This is another installment in a series on Ministry in Moments of Crisis. This week we’ll consider the crisis of Big Losses. Not a crisis you say? Evidently you’ve never lost a game to your most fierce rival. It seems you have never been upset by an opponent who was by all appearances vastly inferior. You must have never lost a game at the end of a long string of wins. If you don’t feel the sting and crushing pain of loss, you must have never played in a post-season game with hopes of being league or national champions. To those who lose big games, it is certainly a crisis with all the emotions of death.
I remember the pain of a loss after a winning streak of ten straight at the end of a college football (American football) season. Our hopes of a perfect season and our expectations of striding into the post-season and onto a national championship were dashed in the final moments of a closely contested game. I remember the deathly quiet in the locker room and the solemn tone on the flight home.
Just this week I saw the residual pain of our basketball team having lost to a team in our league who had yet to win a conference game. We helped them break their streak and continued our descent into mediocrity. It was a short-term crisis simply because we had to practice the next day.
No matter the circumstance, big losses feel just like crises of greater gravity. The emotions are the same, even if the consequences are lesser. For us who serve the people of sport, our attitude and focus should be the same as it is in injury, illness or death. To empathize, to offer consolation and to lend perspective are all appropriate actions. To attempt to diminish the gravity of the situation by saying such phrases as, “It’s only a game,” will only result in alienation from the people and in our ministry being marginalized. To say, “Just get over it,” to those whose hearts were just crushed by a disappointing loss is similar to making such a trite comment to a grieving widow. Foolish at best and hard-hearted at worst.
If we can maintain a Christ-honoring perspective on life and sport, we can be of immeasurable value to the sportspeople we serve. We can help them see crises, big and small, in the light of God’s sovereignty and to trust Him in all circumstances. (I’m writing to myself in many of these lines as I feel the losses of my teams much more deeply than the victories. The pain of defeat lasts much longer than the thrills of winning.) Let’s stay in touch with our Lord and thus share His transforming grace in moments of crisis, like losing to ___________________ (insert the name of your team’s rival).