What do you think of when the word ‘test’ comes to mind? Sharpened No. 2 pencils? Late night study sessions cramming information? Perhaps it’s a sinking feeling in your stomach that you might fail. But what exactly is a test? It’s the measurement of your knowledge and experience put into practice. So it is with the spiritual life when we are tested with temptations… I mean we’re given the opportunity to practice responding in a way that we know to be good and true.
Sometimes, once we have successfully taken a test, we forget most of what we learned. For example, in our spiritual lives, we try so hard to overcome a temptation that when we succeed, we become so excited that we think we can do it every time. After all, if we succeed once, we can do it again! But when circumstances change, like the way a test question is worded, or there are changes in the multiple choices, or the temptation takes on a new form, we can trip up again in what we thought we had conquered.
Other times we have to retake a test in order to pass it. How can it be that we know what God wants us to do and we want to do what He wants, yet we respond to the temptation in the total opposite? As a result, we can get so disappointed in ourselves that it’s hard to imagine that God can be anything but disappointed in us as well. But God does not judge us the way we use our our limited logic to judge ourselves; and we should be very thankful for that! God wants us to improve, that’s why He is allowing us to be challenged; giving us the opportunity to practice and learn.
One of the greatest tools we have in our practice and preparation for tests is the examination of conscience. This allows us on a regular basis to review our responses to temptations and learn from the circumstances why we either failed or succeeded. By acknowledging our failures, we can ask God for forgiveness, especially in the sacrament of reconciliation, and to help us in the future.
God loves us where we are today, but He also wants us to be all He has made us to be by following His commandments and His will for us. Sometimes we will succeed and sometimes we will fail. If we keep striving and reaching out to Him, we can deepen our relationship with Him and so be prepared for the end result of all these tests… I mean practice sessions: heaven.