Guest Blog: “Coping with Comps: An Ordeal of Faith”

Part One of Two

by Gregory Jones, Kent State University

First let me say God is gracious.  Sometimes we over use the word “grace,” one of the most beautiful words in the English language.  However, having successfully passed doctoral candidacy exams this week, I can honestly say I feel God’s grace.  The point of this blog is to explore the comprehensive exam process as it relates to faith.  After all, perseverance is a Biblical mandate.

When the comps process began I was honestly very optimistic about the entire ordeal.  I thought it would be a time to become an expert, and then display that expertise in front of the professionals that I have grown to respect.  That perspective functioned well for several months of studying, meeting, and waxing eloquent about the classic works of history.  Then, unexpectedly, I experienced the doom and fear of failure.

The funny thing about “Calling,” is that it allows us to be certain that God’s plan will prevail in our lives.  For some, Calling is a radical career shift after twenty years of experience, for others it is a surety from grade school or high school.  I knew I wanted to be a professional historian sometime in high school, but it was solidified during my experiences at Geneva College.  After a few trips to hear colloquia and several good discussions with professors, I realized that God’s will for my life was to teach (my pure passion) and write about the past.

Despite that Calling, that certainty of God’s plan for my life and career, the fear of failure began to encompass me.  I had confident meetings with my examining professors, yet I still felt inadequate.  I could not get myself out of the way and let God do His work.  I pushed on in my studying, focusing almost entirely on the books, facts, and interpretations I could not remember instead of the wealth of information God helped me store in my brain.  Call it pessimism or broken human nature, but despite the Calling I felt, I still doubted my God.

Throughout this process, I experienced a refreshing and revitalizing new church.  In this new church I met people who were “Jesus” to me.  This may seem a bit out of place in a reflection of comps, but it is not.  From random hugs, handshakes, and conversations about sports, the weather, and missions, I experienced community in a real and meaningful way.  Also, God spoke through our pastor one Sunday.  God reached out and explained to me that there was no reason for me to doubt Him.  He had been faithful in getting me into two graduate programs, getting me through my Master’s degree, and finally through doctoral course work.  Why did I doubt Him now?

When God speaks to you (at least in my experience), it has never been a feeling of ominous presence or the fear the Old Testament prophets explained.  It was an overwhelming feeling of peace.  As I departed the service I told my pastor it was the best sermon I have heard at that church.  Looking startled (and humble), he simply said, “maybe it was just the sermon you needed to hear.”  He was right again.  I needed to hear that God’s Calling was there, but I needed to trust Him with it.  That Sunday, about a month from my comprehensive exam, I surrendered my exams to Jesus.  I told Him that I had given him my career, my marriage, my home, and my future so He could have my exams as well.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Academic Anecdotes, Life of the Mind

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One Comment on “Guest Blog: “Coping with Comps: An Ordeal of Faith””

  1. Audra Yoder Says:

    Wow, that is really encouraging, thank you! I am still a couple semesters away from comps, but already feeling inadequate! When the time comes, I’ll remember this reflection and try to lay it all before the Lord.


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