By Maria Fontaine
Life is often likened to going to school, and that's a good analogy. God allows all sorts of things in our lives to test us, to see how we'll react to them, to teach us lessons, and to help us grow spiritually. He's hoping, of course, that we'll apply ourselves, take the lessons to heart, learn from them, and live up to our full potential. In short, life's tests are designed by Him to help us become the people He wants to make us and knows we can be.
One of the things that God uses to bring us along, believe it or not, is our weaknesses. Everyone has their share of those. God allows them for different reasons, according to what He knows each of us needs and is best for us. Among other things, they teach us humility, patience, and other virtues; they teach us the power of prayer, which helps us to live closer to God and become more dependent on Him; and they help us to better understand others, thereby putting us in a better position to help them through their problems and tests.
Our weaknesses are meant to help us, and they do every time we learn from them. If you have a problem with being jealous, bitter, or overly sensitive, for example, the first step is to acknowledge that it is a problem, and the next step is to determine to do something about it, to overcome that weakness with God's help. Once you take those two steps, it becomes easier for you to recognize the problem when it crops up—and therein lies the test. Will you resist the temptation or give in to it? And if you decide to resist it, will you tough it out, trying to overcome it in your own strength, or will you turn to God for help?
What's important to God is your willingness to accept each test as it comes and to trust that He knows what He's doing in bringing it along.
The right thing, of course, is to decide to resist it, and the smart thing is to ask God for help, because God can even do things that are humanly impossible. The Bible is full of promises about that, promises like, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible" (Matthew 19:26), and "I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?" (Jeremiah 32:27). God can and wants to help you overcome your weaknesses, He wants to see you pass the tests, and He will help you if you ask Him to.
He'll help you, but He won't make it too easy by giving you the answers to a test in advance. That wouldn't be a test. In fact, overcoming serious or longstanding weaknesses is rarely a matter of passing a single test. It's more like taking a course. A student who wants to become proficient in a certain subject has to study hard and be drilled over and over, often taking a number of tests before the final exam. But after he passes the course, he no longer has to undergo those same drills or repeat the same tests. He has those lessons down pat, so further testing isn't necessary. He graduates from that grade or level and moves on to another. It's the same with the school of life.
Once you've applied yourself and passed a certain course, then God doesn't need to keep giving you the same tests over and over. He may occasionally pop a quiz on you as a refresher, but if you've already passed the course and retained what you learned, the refresher won't seem nearly as difficult or demanding as the original test—just difficult enough to help keep you up to date and your skills sharp.
Once you've made major progress in overcoming one weakness, then He can teach you other things or strengthen you in other areas. When you graduate from one grade or level to another, the work in the next one is usually a little more difficult, but you will have gained new abilities that will help you respond to that new challenge and you'll continue to make progress.
It doesn't matter whether the test is great or small. What's important to God is your willingness to accept each test as it comes and to trust that He knows what He's doing in bringing it along. He understands your heart. He understands what you need to keep growing. He understands what your spirit needs, and He knows exactly how to nurture and strengthen it.
So the next time you find yourself struggling with some personal weakness, instead of giving in to it or complaining that life is too hard, take it as a challenge. Choose to learn from it, and you'll soon find yourself excelling in the school of life.
God can and wants to help you overcome your weaknesses, He wants to see you pass the tests, and He will help you if you ask Him to.