Is God so ignorant of things, does he know so little about the human heart, that he can find what a man is only by testing him? Of course not, the testing is so that the man can find himself....You should recognize that God does not need to test in order to learn something he did not know before; its so that by his testing, by his investigating, what is hidden in someone might come out. A person is not as well known to himself as he is to his Creator, an ill person doesn’t know himself as well as his doctor. Someone becomes ill, and he’s the one suffering, not the doctor, but it’s from the one not suffering that the sufferer expects to hear what’s wrong. The Psalmist cries out: “Cleanse me, Lord, from my hidden things” (Ps 18:13). In any person there are things hidden to the very one in whom they exist. They don’t come out, aren’t laid open, aren’t discovered, except by his being tested. If God ceases to test, the teacher ceases to teach.... Why do I say this? Because a person is ignorant of himself until he learns who he is by being tested. But once he has learned who he is, let him not be careless about himself. If he was careless when he lay hidden from himself, let him not be careless now that he knows himself. (Augustine, Sermon 2, 2-3; PL 38-28-29)
Rev. Joseph A. Komonchak, professor emeritus of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America, is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of New York.