There are certain consistent laws within the world of gaming that are not written in any tech manual nor are they engraved on stone tablets hidden somewhere in Silicon Valley, but they exist nonetheless. For example, it is a universal law that all gaming villains must have a burning need to import wooden boxes and explosive barrels and to scatter these liberally wherever they go. It is an unwritten requirement that any keys for doors should always be placed as far as possible from the lock they open and whenever possible stuck in an incredibly difficult position to reach without risking severe pain or death. Not sure how the enemies planned on opening that door in the future, but I suppose we all have our idiosyncrasies.
But more than any other gaming trope such as protagonist amnesia, the villain was your best friend, or that your princess is in another castle there is one constant. One law that cannot be broken. And that rule is that no matter how skilled you are, and no matter how well you play…. all Mario Party games hate you and will steal all your stars right before the end of the game.
I am a Mario aficionado, and I have faithfully purchased each and every Mario Party console game in the hopes that this time we will achieve balance in the Force. When played with your family or a group of friends Mario Party is crazy fun, and well worth repeated play. But if you are that poor, lonely soul who is attempting to play it solo or if you are trying to unlock certain features by playing against the computer AI… you are hopelessly doomed to the curse of having all of your hard work erased by one unlucky roll of the dice.
It never fails… I will set every AI player to the lowest possible difficulty setting (on the intelligence scale something between carpet fiber and taco shell) and proceed to dominate the mini games and collect star after star in my chase for the prize. And then… it HAPPENS.
Lying before me are LITERALLY twenty safe spaces that I can happily land on and Toad will bring me cookies and milk while Yoshi gives me a deep cranial massage. All but one numerical combination is completely and utterly safe. But nestled inconspicuously in the middle of all those pleasant, happy, non-controller throwing spaces is the one space I cannot afford to land on… the Bowser space of doom. There is literally only one roll of the dice that will land me on that terrible space, but like a moth drawn to its fatal flame my dice roll has only one number on its mind.
The dice roll of doom commences, my character gleefully marches to his destruction, Bowser stomps me into oblivion and gives me negative stars while lavishing untold riches on all of my competitors, and the cycle of Mario Party robbery perpetuates for another day. As the rubber band nature of the game insures that once again I snatch defeat from the jaws of certain victory, I am left considering how my utter domination in all of the mini games and superior strategy in board movement was obliterated in one moment. My prowess simply did not prevent me from succumbing to the inevitable… the free will of the computer AI to completely alter my happily ever after into another nightmarish loss.
Over the last several weeks we have reviewed multiple lives across numerous Scriptures and found how the Lord used each of the losses that occurred for each circumstance to serve a particular purpose. As we reach the end of this collection of thoughts on the lives of a few individuals from the “Bible Hall of Fame” throughout the centuries, let’s take a moment and recap what we have uncovered
- Job lost his children, his finances, and his health so God could REPLACE them and establish who gives and who takes away.
- David and his men lost their wives, children, and all of their belongings so God could RESTORE them and show His protection.
- Ruth lost her husband and had to move away from her people and her entire way of life so God could REDEEM her and all of humanity.
- Jacob lost his son Joseph so God could RESCUE him and his entire family in the future.
- Abraham lost his dream and offered his son Issac as a sacrifice because the Lord REQUIRED his obedience to enact the blessing.
- David lost his baby, his reputation, his protective blessing and several sons so God could REPROVE him.
- Hosea lost the innocence and purity of his marriage so God could teach him and all of us RECONCILIATION.
- Nehemiah lost his nation and his city so God could show him how to REBUILD.
- Lazarus lost his life so God can prove He RESURRECTS.
- Paul lost daily to his thorn in the flesh so God could demonstrate that sometimes He REFUSES, but always with a purpose.
- John the Baptist lost his freedom and eventually his head so he could learn that God REASSURES.
- Leah lost the love of her husband so God could REWARD her for her faithfulness.
- John the Revelator lost everything he called home so God could RESTRAIN him long enough to receive the book of Revelation.
I have found myself reflected in each of these cases of loss at some point or another in my life, and I am enduring some of them right now. But simply relating to each of these lives and the challenges they faced is not the purpose of reviewing these circumstances. It is nice to know that others have felt the same way that we are feeling, and it is very important to learn from their stories so we can overcome these challenges positively and productively in our own lives. But to treat the Bible as a self-help book is to miss the point entirely. It is a GOD-help book, and it exists to guide us in our understanding of Him. So to dig a bit deeper it is time to dive into the final subject on our countdown… the Father Himself.
When I got to the end of this last group of studies, a picture of God as one who has endured loss, suffered pain, and is reaching out for love has emerged. But to be honest, it almost seems sacrilegious and borderline blasphemous to consider the idea of God losing anything. I mean, He’s God right? The Creator of all things, the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent Lord. How can He possibly experience loss? The truth is that He was the original member of the Survivor’s Club before mankind ever came on the scene, and He has been getting hit with losses ever since. Not sure what I’m talking about? Time to explore…
In Ezekiel 28:11-19 we find the prophet Ezekiel being directed by God to take up a lamentation for the king of Tyre, but it becomes clear very quickly that this is no mere flesh and blood human that is being described here. This Scripture is pointing to the being behind the earthly king, Lucifer himself. Let’s break this down… he is described as the “seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. ” He was in Eden, the garden of God. He is described as being covered with every precious stone and his voice is described as having being “prepared for him on the day he was created”. This was a hand-crafted being of surpassing excellence, the “annointed cherub”. Bear in mind this entire section of Scripture is defined as a lamentation. In Hebrew this word (qinah) means a dirge, a sad and melancholy song of loss that is used to mourn a death or impending doom. God is instructing Ezekiel to record this bitter melody that comes straight from the broken heart of God. His best and brightest creation, the one He designed flawlessly decided in Isaiah 14:12-14 to raise himself up and lead a rebellion against His loving Creator. And he gave the Lord no choice but to punish him and cast him out of heaven, taking one-third of his fellow angels with him on the way out.
Before Adam took his first breath, God had already lost a third of his created beings and the one he had placed in the most prominent position, the one He called “the son of the morning”. The fall of Lucifer clearly hurt, but this was only the beginning of the pain for our Lord. He created a man and a woman and placed them in a perfect world, and they too rebelled and He lost His previously untarnished relationship with His children. And because of their choices man lost authority over the planet God had given him and gave it directly to Lucifer. The Father then chose one nation to be His own special chosen people, and He lost his fellowship with them more times than I can count. And when He sent His Son down to make peace between God and man, well… He lost Him too because we crucified Him.
God’s story is one of experiencing more tragic losses than one human lifetime can possibly imagine. The losses we experience in this life actually brings us closer to understanding the nature, the character, and the very heartbeat of God more than anything else we experience. The truth is the love story of the Creator and His creation is a story filled with a whole lot of losing. He lost his angels, His first man and woman, His chosen children, His planet…. His Son. And is through our losing that something truly impactful happens: God RELATES to us. The same Jesus who wept over Lazarus, the same Father who wrote a lamentation over the loss of his angels, the same Holy Spirit who is grieved by our actions… He feels ALL of the same feelings that we do. He has been feeling them for all eternity. He understands loneliness, betrayal, heartbreak, separation… all of these and so much more. And when we experience these times in our lives our loving Father can put His arm around you and truly say, “I understand. I have been hurt the same way too”.
Realizing we serve a God who fully relates to us is the most important of all of these lessons to learn. And once we fully grasp that, we can begin to make progress on what the true plan of God is for each of us. He didn’t send His Son to save you from hell, though that is an awesome part of the benefit package. And He didn’t send Him just so He could bring you to heaven, although that’s also part of the deal. He made mankind for a RELATIONSHIP. He sent His Son to restore that relationship by reconciling the sin problem that separated us from a Holy God. Becoming “saved” is kind of like walking into a house. You are simply inside the house now, whereas you were previously outside of the house. But the reason you came in was to have fellowship with those who are inside the house, and becoming saved is just a first step towards creating a day-in, day-out growing relationship with the Lord.
He is seeking that relationship. The losses we experience help us understand Him better and grow closer to Him. He is available right now, and He is asking us to place our trembling hands into His nail-scarred palms. He has felt your pain. He has cried your tears. He has lost in the same ways and deeper than any of us will ever know. He has been cheated on and betrayed, lied about and lied to, beaten and murdered, hated and mocked…. He understands, and He relates to everything you will ever go through. And now He is reaching out to each and every one of us, all fellow survivors in this Survivor’s Club for Losing, to give your life fully and truly to Him. Not in an abandoning, “Here you go Jesus, see what you can do with this mess” sort of way. But in the way that a husband and a wife give themselves to each other… in an active daily relationship between two hearts that grow together not only when things are good, but in the winning AND the losing.
I pray more than anything else that this helps you reassess the nature of your relationship with your Creator just as it has challenged mine. I have carried a negative view of those things I have lost and allowed myself to think of myself as a “loser” as a result. But now I see much of my pain reflected in a God who is anything but a loser. I have found that it is not my circumstances that always need to change, but my understanding of what losing really is. And in the eco-system of the Kingdom, it takes LOSING your life to find it. It takes coming in LAST place to truly take first prize. By the world’s definition, we have all chosen the path of losers and follow a God who not only allows this, but is an active participant in our losses.
Now while I am still personally turning the corner in my thinking on a daily basis, I am finally coming to understand that not only do these all serve a greater purpose, but they help me truly understand my Lord for maybe the first time. He is the Man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. And He wants to grow closer in relationship with me through my tragedies and setbacks. He aspires to be more than my Provider, even though He surely is that. And Savior is certainly in His job description, but that was not why He made me. That’s how He bought me back. He is the lover of my soul, and He longs to be that for you as well. Let your sorrow, your grief, your disappointment and your pain push you into the arms of the One who truly understands. And like those brave souls who blazed the trails before us, we can be proud to wear our Survivor’s Club badge as a true achievement as we join with Him both now and into the age to come.