In professional sport, we see athletes go through the mountain highs and valley lows, but how do they cope with each bout of success and challenge that comes their way?
We often hear in world football those post-match interviews or the final-winning shots where footballers have cameras pointed at them instantly, to reflect on the joys of what it is to be crowned the best, to lift the trophy, to achieve that promotion. You often find, coupled with this outward joy a recognition and praise directed at God, a public thank you for getting them to this position, a testimony of his love, grace and dedication in their performance. An immediate figure that pops to mind is Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge, always quick to direct the glory vertically.
In the sporting highs of one’s career it seems easy to overflow with appreciation for God, it is clear to see how good he is and how he has led you to this peak. However, what happens when we face relegation, when we miss a spot-kick, when we get dropped to the bench, is God’s nature any different?
Do you ever hear pro footballers give God praise when they have just faced disappointment?
Is this why England were so bad in the Euros, because they are crippled by the pressure to succeed? By the fear of failure?
In the last week, here at Cross The Line, we have had the privilege of talking to 5-time Olympic Gold medalist, Missy Franklin of Team USA. We reflected on her summer experience at Rio and what role God played in her swimming career. What she said (bearing in mind she is only 21) was beautifully honest and inspiring:
“I think especially as an Olympic athlete, when you work four years of your life for something and then have it go so oppositely to the way you wanted it to, it’s crushing. It really takes a lot out of you to go through something like that, I would be totally lying if I said that it didn’t make me question God and what he was doing in my life. I feel that it was such an incredible test for me to go through and I would have never been able to rely on God as much as I did and trust him as much as I did had I not been put through all of that.”
What a refreshing and challenging perspective on what was apparent failure for Missy Franklin in Rio (for her world class standards). The same applies to us, our circumstances on the pitch do not have to reflect how we see God, if everything went swimmingly and we averaged four goals a game, we’d be in heaven already! Trials are tough, but we learn ten times through the valleys of life than we do up in the mountain peaks.
How do you respond to sporting failure?
God always wants us to do well but his path to get us there isn’t always clear to us, it isn’t always a 30-yard screamer. His nature does not change.
Do as Missy Franklin did, trust in him.