Rooted in Christ

Overcoming Obsession

How can we possibly get over traumatic events in our own lives?

“I press toward the goal for the prize of the
upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:14, NKJV)

I don’t know how he did it. 

Roger Federer is the king of Wimbledon. Eight singles titles. Last year he pushed the #1 player in the world into a fifth set. At 12 games apiece they entered into the first tiebreak in the storied history of the tournament. Federer had two match points, on his serve, on his favorite surface. Destiny was poised. But Federer would lose both of those points and he would end up losing the match. The title that was his wasn’t. 

How could he forget that sting? How could that loss not haunt him to the point of incapacity, possibly his last opportunity for a Grand Slam title at the age of 37? 

A more personal question for each of us is how can we possibly get over traumatic events in our own lives? When someone deeply wrongs us and we try to put it behind us, how do we do that? When a longed for opportunity slips through our grasp how do recover? 

We find at least two principles to help in Paul’s letter to the Philippians. 

One, we are to learn the ballast of contentment. Paul says that he has found peace in whatever circumstance he finds himself. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13). We find stability through resting in Christ to find a peace that passes understanding and to keep us even keeled in whatever would threaten to upend us. That strength is gained through the plea of prayer and assurance of His grace. 

Two, we are to lean into our calling in Christ. Paul wrote Philippians from the bondage of prison but he was not waylaid from his call. “I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14). That call involves forward focus and flow: “forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead” (Phil. 3:13). That call also involves a willingness and even an expectation to suffer for the sake of Christ. 

Those hurts we experience in our lives reach deep. They can threaten to embitter us or immobilize us. But our focus is not backward; it is forward – on Christ. Our strength is not inward; it is outward – on Christ. 

How did Roger Federer get over such a spirit-breaking loss? I’ll let you know if he responds to my social media request for an answer. My guess is that he grieved but did not allow the loss to consume him or define him. Rather, he worked to shift his focus to what lay ahead. 

Whatever we face in our lives, we can overcome. It need not define us. It need not deflate us. It cannot destroy us. We need to raise our chin and lift our eyes to Him who is our strength, our joy, our Lord whose kingdom we serve. 

Digging Deeper

  1. What missed opportunity or traumatic event has haunted you to the point of despair?
  2. Where do you find your strength and call?     

Heavenly Father, whose light shines in our hearts, make us know that the surpassing power is of you not from ourselves, so that although we are struck down we are not destroyed. May the life of Jesus be manifest in us in any and every circumstance. 

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Scripture quotations marked NKJV are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, copyright ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved. Those marked ESV are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Stan Gale

Stanley D. Gale (MDiv Westminster, DMin Covenant) has pastored churches in Maryland and Pennsylvania for over 30 years. He is the author of several books, including A Vine-Ripened Life: Spiritual Fruitfulness through Abiding in Christ and The Christian’s Creed: Embracing the Apostolic Faith. He has been married to his wife, Linda, since 1975. They have four children and nine grandchildren. He lives in West Chester, Pa.
Books by Stan Gale