Why I hate the words “This life is a test”

In my own faith, as well as in many other faith or various religions, I’ve heard the words “This life is a test.”  I believe them to be true, but I still get frustrated with the words or phrase because (I believe) we too often misinterpret what they really mean.

When people say the words “This life is a test” or “You are here to be tested,” what they are usually saying is, “Life is meant to be hard and even painful.”  There is an underlying assumption that we have to be miserable NOW so that we can be happy LATER (in heaven, in the hereafter, etc.).  I mean, really, how many times have YOU ever been happy about taking a test?

As a college instructor, my view of the whole “This life is a test” has changed as I have gained a small piece of insight into what God must feel about His “tests” for us.  For one of my classes, all of the material (including exams) are provided online and the test is open book.  When the final grades are calculated, I remove or overlook their lowest exam scores and take the highest ones.  Additionally, I open my office door and provide additional phone-in times for students to ask questions.  Despite my attempt to be available for my students, most have never taken the time to stop by or call.  However, at the end of the semester I tend to get dozens of frantic emails (not visits or phone calls) from students explaining they are not doing well and ask for some help (via email).  My response is almost always the same:

-How often did you read my textbook?

-I very much wish you would have stopped by or phoned me earlier in the semester when I could have helped you more.

-How much time per week did you devote to my class?

In most of these email exchanges, the answers are very predictable.  “But I didn’t have time to read the textbook.”  “I figured I could do it on my own.”  “Is there any extra credit I can do instead of taking an exam?”

I think God must laugh and cry a little at those who petition Him with similar questions and answers.  Yes, life is a test but He has given us so much to use to succeed in it.  He will even let go or forgive our lowest points in life.

Maybe the test is really about whether we’ll use those things to be happy in life.




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