You have a story. So do I.
Our pastor began his Easter Sunday sermon by saying that.
Jesus has a story, he said. The apostle Peter also has a story.
I won’t re-tell his sermon. It’s excellent. You can listen to it here, if you’d like:
Our youth pastor recently began an after-school basketball ministry on Thursday afternoons, and I’ve been helping him with that. Not that I’m any great shakes at basketball – I’ve never played in any kind of organized league – but it’s fun.
After playing for a bit and working up a sweat, our youth pastor, Joe, stops the games for a breather and a devotion. He asked me to lead the devotion last week.
Rather than give a Bible lesson or (even worse) a sermon to a group of teens and early 20s ballplayers, I decided to tell a story. Because we all have stories.
My wife and I had just joined a church in Saginaw, Mich., and when I discovered they had a slow-pitch softball team, I decided to sign up. Baseball is my favorite sport, so I thought I’d give softball a shot.
My very first game turned out memorable. As the new guy who few people knew, I played right field. Our church fielded two teams that year, and the first game was against our church’s other team. So just about everybody knew each other.
Early in the game, a batter on the other team hit a short fly ball to right-center field. I can catch this, I thought, so I went running in towards the ball.
Slow-pitch teams field four outfielders. Our fourth outfielder was a high school tennis player, a good athlete with a strong body. He was playing behind second base a little toward left field. He raced after the ball too.
Not knowing each other’s skills, we didn’t account for each other. Both of us ran as fast as we could toward the fly ball. Joel caught it. I crashed into his body, hard, and crumpled to the ground. I didn’t get up.
My teammates quickly gathered around me and realized I needed to visit the emergency room. I was loaded into the van of one of the players on the other team (who remains a good friend to this day), and John transported me to the ER.
I had a broken wrist and a fractured cheekbone.
Nurses placed me on a hard table in the emergency room. Since it was after hours, they had to call an orthopedic surgeon from home to treat me.
It took some time for the surgeon to arrive. My pregnant wife was handling the paperwork for my unexpected visit. For a few minutes, I was left alone on the table, in more pain than I’d ever felt before.
At that moment I felt an unnatural calm come over me. I knew other people were praying for me but I didn’t know who they were. I knew that I would be all right.
I discovered later that at that moment, one of my teammates had put me on our church’s prayer chain. That’s a group of people, mostly elderly ladies, whose primary mission is to pray for people who have an immediate need. Even though I was new to the church and most of them didn’t know who I was, they prayed for me anyway.
I felt their prayers. For real, I did.
God works like this. In my most painful moment, God showed up, because people on Earth asked God to show up.
The surgeon arrived and after a few painful X-rays, he put my wrist in a cast and scheduled an appointment at his office in 10 days to check on progress. Thankfully no bones were displaced in my face, so he just authorized some pain medication and let my cheekbone heal on its own. I had quite the black eye and the pain in my face lasted a couple of weeks before it healed.
My wrist didn’t heal quite so smoothly. I eventually had surgery on it.
Needless to say, these injuries put me on the disabled list for the rest of the summer. I still attended as many games as I could. I went out for the team the next year – indeed, I played for about 25 years, and have many wonderful memories of the people I played with.
My only concession? I shy away from contact to this day, especially around my head. One injury like that was enough for me.
But even in that unexpected, painful moment, God showed up and did something special, something that I still remember and will continue to remember for the rest of my life.
When those ladies prayed for me, God could have healed me miraculously, but He didn’t. Instead, God gave me the strength to get through the pain – and the healing process, including the boring rehab.
God frequently doesn’t take away our pain, suffering or sorrow. Instead, He gives us the strength and whatever else we need to endure it.
This builds our character – and gives us stories we can share with others who might be enduring a similar struggle.
When we are in our darkest moments – when the storms of life are coming on strong – that just might be when the living God shows up. When I was hurting the most in the emergency room, that’s when God gave me assurance that I would be all right.
As long as the living God is my guide and I follow His direction, I’ll be fine. There may be more pain and heartaches along the way – I’ve attended several funerals already this spring, for example – but God will give me what I need to get through it.
As He will you.