I am a Chicago Bears fan, and as such, I hold tightly to the legacy of the 1985 team in an effort to console myself during the seasons of loss that followed. But every once in a while, I am transported back to the elation of cheering a winning team, beating the odds and gaining a victory. Such a game took place early this season. The Bears were in Denver stadium. They had played well most of the game, but they weren’t consistent, and a final drive with only minutes left gave the Broncos an opportunity to tie the game with a kicked extra point.
When the football went outside the goal posts, I went NUTS . . . until I realized one of the defensive linemen was offsides, and not only did that missed kick not count, now there was an opportunity to attempt a 2-point conversion . . . which was successful. With only seconds left, the Bears were on the losing side of a 14-13 game. I turned off the television. I was depressed. Losing is never easy.
A few minutes later, my husband got a call from our son: “Can you believe it? What a game! I’ll bet Mom is excited!” Wait . . . WHAT?!?
We quickly turned the TV back on and watched the end of the recorded game. In the final 31 seconds, the Bears made their way down the field and, with 1 second left, kicked a winning field goal. For me, this was a moment of glory and elation. But if I was a Denver fan . . . not so much. It was an unexpected and PAINFUL loss.
I can’t help but wonder how Eliezer of Damascus must have felt (Genesis 15:2). He was the head servant of Abraham, who was an incredibly wealthy man. Abraham and his wife, Sarah, were old and childless. In those days, if a man died without a blood heir, everything he had went to his head servant.
Eliezer was in an enviable position. Abraham and Sarah were far beyond child-bearing years, and it was only a matter of time before he not only received his freedom, but a windfall of wealth to go with it. Talk about a life change! Talk about a WIN! And then a miracle happens, and rather than being the heir, Eliezer remained the property of the heir.
Winners and losers. Chicago wins; Denver loses. Abraham and Sarah rejoice over their son; Eliezer will be a servant for the rest of his life. From minor sporting events to major wars, we understandably view winning and losing as “good” and “bad,” resulting in happiness or sorrow. But even with this reality, is it possible to find joy in both places?
When Paul tells the Philippians to “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4), he’s in prison facing almost certain death! Those to whom he was writing were recent Christian converts who knew their faith would invite persecution. His isn’t a Pollyana-ish platitude to ignore reality or pretend everything is “hunky dory” when life’s circumstances really suck.
I think Paul’s point was that, even when circumstances are beyond our control and we suffer great loss, what we are never at risk of losing is what will always sustain us and give us hope—our Savior. No doubt, confidence in that truth is a choice driven by faith. However, motivated and strengthened by belief in a consistent and merciful God, our outlook, our attitude and our joy remain our choice. Will joy change our situation or recover our losses? Most likely not. However, it might be that finding joy and giving thanks is the greatest opportunity to celebrate the wins and find strength in the losses.
As we approach this season of Thanksgiving, I am challenging myself to look beyond circumstances and choose joy in all situations, knowing I am not guaranteed nor promised a life without pain. I am a Bears fan, after all.