Newsflash – I’m a coach and I hate losing. I know, big surprise, right? Since we just finished a four-game stretch in a week, most of my thoughts are going to be related to what our team is experiencing. As a coach, losses become difficult when you dissect the critical moments that determined the game. What could you have done differently? Were the right people on the floor? Were you prepared? It can be frustrating, but at the same time, it’s the core of what we do as coaches. We have to analyze, adjust, and teach. I hate to lose, but I welcome the surge of energy and determination that can come as a result. If you consider losses, you realize how difficult it is to reach perfection, and just as in life in this world, you realize that things are pretty messed up. Losses come with the territory in our sinful and selfish world, so dealing with loss is essential.
LIFE – Can you turn lemons into lemonade?
Losses, big and small, hit us on a daily basis. Cars break down. A friend betrays your confidence or you’re left off the invitation list. Exam grades are lower than expected. The roof leaks at just the wrong time. A job is taken away and a doctor visit reveals a new challenge. The sour lemons of life begin piling up!
Some people would say “Turn that frown upside down!” or “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!” Is that really helpful? How about a self-help motivational book? Will that help? You can always find helpful ideas – some may work, some may not. Or, some would say, it’s time for a life makeover – maybe? Or maybe handling losses comes with maturity? If I sound skeptical, I probably am. I’ve tried a bunch of these and honestly, just like dealing with losing games, I’m still learning to find a different way.
FAITH – Wisdom in losses.
Thankfully, the Bible provides all the inspiration and wisdom we could ever need to deal with the inevitable losses we encounter. First of all, we’re not alone. The Bible includes a running narrative of people experiencing disappointment, bitter disappointment! Like Esau. When you read Genesis (Genesis 25 & 27), you hear all about Jacob’s life, but what about his brother? You know, the burly, outdoorsy guy who foolishly allowed his kid brother to steal his birthright? Or Jacob’s first wife, Leah (Genesis 29), the one Jacob had to marry and put up with for seven years before he got to marry Rachel, the sister that he really loved? All we know about either of them is that, like all of us, they suffered incredible pain which may or may not have been their own fault, and went on with life. After a separation, Esau had to own up to his mistake of ignoring God’s plans and reconnected with his brother (Genesis 33), while Leah, somehow, made the best of a unique family soap opera and went about raising the next generation of God’s chosen people. We don’t know the details and can only guess at the pain and disappointment of their losses, but their lives had to be more than just putting on a happy face.
Secondly, God uses our losses to bring us closer to Him. Esau lost his inheritance because he focused on the moment. He was hungry and foolishly gave away his rights, mostly because he was distant from God and ignored God’s plans. In the end, though, Esau reconciled with Jacob and, no doubt, learned by what he saw in his brother. If nothing else, he had the opportunity to grow closer to God.
And finally, God reminds us, as He surely did with Esau and Leah, that this life and all of its losses are temporary (2 Corinthians 4:17). We can’t get too caught up in the values and trends of this world because they won’t last – finances, jobs, friends, family, and outcomes of basketball games will not matter one day. The only things that will last are God’s Word and God’s people, period.
God is and remains in control. Does that mean that He’ll swoop in and right everything that I do wrong? When my plans don’t work out, will God suddenly change my losses into wins because I smile a little and put on a positive spin? I don’t think so, but through my faith, I realize that through every loss I can draw closer and closer to Him. And, in that case, I learn to deal with the losses.
BASKETBALL – Use your losses!
With that in mind, here are some helpful things to consider when we deal with losses on the basketball floor:
1) Analyze – Whether you’re a coach or a player, take a close look at those things that are under your control. Objectively identify the root elements that led to a loss.
2) Adjust – Learn from your mistakes, find a way to correct them, and make wise changes without going into panic mode.
3) Accept – Treat losses as opportunities, without dwelling on the outcome. Failures do not define you, but how you respond to losses is a direct result of your mission and purpose.
4) Persevere – Continue to plug away by sticking with your philosophy, tweaking it as needed, and refocusing your energies.
Too many of us push aside losses, thinking the best remedy is to just forget about them. Every loss provides an opportunity to grow and get better. Good players and coaches learn from every one of them. It certainly helps to have a short memory and move on from mistakes, but it’s essential to reflect and learn. Losses will come, so don’t get down, just deal with them.
Pastor Rick Warren knows something about personal loss after the death of his son Michael. I highly recommend Rick’s daily devotions found at rickwarren.org. “Daily Hope” provides great insights for dealing with this world!