Ice hockey matters in Canada, like basketball and baseball do in the USA and football in Europe. Canadian hockey fans in Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal all suffered a great letdown this spring as their teams were eliminated in Stanley Cup playoffs for North American professional hockey supremacy. The rivalry here in Ottawa between the Ottawa Senators and the Toronto Maple Leafs is very intense. So, when the Leafs eliminated the Senators, the sense of loss for many was very real. It could not and cannot be argued or explained away by objective analyses of the relative strengths of the teams — nor even compensated for by the fact that the Calgary Flames did make it to the finals. Losing is no fun.
Losing is not fun, either, for those whose losses are not measured in goals scored or games won, but in far more profound ways. The loss of agility and mobility due to accident, illness, or advancing age deeply affects many. The loss of memory and understanding that appear with the onset of Alzheimer's disease can steal one's sense of security and disturb cherished relationships. The loss of a job or the reduction of responsibilities through a demotion can be very upsetting to those otherwise hale and hearty. The loss of a spouse or a parent or a child or an unborn baby can bring a gnawing emptiness and pain. The prospect of one's own death brought into focus by the diagnosis of a terminal illness can bring with it the loss of unrealized aspirations and leave one numb and empty. Losing is not fun.
The apostle Paul knew a bit about losing. He lost — at least temporarily — his eyesight; he lost his security and status and reputation; several times he nearly lost his life.
He was able, though, to put losing into a winning and hope-filled perspective, because, amid his losses, he found what really mattered: the life of God in his soul, revealed to him in Jesus Christ.
Philippians 3:8 – I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. (NIV)
Philippians 3:13-14 – But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus. (NIV)
"Wait till next year" is significant but small consolation for the Stanley Cup-deprived fan, and may be discounted if a looming labour dispute derails next year's schedule. We have in Christ Jesus — and because of His resurrection — a far bigger and far better consolation amid our losses, however real they are and however deeply we may feel them. In Christ is life, and God in His mercy calls us to that life — abundant and eternal.
Let us resolve with Paul — as he does in his meditation between counting his losses and then discounting them — to know Christ. That will be the ultimate victory!
Philippians 3:10-11 – I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. (NIV)
Prayer: Gracious God, we thank You that You have given us something to cheer about in Jesus Christ. Remind us that He has won a great victory for us. Help us to face our losses in the light of His victory. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.