My oldest son has three loves in his life: Jesus, football, and running….in that order. I know I’m on the list there somewhere too…but let’s be honest. Right after Jesus, it’s football.
And he played football at school for 3 years. It was always the highlight of his summer. It started with conditioning. Then light practices. Then two-a-days. Then game night….his favorite night of the week.
Alex loves football, and he’s good at it. But he is GREAT at running. Amazing. Fast. Gifted. Talented. (Do I sound too much like a mom here?) Well…he is.
So he made a difficult decision after much thought and prayer. He switched from football to cross country. He’s only 4 seconds off the school record for the 400m race, and he wants that record this year. So he switched from his first love to his second.
Up until this week, he was good with that decision. He loved practices. He loved running and training and conditioning. He loved getting stronger, building his endurance, and getting faster.
But this week was a tough week for him. School started. And so did the football games. And he’s missing it. Missing it bad. BAD. And he’s seeing just what a sacrifice it was to give up football. He watched the game last night thinking, “That should be me. I should be out there catching that ball. Making that touchdown.” And it hit him hard. He was hurting. Depressed even.
So it hit me hard, too. I was hurting for him. Nothing breaks this mama’s heart more than watching my kiddos hurt. (Any of the parents out there feelin’ me?) So I went into full on fix-it mode. I encouraged him and talked to him and prayed with him. But nothing was helping. And I knew his dad couldn’t play football his senior year due to an injury, so I sent in the big guns to encourage him and talk to him and comfort him.
And it helped, but it didn’t. He was still hurting. So I prayed and went to bed and had my own little cry. My son was hurting. So I was hurting.
And then I remembered Psalm 18 and I wondered if that’s how God feels when we’re hurting. It’s such a beautiful picture of the heart of a Father.
The ropes of death entangled me;
floods of destruction swept over me.
The grave wrapped its ropes around me;
death laid a trap in my path.
But in my distress I cried out to the Lord;
yes, I prayed to my God for help.
He heard me from his sanctuary;
my cry to him reached his ears.
David was in a tough place. “The ropes of death entangled me. Floods of destruction swept over me. In my distress I cried to the Lord, and my cry reached His ears.” He cried to the Lord. He knew where to take the pain…
And then this happened:
Then the earth quaked and trembled.
The foundations of the mountains shook;
they quaked because of his anger.
Smoke poured from his nostrils;
fierce flames leaped from his mouth.
Glowing coals blazed forth from him.
He opened the heavens and came down;
dark storm clouds were beneath his feet.
Mounted on a mighty angelic being, he flew,
soaring on the wings of the wind.
He shrouded himself in darkness,
veiling his approach with dark rain clouds.
Thick clouds shielded the brightness around him
and rained down hail and burning coals.
The Lord thundered from heaven;
the voice of the Most High resounded
amid the hail and burning coals.
He shot his arrows and scattered his enemies;
great bolts of lightning flashed, and they were confused.
Then at your command, O Lord,
at the blast of your breath,
the bottom of the sea could be seen,
and the foundations of the earth were laid bare.
He reached down from heaven and rescued me;
he drew me out of deep waters.
He rescued me from my powerful enemies,
from those who hated me and were too strong for me.
God came down. The earth quaked because of His anger. He rained down hail and burning coals. He thundered from heaven. He reached down from heaven and rescued His son.
What a beautiful, comforting picture of a loving heavenly Father. He heard David’s call for help and He didn’t hesitate. He turned around and said, “Are you messing with My son? Oh no you didn’t! Oh I don’t think so! You mess with My son and you’re messing with Me, and trust Me, you don’t want to do that. Don’t make Me come down there.”
And there are other sweet verses here too:
You light a lamp for me.
The Lord, my God, lights up my darkness.
In your strength I can crush an army;
with my God I can scale any wall.
God’s way is perfect.
All the Lord’s promises prove true.
He is a shield for all who look to him for protection.
David’s distress turned to strength and his insecurity to confidence when he turned to God and He came down. He went from, “Oh God where are you? Help me!” to “In Your strength I can CRUSH an army!”
Alex will get through this with God’s help. He’ll grow and learn some lessons. His character will be refined and he’ll come out stronger. He made a good decision, and it will bear fruit in the end. He’ll be a stronger runner in track season and he has a real shot at breaking that record. The sacrifice will be worth it, but sacrifice can be painful.
Alex chose his pain, so to speak, with the decision he made. I inherited mine (thank you very much, kiddo). A lot of times devastating situations hit us out of nowhere and bring more pain than we can bear. We go through things in this life that are painful and distressing and depressing.
No matter where it comes from, what we do when we’re in pain is our choice. We can embrace it or we can run to the Rock. And when we run to Him, He always comes down.
The comforting thing to remember is this: God is on my side. He’s listening to my cries. And He comes to my rescue with comfort and light and strength every time.
(You can listen to a song Mikel wrote entitled Psalm 18 here. It will bring peace and comfort if you need it.)