There were multiple ways competitors wound up in fourth. Sometimes they lost the medal at the very end because they ran out of steam. Sometimes it was a self-implosion. The pressure was just too much and the athlete crumbled. Other times it was just one mistake–one dive or one errant shot. Then often, the athlete did nothing wrong at all, but someone else had the performance of his or her life and surpassed them. Regardless, the result is the same–missed it by one.
Though most of us will never be an Olympian, we have almost all experienced that “fourth place” finish. You make it to the final two in the selection process, only to learn the other applicant got the job. Your manuscript made it all the way to the editorial board and then it was denied. The house you put an offer on and desperately wanted was yours until something unforeseeable derailed the process. I bet we could all add to the “almost” scenarios for quite awhile.
There is no denying the disappointment that comes with not just losing, but “just” losing, and the sting will be there for awhile, but once again, the Bible offers answers for how to handle those disappointing episodes in our life.
First we can be comforted, because “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” -Psalm 34:18
Jeremiah 29:11 then reminds us that God sees and knows all, both the wins and the losses. “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”
Paul tells us that the only way to move forward is to forget the past. “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize . . . .” (Phil. 3:13-14)
And Peter states, “. . . humble yourself under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him for He cares for you.” (I Peter 5:6)
Yes, fourth is a tough finish to stomach in any of life’s arenas, but for those who place their trust in God, they ultimately know, “that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Romans 8:28.