Coming Over to Overcoming {The Grove: Overcome}

In the name of “scriptural accuracy”—with a hint of procrastination—I did an Internet search on overcoming in the Bible.

And this is why we check out what we think we know.

I thought I’d find several verses about how God helps us to be overcomers. According to scripture, we are overcomers because of what God has done; but in general the focus of overcoming is God, not us. What he has done, not what we can do.

Even though I wasn’t that far off, why was it automatic for the focus on overcoming to be me, not God? I am the overcomer. God whispered, “Look to culture.” Oh yeah, that.

I am not one to culture bash. God obviously loves culture! Look at the flavors of food, dance moves, and outfits. He is also fonder of political variety and language systems (Why God, why so many?) than I am. He instills a healthy love of land, history, and tradition. He placed each of us in a region and story.

The problem lies in unexamined cultural influences, not merely in culture.

My first sense of how deeply being an American has informed my sense of overcoming involved a phone call with a teacher in Asia. You would be hard pressed to find a more faithful, God-loving servant. Words that jump to mind are loyal, kind, prayer-warrior, willing to help when no one notices, and good sense of humor (as measured by laughing at my jokes. Just being real!). But the word that overshadowed them all? Depressed.

It was not for lack of effort. She tried to exercise faithfully, get enough sleep, read her Bible. She let a small prayer team know and they faithfully prayed for her. But instead of shaking the depression, it burrowed further into her.

I quietly asked, “What if failure is staying and leaving is success? What if this is part of the paradox of our faith?”

When I step back and look at how American culture—my home culture—tends to view overcoming, these words float to the surface: victory, staying power, undefeated, conquer, persevere, outlast, excel, not give in, and eventually a winner.

You may come from a different culture, but if you are a native English speaker, I would be willing to bet that you resonated to a certain sense with this list. When I think of the opposite of overcoming, words like giving in, quitting, not willing to stick-it-out, and a sense of loss come to mind.

But is this really what God means when he talks about overcoming? I do not think God is as taken with winning as we are. Nor do I think he views loss the way many of us have been programmed to view it by our cultures.

I have mild reading problems so when I saw the beautiful image made for this week’s word, my mind processed it “Come over” instead of “Overcome.”

What if one of the invitations of the word overcome is to “come over” to God’s idea of overcoming? What if we wean ourselves from how our home cultures see overcoming and slow ourselves down enough to ask God what it means to be an overcomer in a certain situation?

I understand why we are drawn to unintended formulas like “Overcoming equals ______.” Fairly predictable answers help to create a sense of control and safety.

Overcoming equals staying on the field.
Overcoming equals not taking medication and praying more.
Overcoming equals going to the field under-supported, trusting that God will provide.

Failure equals leaving.
Failure equals getting medical help.
Failure equals waiting.

God is inviting me to see that overcoming is moving beyond formulas and into an intimacy with him where the answer will vary. Maybe for you, overcoming in a situation does mean you stay on the field. Maybe for a teammate it means they return to their country of origin. As long as we wed the idea of overcoming to an outcome, we are missing out on the wild fullness (and at times maddeningly unpredictableness) of God.

What if instead of talking of staying or going, success or failure, victory or defeat we ask:

What is God’s invitation to you in this?

What are you learning about God in this?

Where is God growing you?

Ah, now that might truly make us overcomers.

~~~

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14 Comments

  1. Keri September 1, 2016

    Amy, great reminder! He is our overcomer, he is our rest, he is our peace, he is our everything. This is what he has been teaching me all summer! He is so faithful to drive home a point. The second thing he has been teaching me is similar to your conclusion: what is he inviting me into in the midst of this ______? Finding joy in the journey and not just the destination. Thanks for your thoughts, Amy and Go Broncos as I think they are playing as I type this! Might I add: Go RAMS (CSU)!

    1. Amy Young September 2, 2016

      I do love it (mostly!) when he drives home a point :). You did write this during a Broncos game! But I wasn’t at the game because I was at a memorial service for the sudden death of the son (15 year old) of one of the instructors at the gym. Very strong tie-in’s to Wonder! It was beautiful and painful and pointed to heaven.

  2. Jenilee September 2, 2016

    this is beautiful!!!!! and YES! I think our definition of overcome can change how we pray and how we think and how we act. I’ve learned a lot in such a short time about how culture makes us see words/things differently than before. I love how you wrote it out!

    1. Amy Young September 2, 2016

      Thanks Jenilee, so much more is up for examination than I ever realized :). AND I OWE you an email. I’ve been doing tons of computer work today and my eyes hurt, so it likely won’t come to you today :). But soon . . .

  3. J September 2, 2016

    Thank you, Amy, for your gorgeous writings that give fresh perspectives. The questions you ask are helpful to me in a season of challenges that are actually opportunities– and the perspective that there is an invitation from the Father in trying circumstances, that is renewing to me. Keep writing!! With love, a fellow sojourner currently living in the Arab world :).

    1. Julie September 2, 2016

      Ha– so sorry– didn’t mean to insert that giant picture… still new at the commenting thing!!

    2. Amy Young September 2, 2016

      J! I actually love the picture 🙂 . . . but if you want, I can remove it. Always the invitation, yes? I’m trying to get better at slowing down to hear it and then slowing down even more to hear what it is our Father has to say to me in the invitation. I hope you saw my comment on your blog about fall CG’s!!

  4. Rachel Sawyer September 2, 2016

    SO WELL said! I love the questions at the end. YES. THIS.

  5. Jodie September 2, 2016

    Excellent post Amy! I love thinking about Coming Over instead of trying so hard to be an Overcomer. And I can really relate to your statements about what equals overcoming vs what equals failure. I was just sharing with my husband this morning the three ways I felt like a failure when we left the field last year (and how they continue to make me feel like a failure when we talk about whether we’re going back again.) Great challenges at the end to think of God’s invitation to me in this. Not His condemnation.

    1. Amy Young September 2, 2016

      Jodie, this is so beautiful! I think many of us who have “left” or “returned” after being overseas feel this sense of shame/embarrassment/regret.When the truth is, for almost all of us, we have “followed” an invitation . . . the tension is it is an invitation we might not have wanted :)!! Invitations I want, I think are grand! Invitations I don’t want . . . I think I’ve heard wrong or they will change or they will end sooner than they do.

      But our loving Father is faithful and he shows the work is his. And the physical location doesn’t matter as much as the location of our hearts . . . I want the beating of my heart to line up with his. Even when . . . even when.

  6. Ashley Felder September 7, 2016

    A little behind in reading, but this was so good! I especially resonated with seeing “overcome” as an invitation to “come over” to Him. I see a picture of him inviting me to sit with him (probably over a cuppa chai!) and listen to how He’s going to sort this one out. Thankful He used you to prompt this picture!

  7. Carrie Sheldrick September 7, 2016

    Beautifully said! I love how you put it. To overcome we must come over to the one who has overcome all! Thank you for this.

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