My kids are taking final exams this week. That fact has me thinking about testing. 

I had a teacher once in middle school who told our class that he loved test day. He said, “My attitude was, ‘I’m going to show that teacher what I know and how smart I am.'”

I have never had that attitude. Not in high school, not in college, not in graduate school. I hated preparing for tests, taking tests, and waiting for tests to be graded.

Here’s the thing, though: Without testing, you don’t really know what you know.

Ya know?

You may think you know a subject. You may think you have absorbed all the material and mastered its meaning. When I was studying for a test, I used to look at the textbook or my class notes and say, “Yup, I remember that. I know that.” 

But then, during the test, I’d sit there in my blue plastic seat with that tiny little desktop that’s so small you couldn’t have two pieces of paper sitting next to each other on it. I’d sit there, looking at the question and muttering to myself, “I know this. Why can’t I think of the answer?”

So, I didn’t know it. I did not know the answer. I hadn’t mastered the material. I was vaguely familiar with it, but I did not really know it. 

I’m thankful that I don’t have to take tests like that any more. But, the truth is, you and I are always being tested. Your performance at work is a test of your competence, your work ethic, your commitment to excellence, your understanding of the company’s goals, and your ability to meet a customer’s needs.

Your parenting skills are always being tested. Do you know how to give wise, sound advice to your kids–even if they don’t really want your advice? Do you know how to set rules and boundaries and enforce them? Do you know how to say no to your kids–for their own good, not for your own comfort and convenience? Do you know how to let your kids have some freedom and even make some mistakes without being irresponsible and letting them get into situations they don’t have the maturity or moral character to handle?

If you are a Christian–as I am–your faith in Christ is always being tested. Are you going to trust him when he doesn’t give you the answer to prayer that you want? Are you going to be obedient to his Word when it would be easier and more fun to disobey God and sin?

Think about whatever is a problem in your life right now. What are you worried about? What are you stressed about? What are you handling poorly? What is giving you pain? Did it ever occur to you that you are being tested in that area? Have you been struggling because you thought you knew the answer in that area but, in fact, the test is showing you that you don’t know the material after all?

In school, you take a test, get your grade, and move on to new material. In life, though, we get tested about the same stuff over and over again while also getting tested in new areas and about new material. If you’re doing poorly in some way, that means there’s something you need to learn. You haven’t learned enough to ace the test so life is going to keep giving you that test until you either learn it, quit, or your life comes to end.

So, let’s go back to thinking about whatever is a problem in your life today. If you’re struggling in an area, then you don’t know what you need to know in that area. Maybe you thought you were ready for that test but you’ve realized now that you clearly are not. What are you going to do about it? Can you find a tutor to help you? Do you need to put some more time in the textbook to really learn the answers this time?

Learn to look at your problems as tests and handle those tests the way you would in school–learn the material one way or another.