Not because we find pleasure in someone else’s pain or we feel better because someone else feels worse. It’s just good to know we’re not alone or completely off our rocker.
And the thing about being a loser is that we all take a shot at it at one time or another.
Recently, I was in an Ancient Literature class and thought, man, even the heroes of antiquity weren’t immune. Unless, like Socrates, they had someone like Plato to give their story a positive spin.
When we think about Moses leading the Israelites out of slavery, our thoughts tend to go all Charlton Heston on us. Which is OK, but the actual narrative paints a picture that includes an overworked, underappreciated man who buckled under pressure.
One day, he asked God, “Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me? Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth?”
Am I sensing a little sarcasm here?
Then Moses added, “If this is how you are going to treat me, please go ahead and kill me—if I have found favor in your eyes—and do not let me face my own ruin” (Num. 11:11, 15).
Just kill me now, Lord!
The story of Elijah isn’t much better. One minute, the great prophet is commanding fire from heaven as he boldly opposes the worship of Baal. The next minute, he’s running for his life from the crazy Queen Jezebel who wants him dead.
Then Elijah collapses under a tree and says, “I’ve had enough, Lord. . . . Take my life; I’m no better than my ancestors’ (I Kings 19:4).
I’m definitely seeing a theme.
Things weren’t much better in the New Testament either. John was a prophet called to communicate God’s truth, most notably against King Herod’s adulterous relationship with his brother’s wife. The king was intrigued with John but threw him in prison anyway.
Fueled by exhaustion and disillusionment, John’s faith was tested. He even sent his messengers to Jesus and asked, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matthew 11:3).
Think about it. John had boldly proclaimed the coming of Christ just days earlier. Now in chains, he barely recognized Him.
Pain will do that. It can cause us to doubt ourselves, to doubt other people, and to doubt God.
But what I love about these ancient stories is the conspicuous absence of God’s judgment. He doesn’t punish or ridicule these so-called losers. He offers encouragement and solutions instead.
To Moses, a new word was added to his vocabulary. Delegate.
To Elijah, food and rest were provided.
To John, words of comfort and assurance came from Jesus Himself.
Each difficult moment provided an opportunity for faith to be strengthened.
So, loser or not, I’d say I’m in pretty good company.
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Look for Permission to Doubt. Published by Kregel.
And watch for Unsatisfied: Searching for Contentment in a Discontented World.