Lessons on Overcoming Disappointing Setbacks From a Super Bowl Champion

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Imagine: You are inches away from becoming back-to-back world champions. With the eyes of the world on you, you fight to stay fixed in the present moment. The smell of the grass. The electricity in the crowd. The satisfaction of the impending victory after decades of “mastering your craft.”  It seems with each beat of your heart, you sense the opposing team’s spirit move to “deflating.” 

In a moment, an outcome you never expected sucker-punches you right in your gut. Your greatest dream of being on one of the most uncommon teams in world history is snatched right from your hands as you watch the confetti of the opposing team’s colors raining down upon you.

Super Bowl 49 was one of those painful moments in my life. Being in the locker room right after the loss was such a raw moment. Our head coach said a few words to the team, then looked to me asking me to offer a word of prayer for the Seattle Seahawks. What do you say in a moment like that?  “Jesus, thanks for this chance to be here, but I sure do hope you curse the other team?” I joke about it now, but the truth is, in those painful moments, it can be pretty difficult to walk out God’s command of rejoicing in all circumstances (see 1 Thess. 5:18).

While this moment is hard for me to revisit, it has also taught me something profound about loss and disappointment. In that instant when Coach Carroll asked me to pray for our team, I felt tempted to say something that would make the moment not be painful for everyone. What I learned was trying to get people to not feel pain is what is destroying our world. Think about it. Aren’t all of us running from pain?  Isn’t that the very reason people turn to drugs, alcohol, pornography, fame and every other idol that promises relief but always results in bondage?

What if you could have a new relationship with disappointment?  When Romans 8:28 says God works all things for our good, is there really such a thing as failure? In my new book Becoming, I explore how a “process-based” mindset, the same philosophy taught by one of the greatest coaches of all time, Pete Carroll, can be traced right back to Scripture. It will help us view our setbacks and hurts as something entirely different. Instead of a life sentence to pain, they’re actually a training ground of giving us something we would never have had otherwise. Simply put, the pain is what propels us into our destiny if we can create a new relationship with it.

For me, losing Super Bowl 49 hurt. It was agonizing trying to move past that. But it also forged grit and strength in me that I never would have had. This is why God tells us in the book of James to “Count it all joy when you fall into diverse temptations” (James 1:2a). God knows what is on the other side of your pain, if you will re-engage with it and see your situation as He sees it. You see, God allows in His wisdom what He could prevent in His power, because He is trying to give you something you never would have had otherwise.

My question to you is this: What is your Super Bowl loss? The disappointment that hurt so much? The outcome that keeps you perpetually victimized?  We all have them!  Divorce. Addiction. Break-ups. Career endings. Loss of a dream or a loved one. Whatever your Super Bowl loss is, my new book, which launches Oct. 3, will teach you how to have a new relationship with your pain and propel you into a life worth living. {eoa}

Clint Gresham is a speaker, author, mentor and lifelong YoungLifer. After spending six years as an NFL long snapper (playing for the Seattle Seahawks and participating in two Super Bowl games), Clint now helps people across the country to love their journey to wholeness. He is passionate about life-on-life discipleship, community and helping people discover why Jesus thought they were worth dying for. Clint and his wife, Matti, live in Dallas, Texas with their German shorthair pointer, Bear.

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