When goalkeeper Lucas Covolan scored in the final minute of last Sunday’s play-off final, it seemed that the script had been written, and that Torquay United’s Brazilian-born shot-stopper was going to be the hero of the story.
That thought was strengthened when, after a score-less extra time, Lucas saved the opposition’s first two attempts in the subsequent penalty shoot-out.
However, there was to be a cruel twist to the tale, and a slip, followed by two interventions by the crossbar meant that the Gulls’ promotion dream that was so tantalisingly close, was suddenly and irrevocably snatched from their grasp.
A second-place finish in a National League campaign set against the backdrop of a global pandemic is no mean feat, and in most other leagues would mean success, and elevation to a higher division.
But for Torquay, all that remains are thoughts of what might have been, of what so very nearly was, and a tremendous feeling of disappointment.
As in football, so it is in life in general. Setbacks, discouragements and downers are, in part, the unavoidable experience of daily living for all of us. And how we react and respond is of great significance to our personal development.
For those of us who identify as followers of Jesus, there are times when the focus of our disappointment is with God himself.
I recall the year of unemployment I experienced straight after finishing my theological studies at Moorlands Bible College. Although I was short-listed and interviewed for a number of church youthwork positions, no job was forthcoming, and I vividly recall sitting in my car by the side of the road one day praying, “Lord, I still trust you, but I don’t understand what you’re up to!”
The men and women that we read about in the Bible, who put their trust in God, were not immune from their own experiences of disappointment. In 2 Samuel chapter 7, in the Old Testament, we find David at the height of his reign as King of Israel.
Many battles have been won and enemies defeated, and there is peace in the land. Life is good. But as David considers the luxury of the palace in which he lives in Jerusalem, he compares it to the simple tent in which the Ark of the Covenant – the item that was the continual reminder to God’s people of his presence and power – was housed.
So, David has an idea that he shares with the prophet Nathan, who is the King’s spiritual advisor (his pastor).
“Nathan,” says David, “it’s not good that the Ark is stored in a tent whilst I’m living in a place. The Ark should be in a special place. So I’m going to build a temple for it. And the size and scope of the temple I build will speak of God’s power and majesty. Only the best will be good enough for the Lord. And this will be my legacy.”
Nathan is impressed with what he hears and urges the King to do whatever is in his heart to do. However, the next day, after hearing God speak to him during the night, Nathan returns to David and tells him he’s been a bit hasty with his initial words of counsel.
“Although God commends you for your desire to honour him,” Nathan tells the King, “He says that your son, in years to come, rather than you, will fulfil your dream and build the temple.”
David is devastated. He won’t be able to build his dream, leave his legacy. But he doesn’t sulk. Instead, it says in 2 Samuel 7:18, “Then David went in and sat before the Lord.” In other words, he worshipped God, entrusting himself to God’s will; acknowledging that, in the midst of his disappointment, the Lord knows best.
In the ups and downs of my own life experience, when things haven’t turned out the way I’d hoped or planned, I’ve repeatedly returned to the important reminders located in a few specific sentences of Scripture – Proverbs 3: 5 & 6, “Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track.”
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