“Take the very hardest thing in your life –
the place of difficulty, outward or inward,
and expect God to triumph gloriously in that very spot.
Just there He can bring your soul into blossom.”
It sounds so counterintuitive, doesn’t it? The hardest places in life are where we often question – not anticipate – God’s ability to triumph.
Think, though, about what “triumph” implies. Its synonyms include words and phrases like win, succeed, prevail, and be victorious. Each suggests something was overcome.
For example, consider Joseph who was sold into slavery by his brothers, forgotten in prison, and falsely accused by his master’s wife. His life was like a never-ending worst case scenario, but he trusted God and lived with integrity. God used all of the seemingly unfortunate events Joseph faced to elevate him to power in Egypt where he used his resources to rescue the masses – including his long-lost brothers – from a devastating famine. When he revealed himself to his estranged siblings, they feared for their lives, but – amazingly – Joseph explained that what they meant for evil, God meant for good (Genesis 50:20).
Or what about Job? In a single day he lost his entire livelihood and all ten of his children. The book that bears his name recounts his struggles to cope with all he lost. In the forty-second and final chapter, Job revealed the one thing he gained through unspeakable tragedy. “My ears had heard of you,” he wrote, “but now my eyes have seen you” (Job 42:5). Somehow through his suffering, Job was able to know God in a deeper, richer way than ever before. And after he identified his real Treasure, God restored his fortunes and blessed him with seven sons and three daughters – the exact number he had lost.
And I can’t forget about the disciples. As Jesus was led away to be crucified, I wonder what was going through their minds. They had dropped everything to follow Him. His words had captivated them – He had captivated them. But when He drew His final breath, I imagine many of their hopes and dreams and expectations died with Him. Little did they know the world would never be the same. Soon thereafter, their Savior came out of the tomb as a sin-defeater and death-conqueror. The hardest thing the disciples had experienced up to that point was the exact situation in which the word “triumph” was eternally epitomized.
In these situations, the struggle was a necessary prerequisite to the triumph. That’s what triumph means – that the enemy was conquered, the battle was won, good prevailed.
The same principle is true today. Avoiding pain or difficulty isn’t what convinces us of God’s power. No, we are most keenly aware of God’s strength when we are at our weakest. I’m currently walking through what has been the most difficult experience of my life thus far. In the fall David and I decided to share our story, and when we did, we hoped it would somehow encourage others. Not long ago I was contacted by someone I’ve never met who is in a similar situation, and this individual asked for my advice. My initial reaction was, “I never thought this would be my ministry.” Of all things, it’s certainly the most painful, but it is also the connecting point that allows me to speak hope and healing to others.
In the moment when my pain gave me an opportunity to minister to someone else, I saw God triumph gloriously in the exact circumstance that had looked so much like defeat. I didn’t imagine God’s triumph to take this particular form, but when I realized what happened, my heart expanded to accept His way of doing things. To borrow Lilias Trotter’s words, my soul blossomed in the least likely of places.
This is how God works, isn’t it? Jesus Himself was willing to endure the ultimate hardship for our sake. Agonizing as it was, He didn’t triumph over death by avoiding it, but by succumbing to it. And for a couple of days, it seemed like death had won. But the apparent defeat of the crucifixion was just a precursor to the unprecedented, incomparable victory of the resurrection.
It comforts me tremendously to know that our Savior encountered the brokenness of this world firsthand – and to the highest degree. Because He suffered, He can empathize with us in our pain. And because He conquered the ultimate enemy, we can be confident that He will continue to be victorious on our behalf. So whether the triumph we hope for comes tomorrow or in eternity, we can know for sure it is coming and it will be glorious.