"We needed to lose." So said the assistant coach of the baseball team I work for. They had been on an eight-game winning streak and seemed to be doing everything right. Then they lost a game they should have won; then another, then another, and another. The last one being a 13-2 blowout. It was disheartening to everyone. And yet, in spite of the disappointment, I kept hearing this message from both the players and the staff: we needed to lose in order to get back on track. Just prior to what ended up being a decisive win and turnaround for the team, one of the pitchers told me, " That was our rock bottom last night - that 13-2 loss. We needed that so we can get back in our groove." A few hours later after he told me that, the losing streak ended…and against a team that they had not beaten but once in two years! The players' attitude propelled them to success.
This series of events got me thinking about how this is a great example of life. Often, when things seem to be going right for us, a time of testing is waiting just around the corner. In a season of prosperity, it seems crazy to realize that suffering will happen. And when it does, disrupting our seemingly ideal life in the process, we fight it because we like the easy road. We like winning. We like success. But what we don't get is that such times of testing are the paths to maturity.
In the past, I tried to fight adversity. It was my enemy…or so I thought. I hated the idea of having to go through tough times in order to grow. But gradually I began to realize that often, this is how God teaches stubborn human beings the hard lessons He wants them to grasp. Rarely does He impart such truths as humility, trust, faith, courage, belief, and aspects of His character when we are in a time of prosperity. Rather, He drives these lessons home to us when we have nothing else to hold on to other than Him. There is something to be said for the attention we give to Him when all other things have failed us. We realize how inept we are at doing anything truly worthwhile apart from Him. Adversity suddenly becomes our friend. It becomes a means for God to speak to us and help us know more about ourselves and about Him.
Perhaps sometimes God is like the assistant coach: knowing that we will become too full of ourselves if the success continues, He knows that some suffering will do us good…and He allows things to happen that will turn our gaze heaven-ward and will redirect us back to where we belong: at the foot of the cross. In life as in sports, hitting rock bottom isn't always a bad thing. Like the pitcher pointed out, there are times when we need to experience failure so that we can have a healthier approach to success.
Our attitude to these seasons of testing determines how and if we grow from the things we face. It is easy to want to avoid the pain of life. Nobody likes walking through a valley of suffering. And yet, once we realize that this is God's primary means of creating positive change in our life, perhaps we will learn to embrace the losses we encounter. Then, when the success returns, we can look back, remembering where we've been and, in so doing, thank Him that He never lets us rest on our laurels but will always do what is for our good…even through the adversity that comes our way.