I remember the night like it was yesterday. We were all dolled up in our best attire. Some were dressed in sparkles, others in long ballgowns . . . I was in pink. Excitement filled the air as the host began to call out the top 10 finalists.

I just knew I had made it.

I just knew I was going to win.

I just knew I had finally accomplished my goal.

The first name was called. We all joyfully cheered for the contestant. Then came the second, third, and fourth. I anxiously waited for my shining moment to come at any second. Then came the fifth, sixth, and seventh. I became extremely nervous waiting to walk back on stage. Then came the eighth, ninth, and finally . . . the tenth. Not my number. Not my name. Not me. I was devastated.

How could God use a loser to fulfill His will? I thought surely He would never purposely call the rejected. If I couldn’t win a simple pageant, what could I possibly accomplish?

What do we do when we lose the pageant or when we don’t get the job? How do we react when the offer falls through or when the relationship fails? We pray, we reflect, and most importantly, we keep moving forward.

God never said He’d leave us in those tough moments. In fact, He walks right beside us. He is omnipresent.

I was hurt. I hated feeling like a failure. It was hard to see the coveted crown placed upon someone’s else head. It was hard to see someone bask in what I thought was my spotlight. But I kept the faith and still hoped in God, whose plan is exceedingly better than anything I could ever imagine.

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What did that moment teach me? Seasons in the valley don’t last forever. I will survive tough times. In Him, I will always be a winner. Though they can be wonderful in so many ways, and even now having a few of my own, I don’t need a crown, a label, a job title, or somebody else’s opinion to know my true identity.

Instead of believing the world’s truth about who I am and what I’m supposed to be, I cling to His Word: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9).

I can confidently believe I still belong, and will always belong, to the amazing God who never fails, never quits, and will never reject me as His own.

So, what have I done since that losing night?

I tried again, and again, and again. After years of competing, I FINALLY won a crown. What have I done with my reign, which led to another reign, which led to another? I share my story. I share that moment. I encourage other “losers” to succeed and try for whatever it is, just one more time.

Why was that losing moment so significant in my life’s journey? It taught me an important lesson.

Satan makes bad moments worse, but God can make them worthy.

Leah Hadder

Leah Hadder is a nationally recognized beauty queen, business owner, and speaker. She founded SASH: Pageant Consulting in 2018 and has coached numerous pageant contestants. Leah is also the host for SASH Says, a podcast dedicated to connecting pageants, people, and purpose. Contact Leah at www.leahhadder.org.