God Allows Comebacks

Most of my evenings when I come home from work, I am occupied playing foil to a black-and-gold clad four-year-old Drew Brees-wannabe.

He wants to play football. All the time–even after football season is over. And when he doesn’t want to play football, he wants to play basketball, baseball, or soccer. 

Were it not for his dashing good looks–he looks like me after all–I might think we brought the wrong kid home from the hospital. 

Even when it’s dark outside, we have created a little path in the living room his Mama allows us to play football in–so long as we play with a soft Nerf ball and keep it relatively low in the air. Opposite sides of the living room make our end zones. 

He usually plays the Saints on one side of the line of scrimmage and I am forced to play whoever “the bad team” he’s imagined as rival. (I usually get a little squeamish when he asks me to play the Falcons.)

Now here’s the thing: this nearly kindergarten-age little boy understands the rules of the game. He knows them much better than I did when I was twice his age. He understands the down system, the point system, the key positions, and even some of the special plays. 

We run and pass up the living room for what seems like hours on end before bed time with the proviso that we don’t break Mama’s stuff. 

I’ll be quite honest with you: when we first began playing, I usually let off the throttle and let him win. He’d “pull” me down the ground for a “tackle.” And he’d never get stopped on the line of scrimmage like I could have stopped him. 

But something strange started happening: he started getting better and better with each time he played. It got to the point when I actually started having to exert some energy to stop him from running into the end zone and winning. 

When we take the game outside into a wide open field, he’s usually able to bypass me and make the run through the cones. 

At some point during our home games I made a conscious decision that it would be good for him (and maybe for my ego) to give him a little pushback and experience some loss. 

Learning to deal with loss well is just as important as learning to win, if not more so. Life is full of loss and grief and pain. We can’t always win. We can’t always succeed. Not in this broken, messed-up world. 

The first few times I started to push back and drive up the score and win, he grew very frustrated. He would throw himself down in the floor and have a fit–which caused Mama and Daddy to throw a flag and subject him to the penalty room. 

After some time, he grew to deal with loss. 

But in one particularly difficult moment I had to sit him down and explain to him that just because he was presently losing didn’t mean that he wouldn’t win the game. 

In football, I explained, there are moments called comebacks. Just look at this year’s Super Bowl! A team that is way behind can come back and win.

The concept not only cheered him up in the moment, it made him realize that playing the game even when you are down three touchdowns is still worth playing. There’s always a reason to play for when comebacks remain a possibility. 

In life’s most difficult circumstances, it is important for Christians to remember that God allows comebacks. In fact, for the believer who knows Jesus, the comeback is guaranteed in this present age or the next. 

We all say goodbye to those we love. We all deal with illness. We all deal with defeat in various ways. 

The good news is Jesus has won. Jesus has the victory. 

In the midst of all his hardships and difficulties, Paul knew this well:

“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” (1 Cor 15:57)

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Rom 8:37). 

Jesus put it this way:

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Jesus has overcome the world. Jesus has overcome death. 

Jesus has overcome the devil. 

Jesus will overcome our pain. 

God not only allows comebacks. He’s promised them. 

Your interim pastor loves you

Rhyne Putman

Rhyne Putman serves as the Pastor of Preaching and Vision at FBC Kenner. His day job is at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, where he serves as the Assistant Professor of Theology and Culture. (Yes, he’s the nerdy theology type.) Rhyne is the author of In Defense of Doctrine (Fortress Press, 2015) and of When Doctrine Divides (Fortress Press, 2017). He greatly appreciates any contribution you make to his son’s college education by buying his very (interesting) books. He’s also a pop culture geek who thinks himself Superman’s pal Jimmy Olsen. He also bleeds Mississippi State maroon. More importantly, he’s the husband of the stunning Micah and the father of a rambunctious preschooler named Ben.