What’s the best part of March Madness? There’s so much to choose from. There’s the sheer volume of basketball, especially the first few days. There’s the high stakes: Every game means a lot. There’s the fun of picking brackets, trying to figure out which teams will make it past each round. But for me, and for a lot of people, the best part is the upsets. Florida Gulf Coast and La Salle in the Sweet Sixteen! Harvard over New Mexico! Who woulda thunk it?
Everybody loves an upset — everybody who isn’t on the receiving end, anyway. There’s something immensely heartening about evidence that superior talent can be overcome by heart, focus, strategy and maybe a good break here and there. This goes not just for sports, but for any part of life. Upsets tell us that we’re not helpless before the vast, impersonal or (sometimes) malevolent forces that seemingly run this world. They give us hope to fight on against the odds.
As much as most of us love to root for an underdog, there’s no reason to think that the side that pulls the upset is necessarily the more virtuous side. But when that is the case, it’s especially inspirational. Scripture is full of what appear to be upsets to those who don’t know what God is planning. David slays Goliath. The Israelites repeatedly defeat mightier foes. And then there’s the biggest upset of all, Christ himself — God coming to us not as an awe-inspiring king but as the infant son of a simple girl and her carpenter husband, and conquering not through an angelic army but through death on a cross.
So it goes, too, with the apostles who carry on His work:
For consider your calling, brothers: Not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God (1 Corinthians 1:26-29, ESV).
Much of the time in this world, we have to get by without seeing upsets. God’s people must strive in the knowledge that in the end, God will bring final victory, but in the now, we’ll often lose. We must do what’s right not because we might succeed, but simply because we’re called to be faithful. Lost causes can be the best causes.
Sometimes, though, God favors us with reminders that lost causes aren’t truly lost, even in this world. Can you think of any examples of upsets that you find inspirational?