Disappointment will come
YES! No need to belabor the point here. It’s perfectly reasonable and acceptable to feel deep disappointment when you or your team loses. In fact, there ought to be disappointment when you lose.
You’re probably well aware that last night North Carolina lost the NCAA basketball tournament on a buzzer beating shot by Villanova. In the moments that followed Villanova’s game winning shot sheer joy beamed from the faces of the Villanova players while tears of disappointment flowed from the eyes of the North Carolina players. It was a championship moment which is always filled with the highest of joys and the deepest of disappointments.
As Christian competitors who define success as looking back on the season and being able to say “We pursued our God-given potential and became more like Christ in the process” we often make the mistake of thinking that means we should never be disappointed with the outcome of a game. We make the mistake of saying, “There’s nothing to be disappointed about when we lose because winning isn’t our ultimate goal.”
It is a mistake to say we should never be disappointed
Why is it a mistake? It’s a mistake because it’s a competition. Part of the purpose of sports is to win the competition. As Christians winning must never become our highest priority, but it is perfectly acceptable to want to win…that’s sorta the point. Therefore, embracing a truly biblical definition of success doesn’t mean setting aside the desire to win. It does mean learning to be content regardless of the scoreboard, but contentment doesn’t mean never being disappointed.
Trying to win is sort of the point
Christian coaches are called to create game plans they believe will put their players in a position to win the game just as much as anyone else. Christian athletes are called to execute those strategies in the same way. Competing for God’s glory doesn’t mean abandoning the most basic tenant of competition: trying to win.
Being a Christian doesn’t mean you should never be disappointed
And so being a Christian doesn’t mean you should never feel disappointed about losing or feel guilty because you are genuinely disappointed. Knowing that God is working every win and loss together for the good of those who love Him doesn’t mean it shouldn’t sting when we come up short on the scoreboard.
Are Christian competitors called to be content and to rest assured that God is in control and using all things to glorify Himself and for the good of every Christian (Romans 8:28)? Yes, absolutely, but embracing that perspective doesn’t mean never being disappointed.
Why does all this matter?
Why is this important? It’s important because the Christian should feel free to wrestle with disappointment. It’s not a sign that they are immature or lack proper faith. It’s a sign that they are human and long for a time when disappointments will cease to exist. When we understand that the very disappointment we are referring to can be used for God’s glory.
Disappointment is redeemed for God’s glory when the Holy Spirit reminds you…
- that someday disappointment will never grip our hearts again
- that our identity, value, worth and dignity are not found in winning or losing
- that our hope in this life and the one to come is in Christ alone
Disappointment is not the enemy
Disappointment is not an enemy to the Christian competitor. It’s often a tool Satan will use against you, but it’s not sinful in and of itself. You will face disappointment in your athletic career and it’s how you handle it that matters most.