"My concern is that if this is a problem it may surface at another time when the light should go on and cause damage if not attended to."
Reasonable concern. Why not "break" your car and see if the light works ?
If this was my car (others may not agree with this) I'd unplug something easy to get to, an 02 sensor, coolant sensor, etc. Then the "Check Engine" light should illuminate. I'd immediately shut the engine off and reconnect the component. This test should put your fears to rest.
However, the "Check Engine" light will remain on for several days unsless somebody with a code reader (at Advance Auto Parts, Autozone, etcetera) would be so kind as to turn it off for you.
I own an inexpensive reader (Actron Pocket Scan - appx. $50) that lets me retrieve codes and turn off the CEL. You could consider owning one and becoming your own Dr. Motors, Eh.
Note: Some vehicles will clear codes by disconnecting and reconnecting the battery, but on some cars you can create different problems. I'd go the reader / scanner route.