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

Part 2 of 2
(Read Part 1 here)

by Gregory Jones, Kent State University

The peace that God granted me that day lasted for quite a while.  Being human, however, I eventually began to doubt God’s voice yet again.  I thought maybe God will allow me to fail once, but then pass on the second attempt.  I, like Thomas, doubted the voice of God, desiring to feel with tactile certainty that I would pass.  My wife (a near saint in her own right) continued to assure me that she had a, “peace,” about it.  The only thing more powerful than women’s intuition is God-breathed women’s intuition.  I did not even trust her.  I continued to doubt.

This was an ordeal of faith, to me, wrestling with comps.  No matter how much I read or studied, I still feared the questions the examining professors might ask.  I became obsessive with my desire to “fill gaps” in my knowledge base.  I became convinced that I, a man, could do enough, work hard enough, and prevail on an individual basis.  This is a faulty, worldly perspective.  This process was never about me, yet I made it about me.

I eventually took and passed the written portion of my exam.  I failed one section on it, ironically my specialized area, the American Civil War.  This is what I began to call “divine irony.”  I do not believe, at least since Jesus’ brief visit to the Earth, that God takes revenge on our doubting.  However, I do believe that this was a moment where God laughed at me, yet like a good Father also comforted me in my trial and frustration.  Some combination of teaching me humility and trust in Him, ultimately this failure made me stronger.

After studying for a week, I walked in to my oral comprehensive exam relatively confident.  I had been assured by another good sermon that God would continue to be in control of my life and that I needed to make sure to thank Him for His work and blessings.  I did these things.  I was, as far as I could Earthly prepare, ready for my exam.  The first question was not difficult, yet it stunned me.  After about an hour of feeling completely confused and ill prepared, I (again) doubted God’s will and slumped my shoulders.  I assumed my performance was so terrible that I lost most semblance of decorum and began answering with nonchalance.  I gave up.  It was as if my giving up allowed God to fill the void.  When it was no longer about myself, I believe God took care of me.

Now skeptics will say that this was no ordeal of faith at all, but merely a man’s struggle with the nerves of comprehensive exams.  I disagree.  The days that I experienced peace and contentment were the days that I relied upon God’s plan for my life. The days that I experienced immense horror and fear of the unknown were the days that I “leaned on my own understanding.”  This blog is not meant to be a sermon that necessarily makes you live your life exponentially differently.  However, if you do not know your Calling, seek it.  If you do know your Calling, rest assured that God has His best planned for you.  Concentrate on the days of peace and blessing, not the days of doubt.

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

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