Usually when somebody says they’ve got nothing to lose, it’s because they’ve already reached rock-bottom. They’ve lost what matters most to them, so nothing worse can happen.
But as Christians, we can confidently proclaim this for a different reason: we already possess what’s most valuable, and it will be ours forever.
God’s love for us is the foundation of our joy. Out of love, Jesus gave his life for our salvation, so we can live with him forever. We have steadfast hope in the future ahead of us:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter 1:3–5)
There are lots of good things we could have in this life—family, friendship, a fulfilling career, good health, exciting travel experiences. But we can also lose them all. We mourn as the people we love die or move away, or our relationship with them is broken. Every day could bring a terrible diagnosis or sudden disability. It’s right to grieve these losses. But what of the love that matters most? In 1880, J.R. Miller wrote: “There is no other loss, in all the range of possible losses, that is so great as the breaking of our communion with God.” 1
Our experience of God’s presence will ebb and flow throughout our lives. We would do well to guard our communion with God, not allowing it to be hindered by our sin and self-centeredness. That’s the path to fuller joy.
But even when God’s love feels like a mere shadow, we know it is unshakable. This certain promise sustained Paul through all his suffering: “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38–39)
Whatever other blessings slip from our hands, God keeps a tight grip on us. We can endure any loss when we choose to hope in what is before us—that glorious day when Jesus will stand before us and welcome us into his eternal kingdom. And so when the worst does come, we can say along with J.R. Miller: “There is surely enough in Him to compensate a thousand times for every earthly deprivation.”2
There are glimmers of gold in the worst loss. For our own good, God prises back our fingers when they gript tightly onto idols. Miller rightly observes: “How often is it true that the sweeping away of our earthly hopes reveals the glory of our heart’s refuge in God!”. 3 Only when we lose the comforts around us do we truly see how valuable God is. Through the darkest night he enables us to sing of his everlasting love, as we trust that morning will soon break forth.
Our imperishable inheritance also enables us to enjoy the good things God gives us in this life, because we’re not so terrified of losing them. Nothing ruins a vacation like constantly ruminating on the Monday when we’ll return to work. We cannot enjoy healthy relationships when we’re paralysed by fear that they will end—we’ll keep dragging around the baggage of jealousy, possessiveness, and insecurity. When you can confidently say “I have nothing to lose”, you’re free to enjoy the good gifts God has given you.