All of us are familiar with the athlete who thanks Jesus after a big win or championship, or the movie star who thanks God in their Academy Award acceptance speech. I don’t see anything wrong with that. But what about thanking God or Jesus when you miss the last second shot or your name isn’t called when the winner is announced for an award? It’s not very often that we see someone praise God after a loss. Most of life is not lived in those moments of glory. But what a witness it would be to the watching world if we did praise God for our losses as well as our wins.
In his book The Hand of God: Finding His Care in All Circumstances, Alistair Begg writes that for most of us, most of the time, it’s true that more spiritual progress is made through failure and tears than through success and laughter. It’s the former situation in which Cody Parkey publicly praised God after a very public loss on January 6 when he missed a field goal he was expected to make that would have won the NFL Wild Card game for his Chicago Bears over the Philadelphia Eagles. Instead, his surprising miss ended the Bears season.
Everything was pointing to the Bears coming back and winning the game in a thrilling manner. After Nick Foles led the Eagles to a go-ahead touchdown, the Bears responded with an excellent kickoff return, setting up the team well for a final winning drive. The Bears quickly moved into field goal position, well within kicker Cody Parkey’s range.
With 10 seconds left in the game, and Chicago trailing 16-15, kicker Parkey came on to attempt a 43-yard field goal that would have given the Bears a victory. Parkey actually made the field goal, but it didn’t count because Eagles coach Doug Pederson called a time out to “ice” Parkey at the last minute. After the timeout, Parkey’s next kick, which was tipped by an Eagles’ player, drifted left, hit the upright, bounced off the cross bar and fell back toward the field – no good. Parkey and Bears fans at Soldier Field, were stunned, and Parkey was disappointed that he had let his team down. He then pointed to the sky and then joined both Eagles and Bears in prayer at mid-field. Parkey was then booed by his hometown crowd as he left the field.
Parkey didn’t have a good season. He finished near the bottom of NFL kickers in missed field goals, and probably won’t be back next season as the Bears placekicker. But at his lowest point, he praised God by raising his finger to the sky and then thanked God with other players in prayer at mid-field.
Could we do the same if we were in that situation? Cody Parkey missed the field goal to win a playoff game for his team, but demonstrated character by how he responded to adversity. Alistair Begg tells us that the center of God’s will may take us into the eye of a storm, which is where Cody Parkey found himself. We should not seek, therefore, to confirm God’s will by the absence of adversity. He tells us that there is no ideal place to serve God except the place in which He has set you down. No matter what happens in Cody Parkey’s NFL career moving forward, he showed many of us the proper response in adversity – to praise and thank God.
17 Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
19 God, the Lord, is my strength.