Injuries and Your Identity
Who am I without my sport?
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I still vividly remember the moment when I knew my season was over. I sat on the sidelines of the basketball court talking with our athletic trainer while my foot throbbed in pain. That day, and in the weeks and months of recovery that followed, I found myself wondering: “Who am I if I can’t play basketball?”
Injuries can often lead us to question our identity. We are left asking: “Who am I without my sport?” Injuries can happen in a sudden moment or develop over time. As athletes, all of us experience and respond to injuries differently. But one thing is for sure: In sports, as in life, we all get hurt eventually.
Injuries are an unavoidable aspect of competitive sports. Even if we devote ourselves to proper strength training, follow a nutrition plan, commit to the best recovery, and pray to God consistently, we will all get bitten by the injury bug at some point.
Injuries, like trials in life (and Thanos), are inevitable.
And so the question becomes, when we get hurt, in life or in sport, how do we respond? Is it possible for injuries to be blessings, instead of just burdens?
As with the trials we go through in life, a lot of our experience dealing with pain and suffering (large or small) will depend on our perspective. While in college, I was challenged by a mentor of mine to change my outlook on injuries. He led me to consider God’s perspective on trials and hardships, and that change has helped me immensely as I have gone through the ups and downs of life.
The core paradigm shift that we can make is to see injuries as opportunities. From God’s perspective, injuries, along with all trials in life, are opportunities for reflection and growth. They can lead us to reconsider our true identity, trust that Jesus is with us, and grow in Christ-like character.
"God wants us to experience purpose in our pain, growth in our suffering, and joy in the midst of trials."
REFLECT AND RECONSIDER OUR TRUE IDENTITY
When we are hurt, God provides us an opportunity to slow down and reflect. We can take time to think through who God says we are. The Bible reveals to us our true identity as Christians, one that doesn’t change or waver in the midst of trials or suffering.
In God’s Word, we learn that all people who put their full trust in Jesus as their Savior and King take on a new identity. All followers of Jesus are adopted into God’s family the moment they give their lives to Christ.
This is our true identity: loved children of God.
Injuries disrupt the normal rhythms of life as a student-athlete. God invites us to use that disruption as an opportunity to re-center ourselves on our true identity in Christ: a loved child of God. When we know who we are, we can live at peace in the middle of our trials and pain.
TRUST THAT JESUS IS WITH US
Seeing our injuries from God’s perspective means to see them as opportunities to trust that Jesus is with us in our pain. I’m not sure about you, but when things are going bad in my life, I can have a tendency to think that God is angry at me, far away, or that I did something wrong.
Later on, though, I learned that trials and suffering are not signs that God is upset at us or far from us. Instead, pain in our lives, even something as small as a nagging sports injury, is an innate aspect of living in a fallen world.
In fact, Jesus Himself experienced trials and suffering while He was on earth. The prophet Isaiah described the coming King to be a “suffering servant.” This means, among many other things, that Jesus can relate to us in our pain.
Jesus wants to care for us when we are hurt, in life and in sport. And He is with us constantly through His Spirit, to comfort us and help us experience His love in the midst of our pain.
GROW IN CHRIST-LIKE CHARACTER
Injuries, when seen from God’s perspective, can be opportunities for us to grow to be more like Jesus.
As we reflect on our true identity and experience God’s loving presence in the midst of suffering, God is at work to produce Christ-like character in us. One aspect of this process is spoken clearly in James 1:2,3 (NIV).
James 1: 2-3
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”
Trials can be opportunities to rejoice, because through our perseverance we are growing more like Jesus, our suffering servant-King. He was faithful to God and loving toward others, even to the point of death. God promises to transform us into people who embody Christ’s love, and He will often use trials and suffering to do that amazing work.
And so, as NBA basketball player Joel Embiid said, we need to trust the process. It often doesn’t feel great, but it’s worth it. Romans 8:28 speaks to how trials can ultimately be blessings in our lives.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”
God will work all things, even our trials and hardships, together for our good and His glory. Why is that? Because God is a loving Father, and we are His children, called according to His purpose. Remembering our identity as loved children of God can give us the strength we need to thrive in the midst of injuries and trials.
God wants us to experience purpose in our pain, growth in our suffering, and joy in the midst of trials.
Injuries, when seen from God’s perspective, can be opportunities for reflection and growth. As with all trials in life, we can take time to reconsider our true identity, trust that Jesus is with us, and grow in Christ-like character.
David graduated from Boise State University with a degree in English Writing. During his time at Boise State he was also a member of the men’s basketball team. David now works with Athletes in Action at Colorado State University.