Trials and testing appear to mean the same thing, but they are also juxtaposed ideas. The word trials indicates an experiment. The word testing is synonymous with proof.
These definitions seem appropriate to me. Science and math—specifically geometry—continue to be my least favorite subjects.
My college roommates can attest to my foul mood during the J-term I took Modern Alchemy, a “science” class for non-science students. The grade I received brought down my stellar GPA if only slightly.
The image of a castle built out of cones, prisms, and spheres that a student teacher joyfully handed out to my high school geometry class to prove with theorems and definitions still plagues my mind. I remember flipping over the paper and accepting failure.
As my husband aptly assesses, I am capable of understanding science and math. I just don’t enjoy the process. Which is James’ point in these verses—“it” can be understood as long as joy is part of the process. So, even though I take great joy in delegating these subjects when I see the limit of my patience, I do admit greater pleasure in gaining appreciation for the process’ trials and testing. Especially when they fit in with a biblical word study.
Trials, then, are a series of life experiments based on theories that reduce or prevent conflict. One method is tried, and then another. Cause and effect are considered with each decision. Sometimes the process is successful. Sometimes the effects lead to more trials and errors.
Testing is the proof of success defined by knowledge gained through trials and built on by theorems. Scripture is a collection of these theorems by which to assess the trials. Discernment is applying these rules at the outset. In fact, such wisdom chooses the best application that gets to the solution sooner rather than later.
While the trials and testing work hand-in-hand, life does not appear to be getting any easier. Solving “it” can seem like an endless stream of failed attempts rather than a step-by-step process towards a solution.