“The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the heart” (Proverbs 17:3).

What does it look like when God tests our hearts? Just as gold and silver must be tested and refined to burn off the dross and other impurities, so trials in our lives are a test and a refining. Trials bring a world of hurt as well as our greatest spiritual growth, especially when we grow to understand this significant truth:

Our responses, no matter what they are, don’t lessen God’s love toward us. His love is beyond our imagination. He loves without invitation. He is the initiator.

What does that look like?

The story of the Generous Father and the Two Sons (aka The Prodigal Son parable) gives us a picture of two sons who are tested and a father who loves both unconditionally through it all. Both examples demonstrate God’s love.

First, the father doesn’t impose his will upon his rebellious son, but releases his beloved boy, and then waits daily, eyes on the road, expectantly awaiting the son’s return.

The father doesn’t wait to hear an apology when the youngest son’s testing results in repentance and refining. He doesn’t first ascertain that all points have been covered in the son’s confession. No, this father doesn’t wait at all. At first glimpse of his boy returning, the father runs toward him with open arms, escorts him with joy into the house, and restores all symbols of sonship, including a feast.

And then, finally, the boy gets to say his rehearsed words, which flow from his broken heart. But he’s already been swept into the father’s arms and life by then.

Simultaneously, the father has continued to love unflinchingly the hard-hearted and judgmental older son who has failed the test and who continues to grumble about the father’s compassion toward his broken brother. The father even comforts and reasons with this son, removing none of his favor.

So, suppose we, like the oldest son, failed the latest test of our faith. We blew it. We sinned in thought, word, or deed. The Father has already comforted us in our cranky angst, his love remaining steadfast and unmoving.

Likewise, when we run away and our hearts are broken over our sins, he’s already welcomed us home, invited us to the feast, dragged us into his house, clothed us in purple robes, and started the preparations.

As I consider this vast and incomprehensible love of the Father, I ponder heart tests I am currently failing. When I agonize over life circumstances that feel out of kilter and not as they “should” be, when I wring my hands that nothing seems to be going as I had hoped, wondering if God is going to do ANYTHING, I am failing the test. I lack faith.

Do you do this? I do regularly.

Thankfully, God is sovereign. He will use for good even circumstances that I don’t understand, even orchestrating for good my own sins. If he seems slow, it’s because he’s moving at the pace necessary for all to work together for my good.

My angst changes nothing. He still loves me. He’s still working.

One day, I won’t be here to engage in agonized prayer for people and causes I love. I will die. What will happen then? Will God stop caring and acting in the lives of those I pray for, simply because I am no longer present and inviting him in? Of course not!

I am not the one in control. He is. He doesn’t need my invitation into the situation. He’s already working before I “bring it” before him. He doesn’t have to wait until I “give it” to him. That’s my own inner struggle. He, on the other hand, already has it in hand. My prayers merely acknowledge this.

When I pray, it’s more about my yielding to the fact of his love and goodness. He is already present and working. I can release my worries to him. I can pray, tell God that I trust him, roll back over, and go to sleep. When I do, it demonstrates my growth.

If I’m agonizing, I learn more about the condition of my own heart, not the condition of my God. He’s already got it. He’s already there.

For me, refining results in gradually decreasing anxiety, increasing trust in God, and faithful actions accompanied by a steadfast heart.

How is the test going for you?

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