If you were to lose the most precious thing in your life, how would you respond? Perhaps you have lost something that was meaningful to you. If so, you’re well aware of the strength of your faith in your time of loss.
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I was thinking about these things as I reflected on Ronda Rousey’s loss to Holly Holm in their MMA match on November 15, 2015. Ronda was the reigning and undisputed UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion.
She was the most unassailable and feared icon of her sport. In May 2015, two magazines ranked Rousey as the most dominant active athlete. An ESPN poll voted her as the Best Female Athlete Ever. In September 2015, she claimed she was currently the UFC’s highest paid fighter, male or female. (Wikipedia)
And she loved her self-perpetuated, hard earned, and mostly well-deserved image. No doubt it was an ego trip that fed her insatiable desires to be honored, adored, and accepted by people. Her gifts bought her a sense of belonging in a world that goes to nearly any length to be loved by others.
And it came tumbling down
For the thing that I fear comes upon me, and what I dread befalls me. I am not at ease, nor am I quiet; I have no rest, but trouble comes. – Job 3:25-26 (ESV)
Then the one thing that meant the most to her was stripped from her. Beaten out of her is a more accurate descriptor. Holly Holm dealt a crushing foot kick to the side of Rousey’s head in the second round, and the queen of mayhem and all of her self-sustained glory came tumbling down.
What people could not perceive in that devastating moment was how losing her championship belt was not the main thing she feared. Her belt was merely the portal through which she accessed the desires of her heart: appreciation, adoration, acceptance, and approval–to name a few.
When what she craved more than anything else in the world was taken from her, only then did Ronda Rousey not want to live any longer. She reflected on her loss while in the hospital, after being knocked from the throne of her most precious desires. She said the following on the Ellen DeGeneres show:
I was literally sitting there and thinking about killing myself, and that exact second I’m like, ‘I’m nothing. What do I do anymore? And no one gives a [$#!@] about me anymore without this.’ To be honest, I looked up, and I saw my man Travis (Browne) was standing up there and I looked up at him and I was like, I need to have his babies. I need to stay alive. – The Score
Beyond our strength
I do not feel critical of Ronda Rousey for saying these things. I definitely do not look down on her. What I feel is sadness for her…and for me too. I also feel exposed and vulnerable. What I’m saying is that I’m no different from her.
She said what most, if not all of us, know in our hearts. When we lose the thing we love the most, we are in the most vulnerable place in our lives, the place that reveals the strength of our faith. Paul said it this way,
For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. – 2 Corinthians 1:8-9 (ESV)
The merciful hand of God carried Paul into the crucible of suffering. The LORD took him beyond his ability to control the situation. Paul’s self-reliant tendencies to be in control of his universe slipped from his grasp.
The LORD was teaching Paul how to rely on something that was stronger, better, wiser, and more enduring than anything Paul could sustain under his native ability. The LORD gave Paul a kind of suffering that he could not manipulate (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
It is easy to build and cling to things that give meaning to life and belonging in the community. These things are not necessarily wrong things, or they do not have to be. I suspect most of the time your most treasured treasures are good things. They turn bad when they become the primary vehicle to bring what you believe you need to feel okay about life.
You’re as strong as your strength
That is why the good things in your life have the potential of being bad things. You will know if you have misplaced affection by how you react to losing something. If your life is destabilized by a loss, to where you are not able to function without your treasure, your affection is misplaced.
Ronda had a God-given strength, which should be something to be grateful for rather than an idol to be worshiped (Romans 1:24-25). Unfortunately, her good gifting took control of her life (2 Corinthians 10:3-6). After she had lost, there were two options left: suicide or replace what she lost with something she hoped would give her strength, hence the new desire to have babies.
It reminded me of the time I asked a man if he could lose his salvation. He said, “Yes.” There was a long pause before he followed with, “If God ceases to exist.” I loved his fantastic response. He knew the strength of his hope rested on someone who would never leave or forsake him (Romans 8:31-39).
If you are a Christian, you will be victorious as long as God lives (Deuteronomy 31:6). Oh, what comfort! The means that gives you belonging, acceptance, approval, significance, love, honor, and so much more flows out of the eternal love of God.
You are only as strong as the thing in which you find your strength. Ronda Rousey found her strength through her ability to beat up people. That kind of strength made her weak. That kind of wisdom made her foolish. As long as she could win, she would be the victor. Her strength became her greatest weakness.
For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. – 1 Corinthians 1:25 (ESV)
I met a man a few years ago with a Mensa-level IQ. I asked him what would happen if he lost brain function, to the point where he could not use his considerable intellect to feed the adoration he received for being so smart. He said,
The world would cease to exist for me.
Like Rousey, I did not feel critical of him. I felt exposed. I felt vulnerable because I am similar. It is so easy to rely on our strengths or other means we over-prioritize to comfort us rather than relying on the one who raises the dead.
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. – Matthew 6:21 (ESV)
If your greatest strength or the thing you treasure the most is not God, your greatest strength will make you vulnerable, and even desperate if something or someone removes it from the throne of your heart. Perhaps you’re not a Mensa caliber person. Maybe you’re not going to be an MMA legend. Still yet, if you lose your greatest treasure, you will lose the desire to live.
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What is your most treasured treasure?
- Material things?
- Personal strengths?
The way to know your most valued treasure is to think about how you respond when you lose that thing. Here are a few examples:
- Your marriage is not what you want it to be, so you are frustrated, despairing, or seeking comfort through other means.
- Your parents are frustrating, which is why you’re turning to poor lifestyle choices to find belonging and acceptance.
- Your job is not satisfying to you, which is why you fill the void through ungodly means.
- You want a relationship that completes you. You can’t find it, which is why you [fill in the blank]. That “thing” is your God replacement because it gives you a sense of wholeness (Colossians 1:28).
You don’t have to lose something to know if that something has replaced God. With a little time and reflection, through meaningful prayer and conversation, you can discern your greatest treasure. Perhaps it would be good for you to share these ideas with a friend. Ask their opinions about their perception of you, particularly your greatest treasure.
It is better to know the answer now rather than waiting until you’re sprawled cold on the canvas of life, knocked out by the roaring lioness who finds no greater joy than to devour you (1 Peter 5:8).
Editor’s Note: This is a re-publication I decided to run after reading about Ronda’s return to the ring after a 13-month break from MMA. She lost in 48 seconds of the first round. It was another knockout.
Also published on Medium.