That winning feeling
What a difference 24 hours makes ... at least for an Australian like me watching the Olympics!
Australia won 2 gold medals in a day, and the disappointment of our poor showing in the first week is now not so painful. The joy of cyclist Anna Mears and hurdler Sally Pearson in claiming gold, after both winning silver in Beijing 2008, lead to personal and national outpourings of celebration. But how do athletes handle the disappointment of not winning?
Losing is part of life
Sally Pearson edged out Dawn Harper of the USA in the hurdles by only 0.02 secs, swapping their places from Beijing. The response of Dawn was magnificent – she didn’t sulk and whinge, but when the delayed announcement was made she clapped and congratulated Sally. She then pointed to heaven as a gesture of thanking God for her result. Even in the midst of defeat, she was able to look beyond herself to God and the importance of her competitor’s Olympic triumph, which Sally shared in a TV interview as “a dream come true, 12 years in the making”.
It is not that being a Christian ensures a godly response in defeat, but it seems Dawn was able to draw on something else, or rather someone else, to give her a reality check. In an Inspiring Athletes interview in 2008, Dawn said:
There is another plan for me that I may not see for myself. I’m supposed to reach out to other people and show them what God can do because of what He’s done through me.
Dawn draws strength from the fact that God is in control, and because of this things will turn out just as God desires for her. The writer of Ecclesiastes said something very similar:
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens... a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance. (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4).
In the same way, there is a time for winning and a time for ... not winning. Given that there are 10,500 competitors and only 302 events in London, you can do the math.
God's plans are different to ours
God is in control and at work in us. A Christian sees that our disappointment is His appointment. As Dawn mentioned, we are a witness to others as we trust God and tell others about what we are learning. The following verses give us some good wisdom to chew on in how to deal with disappointment:
Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken. (Psalm 55:22)
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)
I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. (Philippians 4:12)
For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. (1 Timothy 4:8)
Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)
Experiencing disappointment in sport or any area of our life may not be pleasant, but it is an opportunity to grow in godliness and for others to see this and praise God. As the Olympics will provide this refining fire for some athletes, Christians are called to trust that God is always in control, even in moments of heartache, sadness and disappointment. This is worth more than gold!
If you're interested in more, visit http://www.StruggleandTriumph.com for a free online video, which included testimonies from Christian Olympic athletes.