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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

What You Gain When You Lose

By Robert C. Crosby
July 11, 2010

“I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8, NIV).

“So ... you’re a preacher and you can’t talk? What are you going to do — write?!” The abrupt question from the guest speaker cut deep.

Only six months earlier while preaching a Christmas Eve service, my voice had suddenly gone out — right in the middle of my message. I had experienced laryngitis before, but this felt different. It was as if someone had suddenly unplugged my voice box. Just talking suddenly felt like a wrestling match. I knew something was wrong.

Not knowing what had hit me, I hurriedly finished the sermon. After closing the service in prayer, I went to my regular post in the foyer of the church to talk (or try to talk) with people as they left. 

“Pastor, take care of that voice.”

“Give the voice a rest for a while, Pastor.”

“Better see the doctor about that cold.”

Thinking it was just that — a cold — I rested my voice for a few days figuring it would return. It didn’t. So, I went to the doctor. He said he couldn’t tell for sure, but that it must be a virus. It wasn’t. The uncertainty was almost as frustrating as trying to carry on a conversation.

After that, I was sent from a general practitioner to a laryngologist to a neurologist and finally (a couple of months later) to a speech therapist. No one seemed to know what it was.

For six months, talking was extremely difficult. Simple one-on-one discussions were challenging. Also, trying to figure it all out was putting a strain on my spirit, my marriage and my family. The scariest part was that I felt like I had lost something I assumed I would always have — a strong, clear and resonant voice.

My questions were the most challenging part of this season. “God, why is this happening? Why don’t You just heal me? You called me to preach and now I am having a hard time just talking; what is the deal with that?”

Losing something valuable
Losses come in all depths and dimensions. Every day people lose loved ones, their jobs, their houses. But perhaps the most difficult losses are the ones we never would have expected.

Few people in the Bible lost more than Joseph. He was one prolific loser. His adolescent years were full of bright dreams, great favor and remarkable potential (Genesis 37). He had it all. However, he would soon experience losses that would far exceed merely having to part with a multicolored coat. Before finally ascending to the role of second in command over all of Egypt, Joseph’s journey looked like a nonstop downward spiral. Just consider some of his losses.

He lost his family’s support. Joseph’s brothers so envied him and the favor he had with his father that they decided to get rid of him. Murder was the original idea; instead he was tossed into a pit and sold as a slave. Have you ever lost the support of someone you needed the most? 

He lost his job — more than once. When he entered the workforce as a shepherd, his brothers pulled him off the job. Job No. 2 was as a slave — but he lost that one, too. Wow. He couldn’t even keep a job as a slave! Ever felt that way?

He lost his clear view of his father. No matter what happened to Joseph in his younger years, at least his father was always in close view. Suddenly, all that changed. His father was right where he had always been, but was now far out of his sight. Sometimes God seems that way to us — distant, removed and even disinterested.

What others may find when you lose
Joseph felt the strain and stresses of a dysfunctional home, problems at work, and a distant father. He was tested to the core.

When I lost my voice for a year, it was difficult to believe that anything good would ever come of it. After 12 years of preaching, teaching and singing, I was struggling to do the thing I enjoyed most — communicating. The experience was often deeply frustrating and embarrassing. So … I wrote. In fact, I wrote so much that within a few months I had penned three book manuscripts.

The more I wrote, the more I felt the desire to see these materials published and read. But that seemed out of reach. Soon, however, I felt compelled to knock on a door or two. I asked my wife if she thought it would be worth sending the ideas to Focus on the Family. “Why not?” she said. “All they can say is ‘no.’ ”

After several weeks with no response, I was ready to give up. Just about that time, I got a call from an editor. “We don’t want to do a book with you, Bob. Actually, we want to do two. How would you feel about that?”

Something in me exploded in that moment. I think you call it joy. God had just opened an exciting door at one of the lowest seasons in my life.

Joseph’s losses took him as low as a pit; the gains, as high as a palace. But through the losses,  he found his destiny in God.

Personal losses — Kingdom gains
Let’s face it. Everyone “loses” at one time or another; some just don’t want to admit it. But beyond the pain and disappointment, losing can uniquely do something for you. It can create an empty place in your life for God to fill with something new. God required Joseph to “lose” (or surrender) so much: his family, his time, his reputation, his freedom, his finances and his work. But afterwards, Joseph was destined to experience gains he never could have imagined. Through the losses, he found his destiny in God. Jesus said, “Whoever loses his life for me will find it” (Matthew 16:25, NIV).

Eventually, after a few long months, the issue with my voice was diagnosed as a rare condition. The only treatment known at that time was an injection directly into the vocal chords, but this would only provide temporary relief. On one hand, exciting doors were beginning to open, but the challenge of my voice was not yet over.

Joseph certainly had some deeply discouraging moments, months and years. One can only imagine the desperate thoughts during all the hours and months he spent in that pit, as a slave and in a prison. But ultimately, Joseph’s “losses” accomplished incredible things. Eventually, God drew Joseph out of the pit, enslavement and prison. He elevated him to a remarkable role of influence no one could have imagined — second in command to Pharaoh. Joseph’s journey can inspire you to believe that through your struggles:   

God’s purpose is served in unimaginable ways. As God would later use Moses to deliver the people of Israel out of Egypt, he first used Joseph to bring them in. It became a place of safekeeping during a terrible famine. In similar ways, God is at work in our struggles accomplishing more than we can now see.

God’s grace is experienced in extraordinary moments. Perhaps the most poignant moment for Joseph was when he faced his brothers after their betrayal. Working through the grief and through many tears, he chose to forgive his betrayers, saying, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20, NASB). When you and I have been hurt by others, hard-to-heal wounds find release in God-ordained moments of truth and forgiveness.

God’s glory is seen in unexpected places. Up close, Joseph’s life appeared to be riddled with difficulties and hardships; but from a wide-angle view, it’s clear God was using those very challenges to move Joseph away from the comforts of his father’s estate and into an unbelievable opportunity of broader influence. Just as something in our lives seems reduced, God is often enlarging something else for His glory.

Now We’re Talking!
When the guest speaker asked me, “What are you going to do — write?!” little did I know the words that seemed so abrupt would prove to be so profound. You see, while I was struggling with my personal voice, God was opening a new “voice” to people around the nation and the world. And, while I was having a hard time talking, I was asked to write two books entitled (at the publisher’s request) Now We’re Talking! How wild is that? It is true after all: If we’re patient and believe, our personal “losses” can be turned into Kingdom gains!

Paul perhaps said it best: “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8, NIV). In other words, gaining Christ involves losing other things in our lives.

God has been gracious to me. Doors to write have opened and my voice has improved, though not completely recovered. To this day there remains a residue of brokenness in the tone — not enough to keep me from teaching and preaching, but enough to remind me of how much I gained during the year when something in my life was taken away.

ROBERT C. CROSBY is professor of practical theology at Southeastern Assemblies of God University in Lakeland, Fla. He is also the author of Conversation Starters for Parents & Kids (more info here) and co-author with his wife, Pamela, of Conversation Starters for Couples (more info here).

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