Like a good coach, God is with us in sorrow and in joy
Apr 2, 2019
My favorite coach is at it again. After leading the Virginia Cavaliers to their first Final Four since 1984, Tony Bennet took the opportunity to speak once again about how the fleeting joy of success does not compare to the lasting joys of his faith and his family.
But to be clear, his joy and that of the team was very strong, as is reflected in photos of them after the game. As I celebrated from afar (actually, from very far, as I was watching the game on the tiny TV I had in my JetBlue plane back from Boston), I once again thought of Tony Bennett’s words after the team’s March Madness loss two years ago:
"Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning,” he said, paraphrasing Psalm 30:6.
It has been a tough year for the UVA men’s basketball team. Their loss to UMBC in the first round of the NCAA tournament last year caused mourning among the team and UVA fans alike. But the team’s success in making it to the Final Four this year proves that the quote from Psalms is true – joy did come after sorrow for the UVA men’s basketball team, and their coach was with them every step of the way.
When I was in high school, I learned a lot by observing how my coaches responded to my team’s failures. After we played poorly and lost a game we shouldn’t have, my volleyball coach would make us do extra conditioning drills, and he ran them right alongside us. When we did sprints, he did sprints; when we did push-ups, he did push-ups.
In contrast, whenever my softball team had similarly bad losses, the head coach of our team would protest by not showing up for the next practice. Our assistant coach was still there to offer us some encouragement and words of wisdom, but the head coach was nowhere to be found.
I don’t know what happened at the UVA basketball practices this year, but I would bet that Tony Bennett never left the sides of his discouraged players.
I think this love that Tony Bennett has for his players reflects a reality of God’s love for us. Throughout history, we have failed time and time again, turning away from God and toward sin, but God has always remained steadfast and ready to work with us when we choose to improve ourselves.
This is the reality that Christians are called to contemplate during Lent and Easter: through Jesus, the incarnate Word, God humbled himself to enter fully into the reality of humans. This included a lot of pain and suffering, but ultimately led to Christians’ greatest joy – the Resurrection and the ability to be with God in Heaven.
Like a good coach, God does not abandon us when we fail. After we turned away from Him countless times, He only drew nearer to us – becoming man and experiencing the pains of humanity that culminated in death on the cross. Through that pain and suffering came the joy of Easter and the ability to be with God forever.
That love that Christ shows us should compel us to respond back in love, just as the love and care that Tony Bennett shows for his players encouraged them to play well. In a post-game press conference on Saturday, Ty Jerome, one of the members of the UVA basketball team, said being the team that took Tony Bennett to the Final Four is “what meant the most“ in their victory over Purdue, because “he has believed in every single one of us.”
“He has our best interests at heart, both on and off the court,” Jerome said.
Likewise, God loves us and desires our greatest happiness, which should make us want to respond with love and devotion. But even when we fail to show Him those things, His perfect love is waiting for us to turn back to Him.
Rejoicing alongside UVA fans as we shake off the remnants of last year’s sorrow has reminded me of the reality we celebrate during this season of the Church. When we are faced with suffering or failure in our own lives, I pray that we can remember that God is right there with us, and that “weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning.”