Everybody loves a good comeback story! People flood the movie theaters year after year to witness heartwarming stories of people coming from nowhere, finally making it, failing, and coming back to make it again. Pain, agony, loss, defeat, struggle and then finally joy returns as the main character; these emotions are raw, real and priceless! The Rocky Franchise captures these emotional themes as the main character, Rocky Balboa, a “bum” from Philadelphia, receives a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to compete for the heavyweight championship of the world. This franchise grossed over one billion dollars from an emotional story of a regular man fighting hard both in and out of the ring to win, lose, and come back over and over again. This fictional character struck such a nerve with people that in 2011 Sylvester Stallone was inducted into The International Boxing Hall of Fame.
Not only the movie theaters, but also the sports arenas are filled with people cheering for the comeback. My favorite sports comeback story resides in the overshadowed sport of tennis. Andre Agassi, the greatest returner in the game, became number one in the world in 1995, but then dropped in rank to number 141 due to health and self-inflicted problems. In order to come back to professional tennis, he played on a circuit platform where he had to retrieve his own tennis balls instead of having a ball boy retrieve them for him. Through personal pain, agony, loss, defeat, struggle, humility, and hard work, he came back to become the best player in the world in 1997 and later finished his career as one of the most beloved Hall of Fame tennis players.
Why do we cheer for these comeback stories?
The Psalmist cries out in Psalm 80:3, “Restore us, O God; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved.”
Restoration, in its simplest definition, means to come back to the original. Something changes, something shifts, and something is broken down. The Psalmist asks God for restoration because the people were shifting from God, and as a result, were receiving God’s discipline. The process of restoration is painful because it acknowledges one’s own error and shift from God. The good news is that once a person takes the posture of humility, God hears and restores. People shift, yet God remains the same yesterday, today and forevermore.
Restoration always starts in pain, but ends in joy.
Do you remember what the angel said to the shepherds? Luke 2:10 states, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today, in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”
This Advent season, I encourage you to look inward. Have you shifted? If we have shifted greatly or slightly, then let’s make a comeback. It is never too late to humble yourself, reach out to God, and tell Him all about it. The Great Joy before you this Advent season is found in our Emmanuel. Jesus is God with us. He is with us in our wins, losses, struggles, and tenaciously cheers for our story to come back to joy!