As a gamer, I have become accustomed to the bitter taste of losing more often than I would care to admit. I have learned to deal with the disappointment I feel when someone is simply faster, better, or the AI was smarter. Typically I deal with it in the form of eating some chips. Actually, not some. ALL. ALL the chips. The satisfying crunch can be QUITE therapeutic. But here is the thing… typically these losses take place in the expected arena of some intense multiplayer battles in Halo 5 or maybe in the final moments of a challenging Destiny raid. I accept that these things happen in a competitive multiplayer matchup, and these losses make victory even sweeter when you are on the other side of it. Let me tell you where I did NOT expect it… in the supposedly “safe” environment of a seemingly non-competitive multiplayer game of Animal Crossing. You may be astonished that such a thing could even occur. I assure you, I was stunned as well. But it happened… from the least likely source I would have ever imagined. My beautiful, sweet, innocent, loving, FISH STEALING wife.
How could something happen in such a safe and happy place like Animal Crossing? Let me share with you my pain. My wife has already upgraded her house size for the second time, so I am playing a little bit of catch up. I am about 20,000 bells away (the in-game currency for Animal Crossing), so I am doing some late night fishing as the second player on the island while she is taking care of some chores of her own as the primary player. When you are playing multiplayer on the same island, the secondary characters items that they collect get placed into a chest for retrieval later. That little tidbit of information will be VERY important momentarily. Soooooo very, very important.
After a long bit of fishing I have caught some fairly valuable creatures that should cover the cost of my house upgrade. We take the final walk of the night over to Tom Nook’s store so she can cash out all of her various “finds”, and when she is finished I will be able to do the same and finally upgrade my house. At least, that is the PLAN. While she is taking care of her business I took advantage of this time to check my phone, peruse some emails, and set an alarm for the next morning. This is the endgame, one that we have completed for the last two nights without issue. But THIS time… THIS time… things would unfold just a little bit differently.
My wife… my multiplayer partner… turns control over to my character and I excitedly go to the chest to get all of my fish and various objects I have been collecting so I can sell them and get my house paid off and upgraded… only there is a small problem. It…is… EMPTY. All my fish, my bugs I had collected… everything was GONE. As the realization of what had happened dawned on me, I slowly turned to her and asked in a voice that already knew the answer,
“Ummmm… did you happen to take all of my stuff and sell it? Because it is not THERE”.
She immediately said no, but I saw the doubt in her eyes… doubt that slowly changed to awareness… awareness that mutated into guilt. She DID. She didn’t realize those were MY items, not hers, and she had already sold them and it was OVER. Nothing could be done. My stuff… my hard-earned collection of goods that represented a change in status for me in the game… it was all just GONE. And while she SAYS didn’t do it intentionally (even though deep down in my heart I know that SHE knows she didn’t catch a red snapper), the result is the same if it was intentional or not… my stuff is gone and somehow, in a non-competitive gaming environment, I still found a way to lose.
At the risk of sounding sacrilegious, I have to be honest… sometimes I struggle with why the Christian life is so often filled with the experience of “losing”. Have you ever felt the same way? I suppose if you really think about it, we follow a faith in which our Savior was publicly beaten and executed mere days after he was celebrated as a Messiah in a grand parade. Immediately after that his loyal followers were systematically hunted, imprisoned, and killed by the religious leaders and government officials of the day. To keep it real, in my personal life experiences it seems that suffering can often be the rule rather than the exception for our time on this plane of existence. I am a dedicated follower of the Almighty God… so why do I feel like I am so frequently coming up on the short end of the stick?
After reading multiple books and hearing numerous sermons on “victorious Christian living” I have often pondered if I am simply doing it all wrong. But during a full review of the Scriptures I have found that I am not as alone in my experiences as I thought. Both the Old and New Testaments are FILLED with the stories of people from all walks of life who experienced not only the agony of defeat, but often endured entire SEASONS of losing. You may recognize most of these names and some of their experiences, but when taken together a pattern will emerge that I have confidence will encourage you to hold your head high through whatever losing circumstance you find yourself facing. So whether you lost your job, a loved one, your health, your dreams, or even suffering from a self-inflicted wound, take heart… You are not alone. There is a precedent as well as a plan for what you are going through. It is my intention that through this we can remove the stigma attached to losing and see it for what it truly is.
Our first member of the Survivor’s Club for Losers is a central figure to the Old Testament, King David. I have always found him to be one of the most interesting case studies in Scripture as he experienced both the highest of highs as well as the lowest of lows numerous times throughout his sojourn on the planet. He started out as nothing more than an unassuming shepherd boy who eventually ascended to the highest throne in the land. But when we find him in 1 Samuel 30 he is far from assuming the throne. One might argue this is one of the lower points in David’s life, but considering that across his years David would lose his first wife, multiple children, his best friend, his throne, and so much more it’s kind of hard not to place him in our Hall of Fame for Exceptional Losing.
David and his small militia of loyal soldiers have spent years on the run from his pursuer, King Saul, who has led multiple campaigns to find and kill not only David but all those who support his candidacy for king. I guess since they didn’t have social media back then they took character assassination QUITE literally. And to compound his already difficult position as the chief bounty on Israel’s Most Wanted list, David has just been kicked out of his current gig as a mercenary-for-hire for the Philistines in 1 Samuel 29. Yes, you heard that right, the same Philistines that the giant Goliath came from, the same Philistines he made his name destroying in battle previously. We will have to come back to THAT story at another time.
Despite his sustained success within his position, a down-sizing left him and his loyal soldiers as the odd men out. As he and his men dejectedly returned to the city of Ziklag to regroup and determine what they would do now that they had just lost their jobs, they found an even worse problem awaiting them. As they drew near to the city they saw smoke rising in the air, and their arrival to camp confirmed the horrible truth…everything had been burned to the ground and all of their wives and children were gone.
1 Samuel 30:1-5 Now it happened, when David and his men came to Ziklag, on the third day, that the Amalekites had invaded the South and Ziklag, attacked Ziklag and burned it with fire, and had taken captive the women and those who were there, from small to great; they did not kill anyone, but carried them away and went their way. So David and his men came to the city, and there it was, burned with fire; and their wives, their sons, and their daughters had been taken captive. Then David and the people who were with him lifted up their voices and wept, until they had no more power to weep. And David’s two wives, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail the widow of Nabal the Carmelite, had been taken captive.
While the absence of bodies was minimally reassuring that at least their families were still alive, whoever did this atrocity surely had evil intentions in mind. Have you ever had a bad day at work only to find that an even more hellacious reality was waiting for you to walk through the door? Well, that’s where David finds himself now, with all that he ever cared about gone and his men on the brink of mutiny. But in verse 6 the tide begins to turn as David sought and found “strength in the Lord”.
1 Samuel 30:6-8 Now David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.
Then David said to Abiathar the priest, Ahimelech’s son, “Please bring the ephod here to me.” And Abiathar brought the ephod to David. So David inquired of the Lord, saying, “Shall I pursue this troop? Shall I overtake them?” And He answered him, “Pursue, for you shall surely overtake them and without fail recover all.”
In the midst of everything going wrong David turns to the Lord and asks for His strategic plan to solve this dilemma. This is a critical lesson to take note of. David is at an exceptionally low point where it would have been easy for him to simply take action as he has done so many times in the past. But without the Lord’s blessing and direction he may have pursued the wrong path and those who had kidnapped his family along with the families of his men would have had even more lead time to escape. He was not wasting time by taking a knee to pray… he was gaining counsel from the greatest military mind in the universe. And taking that time to seek the Lord’s guidance proved critical, as we find that the Lord who knows all things directs David to a fallen adversary who provides essential intelligence leading David right to his enemy’s lair.
1 Samuel 30:10-15 David pursued, he and four hundred men; for two hundred stayed behind, who were so weary that they could not cross the Brook Besor. Then they found an Egyptian in the field, and brought him to David; and they gave him bread and he ate, and they let him drink water. And they gave him a piece of a cake of figs and two clusters of raisins. So when he had eaten, his strength came back to him; for he had eaten no bread nor drunk water for three days and three nights. Then David said to him, “To whom do you belong, and where are you from?” And he said, “I am a young man from Egypt, servant of an Amalekite; and my master left me behind, because three days ago I fell sick. We made an invasion of the southern area of the Cherethites, in the territory which belongs to Judah, and of the southern area of Caleb; and we burned Ziklag with fire.” And David said to him, “Can you take me down to this troop?” So he said, “Swear to me by God that you will neither kill me nor deliver me into the hands of my master, and I will take you down to this troop.”
As we enter the endgame, we find that David is guided to the perpetrators, he and his army rout them easily in battle, and all that had been lost was restored. David and his men gained a totally different perspective on what losing meant when they thought the bad news was that they lost their job, and it turned out having regained their families that the job they lost was no longer as important as what they almost lost and now had found.
1 Samuel 30:18-20 So David recovered all that the Amalekites had carried away, and David rescued his two wives. And nothing of theirs was lacking, either small or great, sons or daughters, spoil or anything which they had taken from them; David recovered all. Then David took all the flocks and herds they had driven before those other livestock, and said, “This is David’s spoil.”
As hard as it can be to understand, there are times when God permits a loss to occur, but He has full restoration in mind. Sometimes our “losing” is an opportunity for the Lord to show us His grace by RESTORING what we lost, as long as we turn to Him for the strength and guidance we need to survive the situation. David passed this test, and this turned out to be his final job interview with the Lord to determine his worthiness to be king. David wasn’t unemployed very long…as a matter of fact this change in employment status freed him up for a pending job opportunity. The very next chapter records the death of King Saul, and David became the king of Judah just two chapters later. Talk about an upgrade to the corner office!
Now, in my Animal Crossing game my wife sent me some stuff and things she gathered and the good news is that I will finally have my loan paid off and receive my upgraded house. It won’t be ready until tomorrow, but it will be here. Our relationship will probably survive as well. But just between you and me… I will be keeping an eye on that chest going forward. And as we will see when we continue on in our upcoming articles, this isn’t a guarantee that the Lord will ALWAYS restore what we have lost. But in some instances the bad news we receive and setbacks that occur may actually lead us down the path of not only truly appreciating what we previously had, but our response may reveal how prepared we are for the next step on our journey. For anyone who has placed their trust in Christ, losing is always temporary and can often serve as the impetus to achieving your true potential.
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