The seemingly unquenchable fiery sting of defeat is probably still stinging the hearts of Georgia Bulldog fans this morning, and probably will for a really long time. After surviving double overtime against Oklahoma University, and leading most of the NCAA National Championship Football game against Alabama, the Bulldog faithful watched their dreams of hoisting a championship trophy diminish as Devonta Smith received a 41-yard touchdown pass to end the game in overtime.
The scene that followed was no different than any other conclusion of a championship game: confetti and tears; celebration and disappointment; smiles and blank stares.
A Wasted Loss?
We all want that “winning” feeling, because so much of our lives resonate more with that “losing” feeling. Most of us are disappointed more than we are satisfied. And In the moments of disappointment and defeat, all the workouts, money, sweat, studying, focus, blood, grit, and hard work all seem pointless. What was it all for? Are our losses a waste? Only if we make it so.
I love Jesus, ultimately because of what he’s done for humanity, but also for not leaving us to figure out the disappointments of life on our own. He teaches us how to lose well.
During his time on earth, Jesus lost popularity (Matthew 27:22–23), disciples (Matthew 26:56), friends, family, and even his life. He sacrificed his time, leisure, and comforts for something and someone greater. Outwardly, it didn’t look like Jesus gained much in his life. Obviously, hindsight provides us a privileged look at what was gained from his death and resurrection, but at the time, Jesus’ losses looked like a grim waste of ministry.
But Jesus saw the bigger picture in all circumstances. He was a visionary. He knew sacrificing his life for people lesser than him, and making himself lesser than them, would produce a newness of life in the hearts of people unimaginable for centuries.
So what does Yeshua’s perseverance have to do with losing a national championship game? A few things.
First, it removes the weight of what is seemingly lost. The Apostle Paul grasped this concept in a way that would be helpful for us in our daily disappointments (Philippians 4:11–13). Our unmet expectations are reminders for us to press on to make the hope of Christ our own, because he has made us his own. When we fail, sin, and lose big games on big stages, we can forget what lies behind and strain forward to what lies ahead (Philippians 3:12–13). That doesn’t mean our losses and the consequences of our sins don’t hurt. It means we can no longer be burdened in the ways we once were before we rested in God’s control of all things – even our losses.
No Shame in Losing
Secondly, Yeshua’s perseverance removes the shame of unworthiness equivocated with losing. Jesus hung naked on a cross for hours, bleeding, gasping for air, crying for his Father while his adversaries mocked him (Luke 12:35–38). All hoped seem lost. Yet even on the cross, he knew this loss could not stain his identity. Even with all the control of the universe in his nail-pierced hands, he stayed on the cross for a greater joy (Hebrews 12:2).
Losses Change Lives
Lastly, Yeshua’s losses changed lives and reformed hearts. Our losses also change lives. It provides us moments to be vulnerable with people in ways we wouldn’t normally in our wins. For followers of Christ, it provides us opportunities to show the greater worth of Yeshua up close and personal. We are able to testify about the treasure of Christ that makes him look more valuable than what was lost. Yes, the wins may give us a platform to speak about our thankfulness for Jesus to the masses, but the losses give us an opportunity to bring our gratitude closer to people affected by the sting of loss. In the pain of failure, the light of our hearts – Jesus – can shine in the darker crevices of failure.
A Better Victory
Whether rejoicing or recovering, enjoying the sweet taste of victory or experiencing the bitter taste of defeat from last night’s game, there remains a greater hope ahead of us all. Let what we experience today be a reminder of the admirable, invaluable, and worthwhile treasure of Jesus. He alone is worthy of the sacrifices of our wins and losses. Obtaining the treasure of Christ is a better victory in all circumstances of life.