As a teacher I know that there is such a thing as “test anxiety.” Several students experience it on a regular basis. It is the type of performance anxiety when students exhibit physical and emotional symptoms at the moment they are faced with a test. Even if they are prepared and should have no reason to worry about the exam, the anxiety/fear paralyzes them.
This anxiety is triggered, among other things, by recalling recent, poor testing history at the time of the examination. Their previous experiences are still too real, too recent for them to overcome, making them unable to disassociate or detangle the past from the present. They cannot relax. They don’t trust their abilities; and since they have to rely only on themselves at the hour of the test, their lack of self-trust causes them to crumble. They know they are on their own and they fear they can’t do it by themselves…so they fail.
I am the victim of a sort of test anxiety as well. The tests that cause me anxiety, however, are not the type I can cram for. I become anxious, fearful, nervous and at times even paralyzed whenever I face any kind of health test. And as it happens, I’m in the midst of a couple of those. Thinking about academic test anxiety, however, has given me a new perspective. It is my recent test history what brings cold chills up and down my spine. It is my inability to separate the past from the present what messes with my mind. But most of all, it is the idea that I am alone what scares me the most.
I cannot relax because I continue to think, deep inside my soul, that I have no one but aloof doctors and distant technicians to rely upon. I feel surrounded by people who are indifferent to my feelings and dependent on procedures that may or may not be flawed. I crumble because I don’t trust…I fail because I believe I need to do this on my own and I know I’m incapable.
The truth, however, will make me free. The day I accept God’s promises as true will be the day I can be free from the fear of my own mortality. So I turn to His Word and find this passage:
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.” Proverbs 3:5-8
The first part of this promise is very familiar and dear to me. I hang on to the words like a raft in the storm. The second part, though, is a gem the Holy Spirit only led me to discover in the last few days. “Fear the Lord and shun evil…this will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.” WOW…
I know I have allowed the enemy to take advantage of my weakness and I have continuously left the door open for him to crawl into my heart. I have given him permission to manipulate my emotions and deceive me with his schemes. I have not shunned evil and that has broken my spirit and diminished my faith.
It is only when faith is strong that trust overflows, swallowing anxiety and fear in the raging currents of the river of Christ’s peace. The multi-dimensional trust in the Lord and the total abandon of our own ways that Scripture calls us to do can only become a reality when the knowledge and love for Our Great God empowers us to pronounce aloud: “stand behind me Satan, leave me alone for I am a child of God!” That’s when the fear of the Lord will cover us and His health and nourishment will renew us and make us whole.
I guess there is some cramming I need to do to prepare for my tests after all. I need to cram on God’s Word and review His promises. I need to drill the command, “do not be afraid” over and over again until it becomes second nature in my brain. I need to practice putting on God’s armor to stand up to the enemy protected by His shield and armed by His sword. I need to recall the many times He has delivered me and I need to memorize His Faithfulness, and how He will continue to deliver me again and again.
I pray that test anxiety becomes a thing of my past and that the all-dimensional trust on the Lord emerges to heal me and nourish me and all those who may experience the growing pains of maturity in Christ as we take the faith-refining tests that we encounter along our path.