Before you start reading this, I have to give you an easy out. It’s going to be a long and complicated post. Fair warning …
Are you recovering from loss? We experience loss in a heartbeat, but the recovery period is what takes time. In the past year my concentration has been on living joyfully through this practice: “Focus on what you have, not on what you’ve lost. Capitalize on what you can do, not on what you cannot.” It’s proven true, at least in my life, that where my thoughts are focused, my actions form. I’m sure when Proverbs 4:23 was written, God knew that loss would cause us distressing grief. “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Sometimes the toughest challenge in our day is not in the act, but in the thought before it. What we think, becomes our act.
This is why allowing our thought life to be obsessively tangled in what we’ve lost or what we can’t do has treacherous outcomes. Look how it’s so clearly defined in Proverbs 15:28 “The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil.” I’m not saying that loss always causes us to become wicked, but when there is no constraint over demoralizing thoughts, we can follow regret on its descent into despair. We can stay there in the pit or we can find our way out.
But what about all I’ve lost? That’s my reality. I’ve lost something I need. True.
The problem with loss is that it’s now in the past where nothing can change it. We don’t get a do-over. What we get is a chance to go on. Proverbs 12:25 expresses it well “Anxiety in a person’s heart causes depression, but an encouraging word brings him joy.” I’m not all that fond of the book of Lamentations. Even the meaning of the word settles around me like gray dissonance. But every now and then, out of the grieving comes a promise like this one in Lamentations 3:22-23 “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
Today, let this be your encouragement – just a small spark of hope in your search for what you have left, while you accept what you have lost. In Hebrews 10:24-25 the writer describes “Let us consider how to inspire each other to greater love and to righteous deeds, to gather together, and encourage each other.” How many friends do you have? How many of them would you support in their loss? How many of them would support you in yours?
You know? I love reading the books written by the Apostle Paul. He was the bull in the China shop, the fighter, the athlete, the eternal optimist. Wasn’t he? One thing I’ve learned from Paul – there are no losers in life. Huh, then what did he mean when he wrote this verse in 1 Corinthians 9:24 “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” I think Paul was acknowledging that there are competitions and there are games and athletic events that can be used as analogy for life. In sports, there is loss because someone’s keeping score. There are no scorekeepers in real life. God is not keeping score.
I believe Paul meant we all must keep focusing on the goal ahead of us – not what we had in the past. In fact, he writes it out for us not once but twice in Philippians. “I press on toward the goal to win the prize …” Philippians 3:12 and 3:14 He also told us to “Forget what is behind and strain toward what is ahead.” It’s impossible to be a loser when we ““Focus on what you have, not on what you’ve lost. Capitalize on what you can do, not on what you cannot.”
In 2 Timothy 4:7 Paul writes as a mentor to Timothy “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” I wish I could mentor everyone who needs encouragement like Paul did. What a hero he would be by today’s standards. Faithful warrior for truth, leader, mentor, challenger, athlete, friend – The Apostle Paul
If you’re struggling with loss and need encouragement while you get your footing and drag yourself into your new normal, I pray that you will remember to focus on what you have, not on what you’ve lost and capitalize on what you can do, not on what you cannot. Remember the same God who protected and lead David makes the same offer to you. Psalm 139:5 “You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.”
Bonus thought to contemplate
Have you ever wondered why there isn’t a book of Paul? He wrote many of the books in the New Testament and may have been the ghost writer of the book of Hebrews. I’m no *Bible scholar, but I think God didn’t give Paul permission to have a book named for him because he struggled with pride. OK so I have not justification for that, but remember when Paul said he was given a thorn in his flesh? 2 Corinthians 12:7 “Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.” I’ve heard people say the thorn was having to deal with certain irritating people sent to serve with him and others have said it was poor eyesight. I’m taking creative license and saying – what if it was his proclivity to thinking that he was the poster child for gifted, talented, and handsome? What if God didn’t title any of his books The Book of Paul because it would have made him prideful and useless in God’s kingdom?
Prayer: Lord protect my thoughts, put a shield around my heart, help me accept what I have lost and reach out for what I can do with what I have left. Keep my attitude one of gratitude and give me a new appreciation for your provision in my life. Empty my mind of negative thoughts and replace them with your promises. I love you Lord. Be first in my life. Amen
*Footnote: If it weren’t for my trusty study Bibles and the efficient look up available at BibleGateway, I wouldn’t be able to share the number of scriptures that I do. I remember scripture from past hours of reading and memorization, but the address, where to find it, requires the help of a concordance or online keyword look-ups.
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