Friday, November 2, 2018

Serving in Failure and Losing

There are days, often weeks, occasionally months, and even seasons when we are serving a team experiencing failure and loses a lot. Losing streaks and losing seasons are terribly painful and frustrating, even for the team chaplain or character coach. To not empathize with their situation keeps us at a distance and diminishes the relationships we intend to build. Even as we maintain perspective and communicate hope and support, we will surely experience the club’s failure and feel the pain of loss.

The psalmist expressed his heart, crushed by failure and loss, but with perspective buoyed by hope in Psalm 46.

God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change

And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea;
Though its waters roar and foam,
Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. Selah.

The psalmist will trust in God even when the two greatest symbols of constancy and power would be shaken. The mountains and the sea could each be in turmoil, but God would continue to be his very present help in trouble.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
The holy dwelling places of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved;

God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations made an uproar, the kingdoms tottered;
He raised His voice, the earth melted.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah.

In this second stanza the psalmist considers the volatile nature of international relations, the security of his home city, and the Lord’s faithful power. When the nations make an uproar and totter kingdoms, the Lord simply raises His voice and the earth melts. He finds safety and security in his Lord.

Come, behold the works of the Lord,
Who has wrought desolations in the earth.
He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth;

He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
He burns the chariots with fire.
10 “Cease striving and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah.

In stanza three the psalmist pulls back the focus and looks broadly at the scope of the Lord’s works across the world. He sees His hand in desolations, in the cessation of wars, and in the destruction of armies. He hears the Lord’s voice of comfort and assurance that He is in charge. He will be lifted up in the sight of all nations. The Lord is with us. He is our stronghold.

This psalm speaks to our hearts in the midst of failure and losing. It speaks comfort, it speaks trust, it speaks faith. Though the strength of our team is compromised, God is with us. Though we experience the volatility of sports culture and hear the noise of rivals’ voices, The Lord is our source of safety and security. Let’s join the psalmist in pulling back our focus to see the Lord’s work in our team, in our sport, in our relationships. He speaks these words to us and to those we serve, “Cease striving and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
We can trust Him in every circumstance.

p.s. One of my favorite authors, Eugene Peterson, died last week. I love his translations of the psalms in The Message. Here is a link to a You Tube video featuring Bono from U2 and Eugene Peterson as they discuss how the Psalms have shaped their lives in Christ.

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