I am a wife and a mother, so I cook. A lot. When I was first married I did not know how to cook at all. Like, struggled to cook boxed meals – not at all. I worked my way up to roasting meat in the oven. I went to the local hardware store and bought a meat thermometer. A huge one that tells you which meats are done at which temperature next to the numbers. I was always in agony of whether it was really truly done and ready to eat.
In the early days I would take a roast out of the oven 4 or 5 times to check the temperature. It seemed like the temperature rose so slowly. Probably because I was taking it out so much and letting it cool a little each time. Which meant the roast would take that much more time to get back to where it was heat-wise. Not to mention how much the oven cooled every time I opened the door. If FOOD Network’s Chopped taught me anything, it’s to leave the oven door closed as long as possible to make for an efficient cook time.
Now I know enough about cooking and oven roasting that I generally only take the roast out once – when it’s done. Occasionally I will have to put it back for a bit longer, and sometimes I pull out that old thermometer just to make sure it’s good.
The point I’m making with all this carnivorous cooking is to point out that when I check the temperature of a roast and it’s not done the first time I check do I throw it out? Like, “That was a total fail! What a waste. Now I have to start all over with a new piece of meat.”?
No. Of course no! I just put it back in the environment of the oven so it can finish cooking and end up fulfilling its purpose: yummy dinner.
I used to notice times of testing in my life. I would find myself in a specific set of circumstances that I knew I had been in before. When I looked back at how I responded the last time I knew it wasn’t the best response. In those times I felt like I’d failed the last test and that was why I was in that same test again. I tried so hard to respond differently in order to pass the test. Sometimes I was able to change, sometimes I responded the same as before. Which made me feel like an even bigger failure.
After a few times I was drowning in failure, failing God, failing at life. I asked God why He was setting me up to fail. Why couldn’t He set me up to succeed? Why couldn’t He give me a test I could pass?
Something occurred to me after this last season of testing. I was able to see it differently. This time I looked at my testing and stopped seeing a report card full of Fs and started seeing my giant meat thermometer. These tests God puts in our lives are there to see if we’re done, if we’re ready to fulfill our purpose within His Purpose. It’s not a pass or fail situation, it’s, “Are you fully developed in the identity I put within you when I made you?” If we’re not done, God puts us back in the environment that creates change and growth.
Sometimes we are ready for the next step and we move on. But God is a creative God and there is always more in Him. So once we’re in the next step, there’s new challenges and tests that cause us to grow more.
I think this is why James writes, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:2-4 NKJV) It is through the testing that we produce the character needed to be complete. When we go through this process we are who we need to be in order to fulfill the purpose God put in our hearts from the beginning. We lack nothing that is needed to carry out the work of God. In a culture of identity confusion and scarcity, this passage is a relief. Or at least the promise of relief. Through trials and the effort it takes to overcome them, I can leave confusion behind, know who I am in Christ and be complete, lacking nothing.
Trials are hard and in my experience, you have to lean into them to reap the full benefit of growth. Growing takes time. Sometimes it takes a long time. James said the trials would produce patience, and he knew we would need it. Regardless of the length of time, what matters is the growth. Length of time does not diminish the final product in our hearts. Our instant culture tells us that time does diminish us, but that’s a lie.
During the process of writing this post I happened upon a video of Christine Caine giving a talk on this very subject of testing and growth. She pointed out that the time between Samuel anointing David and David ruling over both north and south territories of Israel was 20 years. It took 20 years to learn the knowledge and gain the experience needed to be the best king Israel ever had. He had the right heart at 17, when he was anointed, but he needed everything else. When he was done growing into the anointing, the appointment came at 37. At the end of the 20 years King David was complete and lacking nothing. (David’s full story can be found in 1 Samuel 16-1 Kings 2)
When the failure is washed away from times of testing they can be counted as joy. Whether it takes 1 year or 20, we can rest in the knowledge that at the end we will be complete and lacking nothing. In the meantime we can turn our hearts to Jesus. Because when we have our hearts turned to the Lord they are at rest in the midst of the trial. Jesus already shed His blood, we are already covered. The rest is just growth into who we are.
“Anointing vs. Gifting II Christine Caine at WorshipU On Campus 2018” WorshipU YouTube channel. 2018.