Joy - pure, full, and wonderful joy – filled the cold, Halloween night. This is what it looks like to win after two painful years of losses. JOY!
For two years I followed the Habersham Central Raider football team watching my varsity cheerleader daughter and her friends struggle with loss. Some of the games were painful to watch. Other games were full of anticipation, excitement, hope … and still loss. Watching a team of kids bravely suit up each week to face their next opponent teaches lessons about life and faith.
First, we learn winning is not easy. Many of us take winning for granted. It comes easily for us. Until it doesn't. Until we experience loss or failure or mistakes. Once we suffer loss, it surprises us how hard it is to get the next win. Hard work, discipline and hope cannot be taken for granted when we are working through the losses in our lives.
As a pastor, I always find it surprising the number of people who expect to always win because we claim Jesus as our Savior. Jesus does not promise us a win or riches or even happiness. Instead, Jesus promises us God’s presence, God’s joy, God’s hope as God’s purposes are worked in our lives.
Second, we learn losing makes winning more enjoyable, more powerful, and more poignant. The beauty of Halloween Night 2014 was not the win at Raider Stadium; it was the 21 losing games that proceeded it. Because winning did not come easily, the players, students and parents savored the joy more greatly as they celebrated on the field and with their high school friends at Waffle House afterwards.
There are moments – dark moments – in our lives when we feel God has turned God’s back. Prayers barely drift to the ceiling. These hard, painful times feel like they will never end. Yet, as we live daily for Jesus, shaped by God’s Spirit, moments will come when we feel the warmth of God’s smile. The “no’s” of yesterday will turn into “yes’s” today. And when they do – we rejoice in gratitude to God.
In these moments pure joy flows into our lives. We discover the courage and hope to live into the next day and all it has for us. Thanks be to God. Amen.
And ... in case you want to see what this win looked like ... here is a video: