the child of God. I have never viewed test from God like this but rather from an ungracious perspective of trying to somehow earn a promise or his favor or love. Thank you for the relief of the Gospel.
Hey Antonina! I’m on the same transformational journey, growing ever sure in favor and love. Thanks for sharing, hope you and your family are well!
Hi Jason! A friend sent me to check out your blog. This was an interesting post – I’ve always found this passage of the Bible puzzling and challenging. Curious as to whether you could share some Scriptural references that support your thoughts and suggestions on how to interpret it? I love digging around in my Bible and making connections!
Thanks and have a great day
I too have always been puzzled by this story. Over the last several years, as I have grown ever sure in the always good love of our Father revealed perfectly through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, I have begun to discover His goodness in puzzling biblical stories like this one.
I write in great depth on this particular story in my book, “God Is (Not) In Control, The Whole Story Is Better Than You Think”.
In fact, this article was pulled and adapted from a chapter in that book titled “Testing”. That book would give you the most insight into this story, especially the language of sovereign love vs sovereign control.
But quickly here, Hebrews 11 tells us that “by faith” Abraham believed that God could raise Isaac from the dead.
You see this when Abraham heads up the mountain with his son, he actually tells his servants to stay and wait while he and his son went go up the mountain to worship, but that they would both be back.
We have a phrase in our family that has become foundational in our faith. “I don’t know, but He is good.” We say it when life contradicts our understanding, we say it when obedience contradicts our understanding, we say it when we are confused or disappointed or disillusioned or…
I believe Abraham essentially lived this faith statement. He basically was trapped in a paradigm where child sacrifice was considered the high water mark for worship and devotion. The culture of His day believed that “gods” required “the fruit of their body for the sin of their soul.” (see Micah 6:7)
Therefore, Abraham, trapped in a paradigm, in his cultural understanding chose to believe God was good, even beyond his understanding. Abraham believed God would raise his son from the dead. Talk about faith in His goodness when you don’t understand.
God intervenes at the heart of Abrahams deception and the amazing revelation for Abraham, and then for all the generations that followed, God isn’t like the other “gods”, He does not require this disgusting act, He is not a punitive petty insecure tyrant. He does not require child sacrifice as an act of worship and devotion. He is good and can be trusted. He is better than we think, and he tests us to help us repent or, change the way we think.
I know that’s a quick response but all I have time for today. If you want a more, you can listen to a message below in which I go in depth on this story you.
Here is a link to the message
Here is the message
Hope that helps, blessings!