Today suffered a rather weighty realization. I say suffered because, frankly, it was far from pleasant. It's as another of those things mentioned in the prior post that hurts. It burns, but it cleans too, like hot water. It must hurt if it does good. Gold is refined in a furnace, iron must be heated before it can be formed, and we are no exception; if we are to bend to the will of God, He must first allow us to suffer. After all, how can the Perfector of our faith work if we're cold and hard? He must set us in the kiln and immerse (read: baptize) us in the fire, and only then can the Perfector perfect.
The aforementioned conclusion was this: God tests us.
Yes, we've all heard the accounts of people being tested by God, such as Job, David, S/Paul (and Ananias for that matter), Abraham, and so many more, the list being quite overshadowed by God's very own Son. And He tests us as well. It may not be of Biblical proportions, such as the laying down of one's own son as Abraham endured, losing family and health and wealth and pretty much everything as Job experienced. It might not even be the trials the nation of Israel suffered in Egypt as they waited for God's promise to be fulfilled, seeing Pharaoh time and time again deny them their freedom, his heart apparently hardened by God Himself. But that doesn't mean it's any less real. And He has promises for us. Sometimes we don't see those promises come to pass, but that doesn't mean they don't come to pass, it simply means we must do our part in lifting up the ancient gates, so that the King of Glory may enter in.
Back to the Israelites in Egypt thing, as it seems to be the most apropos thing we can relate to (in this instance at least).
God promised them freedom--not just freedom; He mentions a land, that is, the Promised Land. But it is said rather specifically that God told Moses in chapter four, "...I will harden [Pharaoh's] heart so that he will not let the people go."
It almost looks like God is teasing these people with promises He will withhold. Not to say God isn't allowed to tease us. He is God after all.
Firstly, God shows Moses how He's going to convince people to have faith, and that's by turning Moses' staff into a snake. "This," He says, "is so that they may believe..." God shows Moses another sign and says that the second is in case everyone doesn't believe the first. And then a third. The reason there were ten signs is so that they would be wholly without excuse. God was giving a sign so they'd believe. For the sake of those who wouldn't believe the first, He hardened the heart of Pharaoh long enough to perform a second. And a third. And... a tenth. And to think, i stop saying "Bless you" at three sneezes.
He had set in front of them something they greatly desired, but before He gave it to them, He laid some stumbling blocks. That is, things that would ensure they would focus on Him instead of getting out of Egypt.
Nine times, the people most likely became disheartened, thinking they would never go free. But those who held on till the tenth were rewarded with so much more than they were promised (err, after a substantial misadventure they caused themselves).
My point is this: God tests us. He sometimes sets in front of us everything we've ever looked for. And He takes it away.
He places before us things that may become idols, and then He says, "No." Hardens Pharaoh's heart again.
Then comes that hope again--"No."
This isn't to tease us. It's to ensure we focus on Him, not on the thing He's offering. So that we will know He is God, that He is in control, that we have nothing but Him as our solid source of any hope either in this life or the next, He takes away the thing He lets us see. "Look at me," He is essentially saying, "Not the promised thing."
Stop looking at potential idols. Stop looking at wealth, stop looking at a career, stop looking at a relationship, stop looking at your health even. Look at Him. Look upon the snake that was raised up in the wilderness. Eyes up! Heavenward! A horizontal gaze will never get us over a mountain, but only looking up.
He tests us. Lets us see things, then takes them away, not for the sake of taking them away but for the sake of readjusting our eyes so that, when/if we do get it (if He has promised us, we have the full assurance of faith that He will make it come to pass!), He is still our focus, because we know it can be taken away.
I pray we learn to walk with the mantra of a Heavenward gaze.