Monday, January 19, 2004

God in Our Losing

Yesterday on my rounds at the hospital I talked with half a dozen patients about the upcoming Colts game. The whole city was excited--even a nun at the hospital held a pep rally in the entrance last Friday before she headed east for the AFC championship. Patients who were struggling with various kinds of cancers, who waver understandably between fear and faith, all seemed single-minded in their belief about the Colts' victory: Our team would win. They were going to the Superbowl.

As I watched the game unfold yesterday and saw the Colts being dominated by the Patriots, I experienced a sinking feeling. So many people had hopes for that game. People were praying, desiring, looking forward with anticipatory hope. What now, as we see our team playing poorly? Where is God in our losing? Didn't he hear our prayers? Didn't he care to answer them?

It struck me that that's a theological question, one we wrestle with throughout our lives in big and small ways. When we feel blessed and strong, it's easy to feel that God is with us. But what about the times when our health fails, the car breaks, we experience a personal or professional failure, or our hopes are dashed? What about when things happen in our communities, in our nation, that bring people pain instead of peace? Where is God then?

I know the answer lies somewhere in the knowing that God is with us always--no matter what outcomes present themselves. But it struck me yesterday, feeling my own disappointment and worrying about the patients I care so much about, that I need to spend some time with that question--for others, and for myself.

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