This one is a bitter one to write, because my personal history with GameStop and the brands over the years that it has absorbed (Babbage’s, Software Etc., EB Games, ThinkGeek, Rhino, FuncoLand) represent many of my fondest gaming memories. From staring in awe at the seemingly never-ending wall of neon lit games in my younger years to standing in a midnight launch line with my friends to pick up my copy of Halo 2, the collection of retail stores that comprise the retail entity known as “GameStop” have been a “nerd oasis” for me throughout my life. I have discovered new games, met some of my dearest friends, and whether I was there on a mission or simply killing time, going into a “GameStop” always felt like a safe haven… it smelled like nerd, it looked like nerd, it sounded like nerd, it felt like nerd, and I was here for it. But the embattled retail giant has been hit as hard as any retail sector in recent years, resulting in massive layoffs, decreased employee benefits, and controversial policy changes for customers. As digital purchasing options continue to slowly erode GameStop’s core business, the slow descent into a death spiral that has claimed some of my other favorite childhood hangouts such as Blockbuster, Sam Goody, Toys R Us and the like has grabbed hold of GameStop… and in an ironic twist, it appears that it is actually self-inflicted wounds that will spell doom for this land of gaming goodness that brought all of us so much joy over the years.
New leadership in the organization might have resulted in the exciting stock price adventures that captivated the media and the business world, but the disconnect on the actual relationship with their loyal consumers has even their most loyal stockholders scratching their heads. In a recent development, GameStop announced a controversial change to their “warranty” policies that struck many consumers, including those who were retroactively impacted, the wrong way. GameStop will no longer replace a customer’s non-working item that is covered under a warranty with a “new one”… the item “protected by warranty” (which must be purchased by the consumer separately at an additional cost) would now be replaced by a used or refurbished item. On the surface this may not sound like a big deal… but for someone who purchased a brand new PS5 console as well as the pricey warranty that goes with it, having an issue with it is already frustrating enough. Bringing your shiny, precious PS5 back to the store to be given someone else’s used (but working) game console isn’t typically what you had in mind… or were informed of when you originally bought that warranty. But the devil is always in the details… and what appears to be a new, unpopular cost-saving move for GameStop is actually something they are permitted to do in the fine print of their warranty agreements. It’s simply not what we would prefer or we’re under the impression we were purchasing at the time. And that got me thinking about some other “protections” that I have felt entitled to during my walk with the Lord… and what He ACTUALLY promised me versus what I simply assumed.
Can I shoot straight with you here? I have grabbed onto a LOT of Bible verses about the Lord supplying all of our needs (Philippians 4:19), that He will give us the desires of our heart (Psalm 37:4), or the most popular “all these things will be added to you” promise in Matthew (Matthew 6:33). But in most of these circumstances I chosen to ignore the “context” that make up the “fine print” involved in these “protection plans” offered to those who have chosen to follow Christ. For example, the immediate preceding verses that clarify “all these things” that will be added to those who seek Him first is what He promised we wouldn’t have to worry about… specifically, what we will eat, drink, and wear (Matthew 6:25-32). And while I know there is a variety of suffering and needs around the world that I cannot possibly relate to, I can only speak to my personal experience on the Lord’s provision for my life… and here is the reality of the life I have lived. Sure, there have many times that I have gone to bed with limited resources or was wishing I had more/better eating options… but the fact that I am still writing this means I certainly had more than enough to get by. I may not have always had nice clothes or even clean ones, but for the good of all of humanity I’ve always had SOME form of fabric to cover my body with. (The Lord answered a lot of people’s prayers with that one). There have been many times in my life I didn’t have a place that I could call my own, but the Lord never left me without someone’s couch to crash on. I may have lost the loved ones I was praying for… but while I didn’t always have exactly “who” I wanted alongside me, He has always made sure there was at least one kind and caring soul who was sent to carry me through my darkest times.
As I look back over the Lord’s provision for me over the years, I see a pattern within His protection… no matter what I have lost from the enemy’s attempts to steal, kill, and destroy in my life (John 10:10), there is always one area that my opposition is unable to touch. While there is absolutely nothing our enemy can do that is able to separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39), a parallel concept is also true… the enemy cannot touch my relationship with my Creator. Only I can choose how the losses and setbacks of the temporary things on this planet impact how I respond to the Father… as the life of Job demonstrated in the massive tragedies that he endured, the Lord was equally aware and present in Job’s life when he was experiencing material success as when he was in his darkest times of despair. It probably didn’t feel like “protection” as Job had all of his physical securities stripped away, but that wasn’t what the Lord had promised to preserve (Job 1-2). When the Apostle Paul was thinking about the Lord granting him the desires of his heart, multiple stays in prison was probably not near and dear to his heart… but reaching the unreachable for Christ WAS. And that is where some of those dear souls were held captive, so Paul experienced the loss of his creature comforts and even his freedom on multiple occasions to serve the Lord’s higher purpose. Sure, the Lord ultimately restored Job in all of the areas that he experienced loss (Job 42), but this was NOT something that was guaranteed to Job nor is it a promise from the Lord that He will always do the same for us.
Many times throughout the Scriptures the Lord’s faithful experienced heartbreaking loss followed by a glorious “replacement” of what had been taken from them (Ruth, Joseph, and David to name a few), but we must allow those happy endings to sit alongside the times that “His grace was sufficient for us” such as when the faithful prophet Ezekiel lost his beloved wife, the long-suffering Jeremiah lost his country, or John the Baptist lost his life in prison. As hard as it can be for us to accept, the protection of the Lord and His “replacement plan” for those things we have lost must be tempered with the words of Job in Job 13:15 when in the midst of his suffering Job says, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” While I have certainly experienced a double portion of restoration in my life similar to the way Job was blessed after the attacks of Satan decimated his family, health, and wealth, I have ALSO felt the Lord tell me that “His grace is sufficient for me” (2 Corinthians 12:6-7) when He has permitted a painful thorn in my side to persist. His protection has been revealed to me more times than I can count, but He hasn’t always preserved me in the manner that I was hoping for or replaced all that was lost in the storm. But that is when I realized that I had missed the point entirely… our faith through the storm is not about His protection from it, provision through it, or even restoration after it. It is about the preservation of my relationship with Him in both low tides and heavy waves… it is the confidence that no matter what the enemy is attempting to steal, kill and destroy in my life, my connection with Christ remains untouchable. The connective tissue between all of these stories of when the Lord restored as well as when He chose not to is that the most important (and eternal) part ALWAYS survives the storm… and if the Lord truly is our “everything”, then the enemy can never take “everything” away from us.
While the Lord is absolutely my Protector and Provider, what He chooses to protect as well as how He chooses to provide is a sovereign choice that only He makes… and my choice in the matter is to hold to my faith in times of plenty as well as times of adversity and whisper into the whirlwind, “Though He slay me, yet I will trust Him.” Just as that fine print in GameStop’s “protection plan” contains a wealth of disclaimers that allows them to replace broken items in whatever manner they see fit, the way I choose to look at the “promises of God” can be misleading and lead to a crisis of faith if I attempt to apply them in a different context or manner than how He actually said and meant them. The truth is that the Lord never promised me protection for or even the replacement of non-permanent things… He did something far more important. He promised that I wouldn’t have to be afraid no matter how vicious the enemy’s attacks on me are because He would always be with me and that He would never forsake me (Hebrews 13:5). He promised that no matter how bad things get, NOTHING can ever separate me from His love (Romans 8:38-39). He didn’t guarantee I wouldn’t experience pain or loss, but He DOES keep every one of my tears in a bottle (Psalm 56:8). I still have to walk through the valley of the shadow of death… we all do (Psalm 23). And while that walk will be different for each of us, it will include periods of sunshine as well as rain. There will be a season for everything in our lives (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)… a season to gain AND a season to lose, a time to mourn AND a time to dance. The order of these events or the ratio of mourning vs. dancing may not always be to our liking, but His presence is guaranteed even if His protection and provision isn’t always delivered in the way we would prefer (Matthew 28:20).
Romans 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
Romans 8:35-39 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
In the unforgettable words of Lando Calrissian, these “protection plans” offered by GameStop may feel like a deal that is getting “worse all the time”. But unlike the “limited” replacement plan options offered by GameStop and their “warranty” programs, the peace that the Lord offers us is not defined by the measure of protection that we perceive or the quality of provision that we receive. What He has freely provided to us goes far beyond the mere repair, replacement, or restoration of what has been stolen from us on this plane of existence (although it is He may do ANY of those options in His infinite mercy and grace). His ways are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9), and while the Lord may choose to stop the enemy from his mission to steal, kill, and destroy what we hold dear, these attacks should ultimately prove where our real, permanent, untouchable treasure truly lies. And if our relationship with Christ is what we value the most, then the good news is that there is nothing our enemy can do to harm it or even touch it. Jesus truly came to give us abundant life (John 10:10), but the real question is do we define “abundant life” by what we possess in the most temporary part of our existence or by the treasure we have received that will last eternally? The Father may not always restore all of our lost “stuff” or fully remove every one of our temporary afflictions, but He HAS promised to restore our SOULS (Psalm 23). As the Apostle Paul found when battling his “thorn in the flesh”, the Lord’s grace is truly sufficient for all our needs even if we DON’T get the answer to prayer that we were seeking (2 Corinthians 12:8-9). We are more than conquerors in Christ (Romans 8:35-39)… not because we never lose, but because no matter what happens down here, we possess an eternal victory as well as a present peace in Christ that our enemy can never destroy.
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