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).