BEYOND THE NEWS: God is just testing you . . . but what does that mean?

Maybe the objective isn’t to pass or fail but to simply get stronger.

Lee Eric Smith | 12/4/2015, 1:12 p.m.
Maybe the objective isn’t to pass or fail but to simply get stronger.
Lee Eric Smith

As a child, I took pride in having good grades.

I’ll admit that some of that was I didn’t have to study much. As “the smart kid,” the curriculum was aimed at the middle section of my peers. No disrespect to them, but that often meant that I wasn’t really challenged at school. Not even when the tests came.

I found that just by paying attention in class, asking a few questions, doing my homework and a little last minute cramming, I was generally able to score in the 90s on my tests — at least through high school. Sure the tests got harder, and I had to work more in college, but even that wasn’t so bad.

If only those tests could have prepared me for the tests God would give me as an adult.

The difference between the exams you take in school and the ones that God gives you is that on a written exam, you generally know what the question is because, well, you can read.

But in life, when God tested me, often I wasn’t quite sure what the question was — and if you’re not sure what the question is, how can you get the answer right?

For instance: In my early 20s, I felt that God led me to leave my job as a newspaper reporter to launch my own business. Now you assume that means that God is going to richly bless your finances and you will be a roaring success, right?

WRONG! I launched a desktop publishing business, with enough understanding of desktop publishing and little understanding of business — specifically, that tried and tested truism that very few businesses turn a profit in their first year, assuming they survive the first year at all.

So there I was, hoping to make a living off of a fledgling business venture, with NO CLUE what I was doing. I didn’t know basic accounting. Keeping up with receipts was a chore. Heck, because people don’t really know what goes into creative work like publishing, I wasn’t even sure what to charge for my services.

In very quick order, I’d gone from making a decent salary as a reporter to working three jobs to make half the money, and hope that the power company didn’t shut me off. My business had failed.

But had I failed the test that God gave me?

Look, I know I’m not the first person to pray a lot when you don’t know where the next meal is coming from. I’m not the only one who cries out, “Lord, if you get me through this, I’ll do better next time!”

But I can say this: I drew closer to God during that period. One of my first clients belonged to the Universal Truth Center for Better Living in Miami, a church where I discovered a way of understanding God that still influences me to this day.

I remember feeling broken and lost one day, and hearing “Optimistic” by The Sounds of Blackness — the part where the choir proclaiming over and over again: “You can win! As long as you keep your head to the sky . . .”