If you think about the time you spent in school, nearly everyone would agree that they didn’t look forward to test day. Even if you were good at tests, it wasn’t a day you circled on your calendar and anticipated with eagerness and enthusiasm. Even though the nicest of teachers would try to calm our anxieties by explaining that the test was just a tool to help them gauge how well they were teaching—we knew better! Tests were an intrusion on our childhood (and later young adult) mirthfulness. They were little flashes of reality that told us that what we did mattered, someone was keeping score and we were accountable. In later years, we would look back and appreciate this, but not at the time. Tests were simply invasive.
The worst thing that could happen on a test was that you drew a blank. You remembered talking about something in class, studying about it in your test preparation, but when you most needed the information—you drew a blank as big as Texas. The next worst thing also involved a blank. It was something everyone could easily do but in the anxiety of the moment it might be overlooked. I’m talking about filling in the blank that asked for your name.
If you left this blank, you were at the mercy of your teacher. Some teachers would write your name in (they knew whose test it was) along with a warning not to do this again. Other teachers might take the graded, unsigned test to class and after passing out all of the signed papers ask, “Who didn’t get their test back?” If it was you, you had to make a public confession by raising your hand and endure the embarrassment of your mistake. That guaranteed you would never do it again. Or, in the most severe cases, a teacher subtracted points from your test. My older brother turned in a math paper in high school that graded out at 100% but was given a zero because he had forgotten to write his name!
When it comes to our life as a follower of Jesus, writing our name on our test is a mark of growth and maturity. Tests are a part of life. Jesus faced them and we will as well. It is important that when we do, we own them. We don’t try to run away from them, pray them away or push them off on other people. We write our name on them. We understand that God’s purpose isn’t to deliver us from them but to take us through them and we trust Him to do just that.
Peter writes to disciples who are experiencing some tests because of their following of Jesus (4:12-16). One of the first things he tells them is not to underestimate the value of such experiences. Like gold, we are being refined. But unlike gold, which still is perishable, our refinement creates character that will endure and be rewarded (1:7). All of this means that we don’t have to have test anxiety. When life hands you a test, you need to trust God and put your name on it.