Next time you are outside, take a moment to reflect on the wind. Consider how the contrasting currents of air can either wrench homes from the ground or gently spin the hairs on your arm. Consider that in one location there may be a powerful tornado and in another a gentle breeze. Both are distinct, but not separate. They are streams of air—winds that have been stirred up in different ways. The result of each is determined by the many factors that contribute to their development. And in many respects, our human condition is no different.
As humans, we are unified by certain physical, psychological, social and spiritual realities. But, like the wind, how we develop is the result of a combination of circumstances that ultimately determines how our lives turn out.
Opportunity is one of the crucial components in this process. At opportune moments, circumstances are most favorable for success; and those successes can contribute greatly to our personal development. If we are prepared for these opportunities, we can maximize each one and receive positive results from virtually any situation.
But before we can seize them, we have to be able to recognize these moments. As Christians, and as many of us already know, sometimes it is during our defeats—not our victories—that God reveals an opportunity for us to demonstrate just how well-prepared we are to serve as His representatives to the world.
POWERFUL TO POWERLESS
If there is one thing that can reveal just how weak and vulnerable we truly are, it is an athletic injury. A bone breaks. A ligament tears. An ankle turns. And in an instant, we can go from the peak of triumph to the depths of despair. That amazing senior year we were planning on having—gone! That run at the championship—gone! Our strong Christian witness…gone?
It’s easy to be a champion of the faith when we are experiencing success, but it is substantially more difficult to be a witness when we are at a low point in our career. How then, when all we’ve been working toward is either over or put on hold, can we maintain a strong Christian witness?
Let me suggest blending sport psychology with our F.A.I.T.H.
That amazing senior year we were planning on having—gone! That run at the championship—gone! Our strong Christian witness…gone?
Focus on your identity in Christ, not your athletic role.
If sport is your identity, then your self-worth is completely outcome-based. Win a game, and you’ve got worth; but lose a game, and suddenly you’re worthless. It’s a day-to-day existence, whereas, when our identity is in the Lord, our value is established, consistent and never-changing. That is why God calls us to put our identity in Him. For as John wrote: “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! ...” (1 John: 3:1, NIV).
Avoid negative thinking.
Negative self-talk is entirely destructive. It is like rubbing salt in a wound instead of a healing salve. As Christians, we need to prevent emotions from blinding us to the teachings of Scripture. We need to reframe the negative in a positive way and remember to “consider it great joy” when we fall into various trials (James 1:2).
Identify a Christian support network.
Social support can help guard against the negative effects of the stress caused by an injury. Throughout Scripture we are given examples of how community and friendship help strengthen our capacity to serve God. Ecclesiastes 4:9 reminds us: “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work.” During times of hardship, this need for accountability, support and affirming words is all the more important, especially in trying to maintain a witness with others.
Trust in God’s plan for your life.
Simply put, God is not going to reject you because of your injury. Although it may feel like the end of the world, it is anything but the end. The day after your injury, the sun will still shine, a cool glass of water will be just as refreshing, and your favorite meal will still taste delicious. God has a plan for our success. He says in Isaiah 49:16 (KJV): “Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.” Stay strong and trust that the Lord will never fail to provide for and protect those who were made to serve as stewards of His glorious creation.
Harness the power of performance imagery.
Don’t let this phrase intimidate you. Performance imagery is the act of mentally visualizing yourself in a specific environment performing a specific action or activity. For example, if you are injured, you likely feel weak; but odds are that your current injury is not the first time you’ve had to overcome adversity. Imagery can help you remember a time when you strengthened your body and conquered a challenge. But the most important part of the image will include recalling God’s strength in that time and how He never abandoned you. (See Hebrews 13:5.)
Injury is a part of sports. If you are a competitor, it is likely that you won’t escape your career without having to nurse some sort of physical setback. So, next time the warning sirens blare, before you turn yourself into an emotional tornado, recognize your great opportunity to let the light of Christ shine through you. Reflect on your F.A.I.T.H. and on the promises of God, knowing that He will never leave you nor forsake you. Trust in Him and soar higher on the strong wind He provides.
*For more stories about faith and sport, visit www.sharingthevictory.com, the official magazine of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.