Dr. Gregory House was television’s fictional curmudgeonly doctor who solved medical mysteries. Some have even wondered what House would do with Covid-19. But House was also a misanthrope and an atheist. In a scene where the characters were considering whether there is anything to people seeing a white light at the end of the tunnel in near death experiences, House retorts that it is simply the chemical reactions to the brain shutting down. There is nothing after death, and he finds that comforting. When questioned about this being comforting, he replies: “I find it more comforting to believe that this isn’t simply a test.”
The scene succinctly raises an important issue about life. Is life a test or not? The Christian worldview gives a much different answer than the one given by the fictional Dr. House. The question is worth pondering.
I suspect that the comfort gained from saying life isn’t a test goes something like this. Death is the end. There is no judgment, heaven, or hell. (Can we hear John Lennon’s Imagine being sung in the background?) We can’t get life wrong. It’s like the elation of the student who finds out there is no final exam.
Yet, this perspective comes with a terrible cost. It would mean that life has no ultimate meaning despite the fact we all seem to seek to make our life meaningful. It would mean that no moral values exist, other than the ones I subjectively create for myself, or we decide as a group, or some elite, powerful group decides for us. Yet such values are more akin to “I like chocolate; you like vanilla” than they are to “thou shalt” or “thou shalt not.” The dictator who exterminates millions, the gunman who takes out a passersby in a shopping mall, or the woman who donates time at a soup kitchen are all just different ways of living life. Who’s to say which is better? They all die. If life is not a test, no one passes or fails.
Believing that life is a test certainly has ramifications. Since my choices in life can lead to eternal loss or eternal bliss, choices are filled with meaning and cannot be taken lightly. A choice between good and bad really exists. Doesn’t my sense that some things are not fair suggest that there is something about moral decisions that goes beyond my subjective feelings about them?
Such a life is more than a pass or fail for the afterlife. Life becomes a moral adventure. We have the opportunity to grow in goodness, love, and kindness. We learn the challenges of standing up for justice and fairness in a world that is frequently unfair. Honesty grows into transparency as we learn to be honest about who we are in all circumstances. The trials of life produce patient endurance.
I find comfort in life being a test. It means life matters, and death is not the end. It’s a profound question. The course of your life will be affected by your answer. Is life a test?