The Sense of Loss
As we reflect over the last few days on the Olympic games the thrill of victory is something we all enjoy watching. Athletes look at their times or watch their scores and discover that they in fact have placed in the top three spots to win a medal. To see the elation on their faces and their loved ones is thrilling. The many years of discipline and sacrifice has finally paid off and they become instant heroes; not only within the history of the Olympic games, but in their home nation they become a household word and a source of national pride. The emotion of those moments is relived for a long time and we often still speak about "the miracle on ice" when the American hockey team won gold against the odds in the 1980 Olympic games in Lake Placid, NY, or an unknown athlete who makes a mark on the worlds biggest stage.
For every person in the winner's circle there are five times or more as many people who lose out or don't even qualify for the final events. The loss for many of them is heartbreaking as they have spent countless years preparing for sometimes a period of time that is less than 1 minute in length to accomplish or perform. Over the last few days I have watched young Canadians take a tumble in a ski race and beside their name on the screen it says DNF (did not finish). The sense of loss for those individuals can be devastating and disappointment is etched on their faces along with their relatives watching. Losses come in a variety of shapes, forms, and sizes, and with differing degrees of intensity. Last week I lost a ton of data off my laptop as it crashed, I did not properly back up (not smart) and I have lost sermons, documents and pictures from the last two years! I understand the sense of loss! Those are efforts I have put in for hours in power points and notes and articles which have value for me to reference. The thing that devastates me the most is the loss of photographs taken over the last 2 to 3 years which are a big chunk of our lives and memories that we have. I am still in the process of figuring out how I can recover those, but the sense of loss is great.
How Does Loss Affect Us?
Loss exposes our vulnerability. We like to think we are really in control of our lives, but things can come along and shatter those illusions and we are forced to face the truth. No one willingly likes to face loneliness, vulnerability or insecurity but we believe the pain is too big a price to pay for the joy and peace that might follow. So, many of us try to avoid facing loss with the hope of controlling our pain. Proverbs 14:12 says, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death". It seems so right to avoid pain in our lives, but by failing to face the pain we lose the opportunity to experience the joy that can be ours. A story was told of a man who was disconnected emotionally from everything in life, he did not feel passionate about anything. His family, his job and his relationship to God. As he spoke to a spiritual mentor, it was discovered that his father had committed suicide when he was eight years old and that he had never properly grieved over this great loss. As he worked through the pain he discovered his passion for life once again.
How has loss affected you? Have you identified it? It may not be a radical thing and if you don't have that experience in life....Great!
Loss Eventually Makes us Better or Bitter
We spend massive amounts of personal energy trying to avoid facing head on the dreaded agony of losing something or someone we deeply cherish and richly enjoy. We try to buffer ourselves from the pain of loss in a multitude of ways, but often to no avail. The result of such unsuccessful avoidance is often deep anger and bitterness. One such person in the Bible that allowed circumstances and the loss of his credibility to embitter him was King Saul. In 1 Samuel 18 a friendship between Saul's son Jonathan and David is forged after David proved himself to be a mighty warrior. King Saul as he hears and sees David's popularity becomes jealous of David and if we read in the ensuing chapters, Saul becomes obsessed even to the point of trying to kill David numerous times. He lived out his days with a jealous heart and an inability to overcome this issue in his life. There is a better way however to deal with inevitable loss. We must learn to put our pain to work for us. When the force and momentum of a painful loss is used to drive us to the God who can be with us in our most lonely moments, we will discover that there is a safe haven of rest in the midst of a painful world. People who can hear God say "I will never leave you nor forsake you", are those who can then say, "The Lord is my helper, I will not fear. What can man do to me?" (Hebrews 1:5-6) When we learn the meaning of this truth, we discover that even if others abandon us, betray us, or die, we will not only survive but we will also prosper. Learning to have such faith in God will not exempt us from the sting of loss, but it will provide us with the resources we need to deal effectively with grief. It will free us to love again from our heart. While knowing the meaning of sadness and disappointment, we will still be able to remain joyfully alive.
Can Anything Good Come form Loss?
In the Sermon on the Mount we can read in Matthew 5:4, "blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted....blessing.....really? The thought here is that one mourns over the exposure of sinfulness but the principle remains that as we encounter grief and loss it often can work for our good. Our sense of loss can be good for us if it puts us among the multitude of poor people who came to Jesus out of need for comfort, rescue and blessing. (Matthew 4:23-5:1) It is important for us to understand the process we will go through or are going through when we experience loss. By understanding where we will be going, we will be better prepared to handle it when it does come.
So as this next week of the Olympic games draws to a close, don't just think of those on the podium but the one that for a brief moment is on the world stage and when that loss comes along, think about how they will handle it, think how you might handle it. Will our reactions be as Saul, or will we be people that will become better from the loss we face and be a person that truly leans into God at that time.
By: Pastor David Jones