Have you ever been in a situation where you felt like there was no way to win? Lord knows parenting can feel that way.
Being a parent is a lot like walking confidently across icy ground in the winter. One minute you’re striding along without a worry in the world, and the next minute you’re overcome by that awful feeling of losing complete control. Time slows down as the stress of the moment creeps in, and the ground feels inevitable. No matter how much you try to recover, all signs point to you going down.
We all have moments in parenting and in life that feel the same way. One minute we’re strolling along, and the next minute we’re going down in a slow-motion, uncontrollable spiral. In those moments, our fall can feel inevitable. It feels like there’s nothing we can do except brace ourselves as the feeling of failure takes over.
It might be a co-worker who pushes you to the brink of your patience or a toddler who keeps pressing your buttons. It could be your spouse, a friend, your boss, your vehicle, your church, or anything in-between – they all give us daily opportunities to experience times that push us beyond what we think we’re capable of. These are the times when we’re tested, and the Bible tells us that these moments are coming.
Proverbs 17:3 says, “The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the Lord tests hearts.”
1 Peter 4:12 says, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.”
We know that God tests those he loves to strengthen our character and our relationship with him. But does God give us tests He knows we won’t pass?
He certainly gave the apostle Peter a test he knew he wouldn’t pass (Matthew 26).
Peter was one of Jesus’ closest friends, yet when Jesus was in his most desperate moment, Peter denied even knowing him. Talk about hitting rock bottom. Imagine the shame that must have overtaken Peter in that moment. Imagine how low he must have felt. We’re told that after he denied knowing Jesus, Peter “broke down and wept” (Mark 14:72).
What’s interesting is, Jesus told Peter beforehand that this would happen. He told Peter that he would deny knowing him. Jesus knew it would happen, yet he let Peter go through the failure anyway. But why?
Did Peter have the strength from God to pass that test? Absolutely.
1 Corinthians 10:13 says:
“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”1 Corinthians 10:13
That’s where walking with God differs from walking on ice. On ice, you have nothing to hold onto. With God, he’s always right there with his hand out waiting for you to take his way out. The problem is God’s way out of our hopeless situation is almost never something we’re comfortable with. It will almost always include making a difficult decision that goes against our human tendencies, so we tend to overlook it. But it’s always there.
Peter’s temptation was to lie about his association with Jesus to keep himself safe. Obviously, Peter had the physical strength he needed to tell the truth; but he didn’t lean on that strength and instead gave in to fear.
But Jesus didn’t condemn Peter for that. Instead, he went out of his way to make sure Peter was one of the first ones to know that He had risen (Mark 16:7). Then, in John 21, Jesus made sure Peter understood God’s immense grace by giving him even more responsibility as a leader of the church. Not only did Jesus not condemn him, but he promoted him – and all of this after Peter’s failed test.
This example brings up four big questions:
Question #1: Does God know everything that’s going to happen?
Psalm 139:16 says that all the days ordained for us were written in God’s book before one of them came to be. Psalm 139:4 says that God knows every word we’ll speak before a single one enters our mouth. The Bible says God knows everything and his understanding is infinite (1 John 3:20, Psalm 147:5).
So, God clearly knows everything that’s going to happen in our lives – and that includes every test we’re going to be given. God already knows ahead of time what’s going to happen and whether we’re going to pass a test. That means when we fail a test, God knew that was going to happen.
Question #2: Are God’s plans going to happen no matter what?
God says in Isaiah 46:10, “My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.” In Isaiah 14:24 he says, “Surely, as I have planned, so it will be, and as I have purposed, so it will happen.” To top it off, Acts 5:39 tells us that if something is from God, people will not be able to stop it.
Therefore, God’s redemptive plan will happen no matter what. But that doesn’t mean that people won’t reject him along the way. Where there is love, there must be free will. Anything less would be slavery. And where there’s free will, there’s brokenness. But God takes the brokenness found in free will and works it for his good plan. That’s essentially the gospel in a nutshell.
Christ died for us while we were still sinners – not while he waited on us to do better. (Romans 5:8) We will certainly get tests that stretch us and even fracture us but understand that the point is not for you to pass every test. The point is to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus (2 Peter 3:18). And that process can be ugly sometimes.
Thankfully, as Paul says, “if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One,” so the pressure isn’t on us. It’s been taken by Jesus.
While the Bible makes it clear that God’s purpose will stand, it isn’t dependent on you passing all your tests. God is much more powerful than that, and that should bring us peace.
Question #3: Does that mean it’s okay to fail the tests we face?
Here’s the thing: you can fail every test God ever gives you, and God’s plan will still be done. God’s not depending on you for his well-being, and that’s good news.
But that doesn’t mean your decisions aren’t eternally important. God’s plans involve using you to achieve his will, but if you choose to not participate in his plans, then he’ll find another way to do it. It’s up to you whether you want to be a part of the work God’s doing in the world. Engaging in that work is the greatest opportunity you’ll ever get, and failing tests is a part of your growth along the journey to doing just that.
Failure is going to happen. You’re going to have moments of weakness. That’s called being human. But God makes everything work for the good of his people no matter what. (Romans 8:28)
Once we realize that, we’re much less likely to abuse his grace by choosing to sit on the sideline all our lives. God’s will is going to happen alongside our failures, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to quit. In fact, the tests we face are intended to have the opposite effect. As the apostle Paul put it, “I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” Paul knew that God’s power starts where our weakness begins, and the tests we face remind us of that.
Here’s some good and potentially daunting news, depending on how you take it: God makes his appeal to the world through us – through you and I (2 Corinthians 5:20). Therefore, pressing through brokenness and failed tests are of eternal importance. They aren’t just about our personal progress or preferences.
God’s doing something inside of his people through their faith in him. Faith is a belief expressed through an action. That’s how we produce fruit, and Jesus said his people would be known by their fruit (Matthew 7:16). If you keep opting out of opportunities God gives you to produce fruit in your life, that’s an outward expression of an inward belief – that you’re not trusting him with everything.
Learn from the tests you fail, but don’t throw away opportunities by taking God’s grace as a license to let go of responsibility. Like Peter, let your brokenness and failures drive you toward Jesus, not away from him. Grow through the tests you face, and let that process bring you joy because you know that the test was never about passing or failing in the first place – it was and always will be about abiding. When all is said and done, that’s all that will matter anyways.