Life After Loss
One thousand pounds of pure, ardent rage bolts out into a dirt covered ring. The atmosphere is filled with shouts and screams; the ground seems to rumble. A lone figure stands in the middle of the ring, beckoning a fight. The muscles of the beast spring into action as pent-up rage takes the reigns. At full speed, the brute lowers his head to gore this taunter. Just then, the figure disappears as if this were some smoke and mirrors game. Over and over the animal charges the figure only to miss by mere inches. The game goes on until finally the weakened beast succumbs to the despair of the moment.
This is the scene one finds in the bullfighting rings of Spain. Bulls are selected from particular lineages to be toyed for hours with until finally killed; it’s a brutal, bloody, and torturous spectacle. The morning of the event we find a bull that is at the pinnacle of his strength. Weighing in at a minimal of 1,014 pounds, the bull is a perfect specimen of brute strength and power. However, as the day progresses, he is constantly antagonized. He is stabbed, pierced, and run in circles until all stamina is drained. When the bull has reached a level of maximum rage, and minimum weakness, he finds himself in the center ring, to dance with the matador.
Starting in Genesis chapter six we read the account of Noah and his famous ark. Noah built the ark for one reason: to obey God. He wasn’t some paleo-doomsday prepper; he was simply told by God to build an ark, and so he did. The interesting thing is that Noah had no idea the extent of the flood that was coming, and therefore he really didn’t even plan on life after the flood. After everything was said and done, Noah finds himself back on dry land with no purpose or plans for the future. For the last one-hundred or so years, all he has been doing is building an ark. Noah’s identity became infused in the beams, mended with the pitch, and fastened to the nails. Take Noah away and you have no ark; take the ark away and you have no Noah, or so he reasoned.
The evidence of Noah’s deprived state of affairs lies in the fact that after this epic tale of God sparing him and his family; Noah goes and gets drunk. His purpose and meaning were intertwined with the ark, and when the ark became unnecessary, so did Noah, at least in his mind. He had no plans for life after the ark.
Noah is not the only example we find in the Bible of those who identify, or are identified, only by their situations. There are far too many examples to be covered properly in this short discussion, but there is one more that should be mentioned: the lame man at the gate called Beautiful in Acts 3. This is the first miracle recorded after the Day of Pentecost. A lame man who the Bible tells us was carried daily to the gate, meaning the disciples without a doubt would have seen him before. People were familiar with the regular out of place fixture at the Beautiful gate. Everyone knew he was lame; everyone saw him, but nobody acknowledged him.
Who knows what caused Peter and John and pay attention to the lame man this time when passing through the gate, maybe they had been talking about Jesus’ miracles on the way to the temple? Maybe they just took Jesus’ words literally when he said, “He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do…” (John 14:12)? Who knows what caused them to stop that morning, but the result was the guy that everyone know was lame, walked away.
The account is without a doubt faith building for each of us, but there is more to the account that just that. Think about this: the Bible never tells us his name. A man who was healed is to this day only acknowledged by his condition. We’ve been preaching about the lame man in Acts 3 for centuries! But the fact of the matter is that there came a point when he was not the lame man anymore, he became the man that was lame. The poor guy only has ever been identified by his condition, his past. His condition took on an identity of its own that outlived the man himself. He lived a whole life after being lame; being lame was just a season of his life. He wasn’t always that lame man. There was an entire life lived after he was healed of his condition
Life has this way of breaking us down and toying with us much in the same way of the bull and the matador. When life is going well, you feel like the bull at the peak of its strength and vigor. You can take on the world. You can conquer anything that comes your way, or so you feel.
Then, life, who plays an unfair game with all of us, starts to take small jabs here and there. The process of weakening begins. Before long, you're stressed, anxious, worried, sick, tired, and without sufficient time to even gather your thoughts. Life wears you down to a state of weakness and sometime around there it feels like life gives your its best shot. Job loss, the death of a loved one, terrible news from the doctor; punch drunk you stagger back. Life seems to have exploited the best of you in short work. You have reached the place that the once vigorous bull reaches toward the end of the fight; you find yourself losing your fight.
During this time you find yourself feeling like Noah: you hadn’t planned for this day. Maybe you reach the place that Noah found himself in: going through life without purpose and meaning. You don’t know the next step, surprised you even have the strength to make the next step. You have reached a critical time in your life, but all is not lost.
Yes, Bible tells us that Noah got drunk, and we see that Noah didn't have many plans for a future without the ark. Just like you might not have many plans for a future with loss. But, Genesis 9:28 says, “And Noah lived after the flood three hundred and fifty years.” After the loss of the entire world, after the loss of friends and acquaintances, after the loss of meaning and purpose: Noah lived.
My friends reading this today, there is life after loss. No matter the loss you might find yourself walking through. Whether you feel like the bull that has been toyed with for what seems like forever, Noah who lost his sense of purpose and meaning, or the lame man who’s condition took on its own identity. There is still life after loss. Don’t lose your fight in the fight. There is more to you than you might feel at the present time. Whether what you are going through is great or small, all is not lost. Remember every morning, every step: there is life after loss.