Exhaustive Outpourings

Brielle Smith

Faith is Being Still

I tend to be encouraged at night when I am comfortably in my room, with my beautiful-spirited Christian roommate, reading my book with my Bible at my side and my journal opened to a fresh page.  But during the day, actually as soon as I decide to turn the alarm off and get out of bed, I seem to forget the empowerment of everything I wrote down and genuinely experienced with God the night before.  I’d hesitate to say that that’s because it was a purely emotional experience.  On the contrary, I think I isolate God’s power to the moments when I am already feeling more optimistic about whatever situation I am in.  When I am optimistic on my own, it’s so much easier to fit God into that little picture of a sunny day that I have painted with my limited amount of resources.  My paint will eventually run out, and there will be nothing left but… open hands.  And I will find myself in a complete frenzy because I have no resources to fill my hands with!  I have an agenda, a plan, a goal, even a hope.  But I physically cannot act in order to fulfill those plans, and in this metaphor, paint that design I have so expertly crafted in my mind.

And that’s kind of where I have found myself recently.  I have a goal:  in the words of Pastor Koh: “not thorn,” referring to 2 Corinthians 12: 7-9 where Paul tells us of his “thorn in the flesh” that God would not remove.  I am in a place, justifiably, where I look up at God and pray for “not thorn”, not illness, not broken heart.  But what I rediscovered tonight while reading “God is Able” by Priscilla Shirer, is that when we try to force our desires on God, whether they are selfish or not, we are really just limiting ourselves.  Why?  Well, because no matter what we pray, God is not limited, because He is inherently omnipotent and benevolent, always willing and able to give to His children.  However, we do limit ourselves because we place these blinders over our eyes that restrict us from receiving the abundance that God desires to give to us.

When I am feeling a little more confident that God has my best interest in mind, my prayers shift away from “not thorn” to “God, give me clarity and discernment about what I should be waiting for and when I should expect it.”  That doesn’t seem to be a selfish prayer; I’m asking for wisdom, right?  Well… the past few days God has been telling me something every time I pray like that.  It sounds a little bit like this:  “Maybe you do not understand and cannot comprehend what I (God) am doing or when I will reveal it to you because what I am doing is so unfathomably good for you that your fragile mind cannot possibly comprehend it.”  Wow.  And here is my response to God:  “I really want to believe that, but what could possibly be better than being instantly healed of my illness and having my boyfriend back?”  Instead of taking that as the slap in the face to the God of the universe who created my little finite mind like it is, He gently seems to respond with two words “Vanderbilt experience.”  Now to you, that means absolutely nothing, but to me, it gives me chills up my spine because it makes this fearful hope well up inside of me.  Let me explain.

Ever since the end of my junior year of high school, I was completely sold on going to Vanderbilt University for college.  It was the perfect distance from home, still in the comforts of the south but in a city environment.  It is one of the best research schools in the south, and even the admissions counselor told me I was a shoe-in.  I was absolutely sure that God was leading me to be a Commodore.  Even the CEO of my dad’s company graduated from there and wrote me a nice letter of recommendation and took us out for lunch telling me all the wonderful things about my future alma mater.  Well.  December rolls around, decision time for Early Decision applicants.  Wearing my Vanderbilt sweat pants and t-shirt, my parents recording me, I prepared myself to receive the best Christmas gift in the entire world, one I had worked so hard for for years.

“We regret to inform you…”  I need not say anything else about the rejection I received that night.  For months I mourned over this seemingly unfaithfulness to me by God after all the prayers and devotion on the part of me and my family and closest friends.  How could God do this to me?  Not to mention, I had the flu and in a matter of two weeks come up with a plan of where I would go to school which required me to fill out 10 more applications in 14 days.  Impossible, while being physically sick and in mourning.  There was no way I was going to get to go anywhere with the prestige and rigor I wanted so badly.  Fast forward to April when decisions came out for Regular Decision applicants…  Acceptances and scholarships to UPenn and Johns Hopkins.  What?!  I was blown away by the fact that I could have pulled that off in such a short amount of time.  That’s the thing though… I didn’t.  God did.  I am now a sophomore at Hopkins, living the dream as a future neurosurgeon who frequents the second best hospital in all of America for my desired specialty and following in the steps of people like Ben Carson.  Looking back I cringe at the thought that I could have ended up at Vanderbilt without the experiences and even more so, the genuine Christian brothers and sisters I have met here at Hopkins.  So yeah, when God speaks those words to me, you can see why I simultaneously tremble and smile.  I had to suffer through pain, loss, and the agony of not having a mind that can comprehend what God is creating and when He will be done with it.  But, at the same time, I have a promise.  A promise that reminds me that He is in control, that He is never resting, that He isn’t torturing me but is actually doing something so big, so good, so much like Him that it makes a lot of sense that I wouldn’t be able to see it or make sense of it.  I have to sit and think about it a little…  What type of God would He be if the best He could do was what my troubled mind and broken heart could cling to?  No no, friends.  I may not get the healing or the relationship that I think I want in the way I want when I want.  But if we got everything we asked God for, when and how we wanted it, we would be limiting ourselves to the products of minds that at best can only speculate at “how the spirit enters the body being formed in a mother’s womb” (Ecclesiastes 11:5).  I think I would rather experience the abundance that God is creating for me, having full assurance that it is good, it is timely, it is rooted in His love for me, and it is going to leave me in wonder, which is the best place to be in relation to God.

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I asked, and He Answered.

Tomorrow I have a Biochemistry exam, and I couldn’t be more disappointed in myself.  I have been studying basically every waking minute that I haven’t been in class or at a meeting.  My body is so exhausted– to the point of dark circles under bloodshot eyes, more caffeine in my bloodstream than is advisable, and a lack of nutrition that caused me to have a dizzy spell as I was crossing a busy street.  I keep getting practice questions wrong, and I can’t seem to keep all of the minute details straight.

At this point (11pm the night before) I wasn’t getting anywhere staring at those questions.  I went back to my apartment and collapsed on my bed.  I grabbed my Bible and just (quite literally) cried to God about how unfit I felt in that moment to be on the path He has me traversing.  Some of the things I asked Him were:

“How can I be a doctor when I can’t accurately explain what cells are doing in my own body?”  “How will I survive the long days and even longer nights of medical school and residency if I can’t do it now?”  “Why would You choose me to do something this big, something this important, something this difficult?”

“Please tell me something right now that I need to hear.”

I went to open my Bible at a random place, felt a piece of notebook paper lodged between two pages and without even fully opening the book, thought to myself “the only reason I opened here was because that note was shoved inside.”  So, I closed it, making sure the paper wasn’t sticking out of the book.  As I opened the Bible again, I ended up at the same exact spot with that piece of notebook paper between the pages.  After opening it fully this time, removing the notebook paper, and allowing my eyes a second to clear up, I read two words:  “mighty warrior.”

I had opened to Judges 6, where Gideon was hiding behind a wheat threshing winepress because he was afraid to face his enemies and felt inadequate.  In verse 15 Gideon asks God, “But Lord, how can I save Israel?  My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”  That doesn’t sound too far off from my questions… “How can I be a doctor if I can’t grasp this simple concept?”  “How can I bring healing to someone if, after  six long nights, I feel utterly exhausted?”

As Gideon is feeling defeated, he hears from an angel (verse 12) who tells him, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”  In that same passage, he hears from God Himself (verse 14), “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand.  Am I not sending you?”  If that isn’t enough proof of God’s hand in Gideon’s affairs, God tells him (verse 16) “I will be with you.”

My tears originally flowing from a source of disappointment and frustration began to pour our from a place of joy and awe.  I then glanced at the notebook paper that had been occupying that space in my Bible.  It was from my freshman year in high school, back when a group of us got together before school on Wednesday mornings and took turns sharing a small message about a passage in the Bible and singing worship songs together.  This paper was a list of important points I wanted to share with the group about how sometimes God sees something in us that we can’t see in ourselves.  It emphasized that God provides the resources for us when He chooses us to fulfill a purpose He has given to us.  Six years later, I needed that same truth spoken over me.

I wish I could say that I deserved to hear from God tonight, that I have been a devout Christian lately.  But honestly, I haven’t been in my Bible for weeks, went to church last Sunday for the first time in months, and finally decided to talk to God tonight because I felt the weight of being incapable of achieving my goals on my own.  God didn’t answer me because He had to, or because I deserved it, or even because He needed me to feel better so I can keep trucking on fulfilling my purpose.  The truth is, God could do my future job as a doctor so much better than I ever will be able to do.  But, He wants me to be involved in His process of healing broken minds and speaking words of encouragement and life into the hearts of the weary and sick.  He answered me tonight out of His compassionate desire to make me a part of His story of healing and redemption.

So tomorrow I probably won’t make an A on that exam.  I will still be physically exhausted.  But, I can wake up remembering that God has already spoken words of purpose and truth over my life.  He called me a “mighty warrior” and breathed into me my purpose long before the formation of my hands, by which minds will be healed, and my lips, by which the love of my God will be spoken to all.

A Surprise Conversation

I had gotten into a pretty great habit of spending time with God each morning doing my “QT” or “devotional”, whichever one is the most popular in Christianese nowadays.  Over the course of a strenuous weekend,  I lost my streak.  And anyone who has ever tried to read the Bible regularly knows that once you miss a day, you start to miss them all, and it feels impossible to start back up.

Tonight, after coming home from the mall with a friend, I sat down on my couch with my cat and sighed.  I had just finished the most stressful week of the semester, and honestly, probably the most stressful one of the past few months.  But, I still felt unsatisfied and like I needed to do more “stuff” and be “busier” to feel fulfilled.

I saw my devotional book sitting on the side table and began making excuses left and right for why I didn’t have time to read today’s entry.  Wasn’t I just complaining because I felt like I didn’t have enough “stuff” to fill my already jam-packed schedule?!  Ugh, logic.

But with the sunset exploding in vibrant hues of pink and purple outside my 9th floor window, it was as if this moment was meant for me to spend with God.  So I flipped to today’s page in the book “Awaken” by Priscilla Shirer (sidenote: if you have never heard of her, check her out.  You won’t regret it.)  The title of the devotion was “Tailor-Made”, and I have to admit I sort of internally rolled my eyes because I knew it was just gonna be one of those encouraging feel-good devotions, and I honestly wasn’t too interested.  But, I read it anyways.

After each devotion there are two pages of journal space and a prompt to get you thinking.  Today’s was “As you read God’s Word today, don’t just read.  Listen.  Write down what you hear.  It’s yours, from Him.”

Cue the second internal eye-roll.  But because I am a perfectionist at heart, I was determined to write something down.  Staring out the window for inspiration, I just kinda waited.  Didn’t pray.  Didn’t have some Christiany background music.  I just sat there watching the birds fly outside my wind.  Thoughts began streaming in, unrelated at first, but when I finished writing, I read what I had written, and it gave me chills, because it was exactly what I needed.  But guys, it didn’t come from me.  I was just the scribe:

“You are fearfully and wonderfully made.  There is a time and place for everything, and there is always a purpose.  You see the colors in the sky?  I placed them there for you.  Don’t pretend I don’t see you and hear your fears, excitements, and regrets.  And even so, I put my glory on display for you and whisper to the birds to soar among you at the proper time so that you may see them, remember my faithfulness, and know that I am God.  Do not fear the end of the day, when people retreat, doors close, and you’ve accomplished your tasks (and then some).  Find peace knowing that tomorrow will present more ways to spend your time.  But, find real joy and sustenance, my daughter, when all is quiet, no one is expecting of you, and you find yourself alone.  For how can I fill you if you never allow yourself to be emptied?  How can I whisper the secrets of Life to you if you are always the one talking?  Daughter, you ask me to hold you, but you know that I can’t until you stop moving.”


Whenever I finish a good book, it gets added to the collection of novels living on my bookshelf.  It’s easy to tell which ones were particularly enjoyed by the numerous crease marks along the spine.  Worn corners, and I have to admit, sometimes even rippled pages from tear stains characterize the books most near and dear to my heart.

Out of all the books living in my room, I don’t think I have ever reread one, no matter how much I was captivated by the plot or intrigued by the motives of the characters.  It seems to me at least, that once you reach that last sentence and last period, it’s done.  Over.  Finished.  It may not have been the ending for which you were expecting or hoping.  You may even walk away frustrated, believing that you could have written a better one where so-and-so lived and where so-and-so was convicted of the lies they had been living throughout all of those pages.  Nonetheless, you settle for what the author, the supreme being and sovereign creator of the novel, has planned for this story.  If the ending never changes, then why reread it?  Why experience the highs and lows of an emotional roller-coaster that still ends with the same sentence and the same period?  Seems simple.  It isn’t.

Continually, I find myself rereading the chapters and novels of my life that have ended.  And for what purpose?  The ending will not change no matter how many times I run through the dialogues of pages past.

Yet, isn’t it slightly comforting to see the worn spines and tear-stained pages of those books lying on the shelf?

Moments, seasons, friendships are often constrained to a finite amount of time and not emotionally worth rereading over and over again.  Yet it is strangely comforting to return home knowing their stories are still there, resting on my shelf as a reminder of the imprints they made on me in their allotted time.

Learning to be James when I feel like Job

How timely was it that as I was scrolling through Facebook with tears running down my face the verse “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” (James 1:2-3) pops up in my news feed?  See, I don’t believe in coincidences.  I believe in a God who is personal and present.

I am not the type of person to be hit with a trial or a wave of pain and stand up in church and share how blessed I am to be suffering for Christ’s sake.  That may very well be true since we know that we can expect persecution and trial in this life just as Jesus did, but honestly, it isn’t fun.  I have never understood what having joy in trial actually looks or feels like.  The closest I have ever gotten to understanding what James meant when he penned those words is the feeling you get when you see a trial come full circle.  It is a whole lot easier to look back after you have been delivered from pain and see how it allowed you to minister comfort to others or strengthened your faith than it is to recognize that God is still good while in the midst of hurt.

I texted my mom the other day and told her that I was fearful of what God was going to take away next.  I jokingly said to her that I felt like Job and then attached the little embarrassed-face emoji to the message.  But really, I wasn’t joking.  For those of you who have decided to join me by keeping up with my stories while on this journey, you know the trials and hurt that have followed me around the past few months.  And yet again, I felt as though God had taken a friendship with someone I love away from me.  I started to worry about what He would decide to remove from my life next.

I was sharing all of this with a very close friend tonight, and after I said all that I had the words to say, she asked me a question.  “How is your faith and trust in God holding up?  I know you have been hit over and over again the past few months with difficult situations.  Is that wearing on you now that something else has happened?”

That was the first time I ever experienced what I think James may have been referring to when he wrote verses 2-3.  I got a little choked up, looked up and just smiled.  My response to her was something a little like this:  “You know, there are days when I just look up at God and ask ‘Don’t you see me hurting?’  There are days when I am feel like I have to hold onto any source of joy or peace a little tighter in fear that God may remove it from me.  But… (cue the tears) I gave a chapel talk to my high school over break about faith, and this is the time that I have to show them that I actually believe what I said to them is true.  I can’t see what God is doing.  I can’t understand why God is allowing another thing to go wrong.  But, I can say that I have seen Him do too many good things for me to just not believe that there is purpose in this, goodness for me and glory for Him to come of it.”  I actually experienced a certain amount of joy sitting there on her carpet surrounded by used tissues as I reflected on all the ways that God had come through for me in the past.

After I said that (which was definitely the work of the Spirit because that is so not the way my humanness would have responded to that question) I felt a bit of excitement grow as I began to anticipate what God was going to create from this situation.  He isn’t going to give up now, which means I have a lot to anticipate as I yet again wait with open hands.

I don’t want to be “on fire for God”.

This weekend I traded the Baltimore city lights for the star-dusted sky and ambulance sirens for an abundance of silence.  Only 50 minutes north of a congested, overworked, and ashen city is the expanse of stewarded beauty that is creation.  I was blessed to be able to pull away from the demands of everyday life at Intervarsity Christian Fellowship’s Winter Conference in Manchester, Maryland, and as much as I would enjoy continuing to search for words to adequately describe the scenery and the God we all worshiped this weekend, I want to cut right to how my expectations were not met at this retreat.

Coming out of the valley that was the last five months or so, I was so ready to be caught up in the overwhelming desire to emit praises from a gracious and humbled heart.  I knew that the music was going to lead me to tears, the speaker was going to cause me to see a passage of Scripture in a new light, and the time with my friends would resemble time spent with family.  Even though it only took the first night for all of those things to happen, I still wanted to feel that spiritual ecstasy that is almost impossible to describe.  I wanted to be so encapsulated in the beauty of my Savior that my only desire was to keep glorifying His name.  I wanted to feel the peace that surpasses all understanding (Phil. 4:7) and the abundant life (John 10:10) that Jesus promises to His beloved.  Every human has the ability to engender intense emotions by the power of the mind, but I didn’t just want intense emotions.  I wanted to be “on fire for God”.

The first night of the retreat we always go out and make s’mores around a huge bonfire.  The fire was so large this time that we were fueling it with old window shutters and wooden drawers.  The flames shot embers ten feet into the air, and I could only stand with my face to the flames for a few seconds before the heat became unbearable.  The golden yellows and sunset oranges danced up and down as the flames rapidly consumed any and every substance with which they were presented.  Yet, I couldn’t help but marvel at the bottom of the flames.  The base and center of the fire was so hot and so clean that it burned the exact opposite color than the rest of the fire.  I immediately remembered when my high school chemistry teacher told us to always wait until the flame of the Bunsen burner was blue before we began to melt a substance because the blue meant that the flame was pure, not contaminated with any unwanted particles.  The blue parts of the bonfire were barely flickering.  They were constant and continued to burn even when the fuel was beginning to run out, and the yellow flames that once licked the tree branches shrunk to their ashy remains.

During a period of reflection, I was half praying, half just kind of listening to see if God would bring any images or ideas to my mind.  (I’ve found that’s how I typically hear from God.)  Sure enough I began to think about the bonfire and how I so much wanted to be like it.  I wanted to shoot up like the tallest flames and launch powerful prayers into the sky like embers.  But God drew me down, down to the seemingly insignificant blue flames that are never the highlight of the show.  He told me to substitute my desire to be the extravagant yellow flame that grows just to shrink again for the desire to be the stable, pure, constant blue flame.  That was when I realized that this “spiritual high” I so craved wasn’t at all glorifying to God, but was meant to make me feel like I was being worshipful.  In fact, like the colors of the ostentatious yellow flame and the pure blue flame, my desire was the complete opposite of God’s desire.  God wanted me to recognize that one of the marks of a faithful follower is steadfastness and self-control (Prov. 25:28).  God wanted me to resemble the fire of His Spirit, passionate and powerful but never lacking self-control and never looking for an audience.

I don’t want to be “on fire for God”.  I want to resemble the fire of God.


God-shaped Hole

I am one of those people who goes home after the first day of classes and writes down all the dates of all of my exams for the whole semester in my planner (hyperbole intended).  I like to have advanced notice of when I will need to get my act together so that I can plan accordingly.  But of course when I start to get caught up in my daily life activities I forget that I even wrote down when the exams were.  Then, to my surprise, I turn over the page for the next week in my planner, and on Tuesday in bright pink reads “Neuroscience- Exam 1”.

Welp.  There goes that.

My four or five-day leisurely review suddenly becomes a two-day cram session, amidst everything else that demands my attention.  I could have easily avoided the pain and stress of cramming if I had just adjusted my actions when I was first warned about the exam!

I often find myself in the same position when it comes to listening to God and adjusting my actions accordingly.

Last Sunday, we had a guest pastor come and speak to our church.  When he said he was going to be preaching on Exodus 20 I slumped a little bit in the pew.  I didn’t want to hear another cut and dry message about the Ten Commandments.  The pastor really just stuck to verses 1-6 which focus on the problem of idolatry.  The last thing I thought I was struggling with was idolatry.  But when I reflected a little, I noticed that the God-shaped hole in my heart had a tiny little wad of humanity shoved in it.

Surely a small cotton ball-sized item of importance wouldn’t do any damage to my relationship with God!  Well, not until I began to realize that it felt good to cram in something tangible and present into the space I was supposed to be reserving for God; that’s when it got dangerous.  Before I knew it, I was thinking about my idol constantly.  Every other thought was concerning it and how I was going to be able to satisfy my longings and brokenness with its presence.

Long story short, I went from a moderately concerning place to a deep pit of full-blown idolatry in about a week’s time.  I could tell that I wasn’t in the place I was supposed to be in relation to God because my joy and peace that surpasses all understanding (Phil. 4 :7) had completely vanished.  I found myself riding the worldly waves with crests of lackluster pleasure and troughs of dark disappointment and longing.

Thanks to a few close sisters in Christ, a lot of prayer, and a personal revelation from God’s Word, I realized that I needed to stop making excuses for my sin and begin removing the foreign substance inhabiting my heart.  My idol in itself was not bad, in fact, it was a very good thing.  But I took the liberty of elevating it to a role that it wasn’t created to play- that’s where things fell apart.  Now looking back, I see I easily could have avoided the consuming nature of this idolatry if only I had taken heed the warning the gracious Lord presented me.

But the story doesn’t end here leaving you and me with a bitter taste of guilt in our mouths.  Rather, I’m pleased to tell you that conviction stung a bit, like alcohol in a fresh wound, but it sure did clean the foreign substance out of me.  Just by admitting to God that He was right, asking for forgiveness, and asking that He give me the strength to put my old idol back in the role it should be playing in my life, peace resumed its refreshing flow through my days.  Thoughts no longer cluttered by idolatrous desires, I now have room to enjoy… in moderation…that gift that God had given to me without withholding the worship and praise He rightly deserves.



Gravity-defying Love

To be completely honest, one of the most frustrating things about working out on an elliptical is that the scenery never changes.  The visual field stimuli just doesn’t vary much, especially since I’m one to listen to music while working out instead of watching a TV show.  So me being me, I start to analyze everything I see and talk to God about it.  Soon enough I find myself thanking God for the barren tree right in front of my face, for its long brittle branches, its strong vertical core, the fact I can see right through it to the building across the street.  Yes, my mind is very random sometimes.  But, it doesn’t stop there.  I was just so amazed at the fact that water actually flows from the ground up through the inside of the tree to water its very tips.

I couldn’t help but see myself when I saw that tree.

It was completely barren, no leaves, not even dead ones waiting to fall.  The maximum amount of damage from the winter cold and rough winds had been done.  There was absolutely no sign of life to that tree.  The thin twigs extending radially looked as though they could have been snapped if you flicked them.  Other barren trees around this one still had the resident remains of furry friends and flying beauties.  But not this one.  Not even the parasitic mistletoe wanted to hang around this tree.  Everyone could see right through it.  Completely vulnerable, this tree has no foliage to hide its scars of wood borers and woodpeckers clinging to it for food and shelter.

Yet, this tree was thriving.

Invisible to the eyes of the World, so much nourishment and preparation was occurring in the core of this tree.  Each day, life-giving water would flow, defying the physics of gravity, from the ground up to the heights of each brittle twig.  Waiting patiently, buds use this dormancy to mature into the flowers we gaze at in awe during the spring.

Doesn’t this sound a lot like what God does in us during our dormant waiting seasons?  We may look beaten and battered by circumstances out of our control or by others who take advantage of the resources we can provide them, but we are internally strengthened.  Daily, God refuels our brittle extremities, our weak minds and tired bodies, with His Living Water that flows into us from His Spirit.  God defies gravity, breaks the laws of physics that He created, in order to renew and restore His creation.

Here’s to New Beginnings!

A Day With MK

January 1, 2017

Isaiah 43:18-19  (New Living Translation- let’s be honest; it’s easier to understand)       “But forget all that- it is nothing compared to what I am going to do.  For I am about to do something new.  See, I have already begun!  Do you not see it?  I will make a pathway through the wilderness.  I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”

As we’re entering the beginning of another year, everyone’s New Year’s resolutions are everywhere.  Yes, I posted one too.  It was to spend more time with the Lord.  As readers of my blog, you’re helping to hold me accountable to do my devotional- so thank you for that! We are all analyzing what we aren’t exactly proud of that we’ve done in the past.  We want to be better.

If you’re like I am, it’s such an encouragement to be reminded that God…

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I know it’s after Christmas, but I can’t help but reflect on the words of “O Come All Ye Faithful” in light of this past semester.  I don’t know about you, but until this Christmas, I seem to have sung this common Christmas carol time and time again without noticing the word “triumphant”.  We sing, “O come all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant,” but I wonder how many of us just kind of skip over the gravity of that word, “triumphant”.

Who does this hymn proclaim to be triumphant?  The faithful followers of the Lord.  Of course in this hymn, the faithful followers were not Christians because they were journeying to see the birth of Jesus, but I would venture to say that this hymn is applicable to modern-day Christians as well.  After all, Romans 8:37 says that “in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (NIV).  To me, “more than conquerors” certainly implies having a triumphant approach to “all these things”, the trials and persecutions we face.

Just pause real quick with me.  Triumphant.  Triumphant and more than conquerors not just after we face all of the hardships, but actually in the midst of them!  But doesn’t triumph imply victory over a battle?  Then how can we be triumphant in the midst of our battles?  I think that is exactly what Paul and the author of this hymn were trying to get at when they wrote their respective works.  The triumph we experience is not contingent upon us but on God’s ability to proclaim victory!  And, if there is one thing I have learned this semester, God’s ability to proclaim victory over His children does not waver based on our circumstances or strength.  Let me just share with you how I experienced this personally in my life in the past few months.

I entered this semester prepping for a battle named Organic Chemistry, by far the most notorious class at almost every college and university.  But little did I know that I would suffer from months of medical issues causing me to seriously consider taking a leave of absence.  I knew that class would be challenging, but it was impossible to focus on learning when all that was on my mind was being healed.  How was I supposed to tackle the hardest class of my undergraduate career, lead a group of freshmen girls in a Bible study for the first time, deal with a death in the family and then a breakup?  I typically have a perfectionist attitude, especially about my academics, so before college “failing” to me was a “B”.  But this semester, I had to withdraw from a class, and I was still fearful of actually failing Organic Chemistry.  That class specifically is only offered during the fall semester, so I would be behind in my schedule of requirements and not to mention the effect on my GPA to be seen by medical schools.  Needless to say, I was drowning in fear and suffering more than I had in years.

But God kept providing.  Over and over God gave me just enough to keep pushing forward, just enough light to look for His hand.  Most days, my “daily bread” looked more like a crumb than a sizable slice, but it nourished me nonetheless.  As the semester progressed, I felt God promising me that He would provide for me academically if I would trust Him with my struggles and fear.  It sounds incredibly easy, but for someone who loves to have control and answers and a plan and… you get the idea.  I still haven’t mastered handing everything over.  But God seemed to whisper to me that He would make me triumphant, not because I was strong enough to overcome on my own or because I deserved to be, but because He doesn’t break His promises.

A few days ago, the final grades for Organic Chemistry were posted.  After a semester of never making an exam grade above a 70 in that class, a beautiful “B” appeared on my transcript.  There is only one explanation for my success, for my triumph, for my “more-than-conquering”.  That explanation is the faithfulness of the Lord.  He is good, and He does not forsake His children.  He heals us and gives us strength in our darkest hour.  I never expected or wanted all of the pain I felt and from which I am still recovering.  But, because of it, I was given the opportunity to “draw near to God”, and yes, my God drew near to me (James 4:8, ESV).

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