I take the MCAT on Saturday. Seven hours and thirty minutes of an exam, the culmination not only of nearly five months of studying six days a week but also three years of undergraduate science classes. All to produce a three-digit score that could bend the trajectory of where I could go to medical school, which leads to residency, which would lead to… well, who knows, hopefully the missions field, but it’s all in God’s hands.
Since my freshman year at Harvard I’ve struggled a lot with school-related anxiety, especially with pre-medical work and the rigors of becoming a doctor. All of college — this whole process, really — has felt like one big battle made up of many tiny anxiety-filled fights. Studying for the MCAT really brought this anxiety to the fore for several months this past winter, and in that space God forced me to reckon with it more thoroughly than in years past. It was really tough for a while, but slowly, faithfully, He’s shown me truths about Himself and myself which have eradicated the nearly-constant thrum of panic I lived in formerly.
One of those realizations came on a Sunday morning, while watching online church. The song selection for the morning included “Already Done” by Free Worship, which features this chorus:
We believe it’s already done
Every battle’s already won
It is finished, it is perfect
We believe You’ve overcome
And it’s already, already done
As I listened to these words sung several times, I felt a question rising to the surface of my thoughts toward God. What would it be like to really live as if every battle was already won? Every one — battles for ultimate salvation and the defeat of sins, but also the everyday obstacles we fight in our rooted, embodied lives on this earth?
He immediately gave me an impression — just a momentary snapshot, but very clear. In it, I saw myself wearing a particular pink t-shirt, the one I got from RUF Summer Conference the summer after my hardest year of college. I was riding an old Razor scooter past the end of my driveway, around my mailbox, and down the street, feeling warm wind on my bare arms and watching the sunshine light the leaves of the big, tall trees on my street all aglow.
A strange image, but it was an answer that made sense. God was pointing to realities coined in terms that I could understand and resonate with deeply. Yes! My heart shouted. That’s what it would be like to live as if every battle is already won — like the release of overabundant joy that comes when you’ve finished a hard semester of college and are finally free from the burdens of school. When summer has just begun and you can leave behind all anxieties about finals, papers, and deadlines because it’s all done and you no longer need to fixate on the consequences of your performance. When you suddenly have freedom and time to do something as trivial as riding a scooter down the road… simply to enjoy a New England summer afternoon. That feeling of total freedom, delight, and appreciation — that’s what believers can move through life with, when they believe that in Christ, every battle has already been won.
For many years I found it easy to localize Christ’s promises of victory to battles with “spiritual” things, like sin or spiritual warfare or the challenges of sanctification. It’s taken me a while to see that with God, there is little to no distinction between things we might see as spiritual and those things we understand to be natural or ordinary. Yes, God will provide for our battles against Satan, brokenness, and sin. He’ll also provide for our classes and job applications and relationships. The latter are no less important, for it is in the mundane details of our lives that all spiritual battles play out. Every choice we make, every test we come up against, and every action we take in our movement through this world: all of these carry spiritual significance.
And if that’s the case, we can know with confidence that God will give victory for something like the MCAT, just as we can proclaim with confidence that His death on the cross means the forgiveness of sins. Indeed, the confidence we have in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is the causal root from which confidence for anything else in life grows. The victory we celebrated on Easter Sunday is the reason and assurance for victory in every other domain of our existence, because it’s at the cross that our unity with Christ was sealed, making way for us to receive the Holy Spirit and the power of God within.
In Colossians 3, Paul writes, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
Yes, victory is guaranteed for every battle we face in life — it’s all already been done and our lives are hidden with Christ — but such triumph will be totally His. Not only in the sense that it’s been done by Him, but also because it’s defined by Him and His economy of good and bad. A big part of faith is conforming our notions of victory to God’s, and trusting that what He gives is truly victory even if it may not seem so by our standards. One of my mentors once said that Paul’s charge to “set your minds on things above” is not to ignore the things around us but to see it all from an eternal, heavenly vantage point. This includes how we view victory versus loss, success versus failure. God sees, far better than us, what we need and what would be good for us, for others, and for His Kingdom. Humility is learning to trust that divine sight over our own semi-blind perceptions.
So, who knows how Saturday will go — perhaps it will go better than I expect, perhaps not. Either way, the outcome will be a victory because God will give me what I need to go where He calls me to go. It matters little whether the score I get matches my notions of “good” or “bad.” So long as it’s what God sees that I need, that’s all that really matters.
What battles are you facing today? Hand them over to Jesus. Trust that in Him, you’ve already won; praise Him in advance for that victory and enjoy the peace and freedom it affords. Throw on your pink t-shirt and take your scooter for a spin even before you know the outcome of your fight. Take heart, because His victory is yours, and there is none better!