Peace Under Pressure
Athletes are familiar with sore muscles that come after practices and games. For Washington State basketball player Michaela Jones, there is another battle to face.
After her junior year of high school, Michaela was diagnosed with chronic insertional compartment syndrome in both of her legs. She had surgeries on both legs to relieve the pain, but the procedures were not completely successful. To this day, the WSU redshirt junior deals with chronic pain in both legs.
As a powerhouse PAC-12 team, WSU’s training is rigorous and physically demanding. Michaela not only feels physical pain from practices and games, but her mindset is challenged. She knows that she won’t get a break from her chronic pain. “It is mentally and physically exhausting on a daily basis,” Michaela says.
Despite the mental and physical challenges, Michaela’s pain has led her to learn more about God. “I learned that God uses hard times to draw us closer to Him. Because it’s in those hard times that we have to totally rely on Him, and that’s when the greatest transformation occurs,” Michaela says.
“A Bible verse that I love is Romans 8:18. It reminds me of my eternal hope and makes it easier to navigate each day,” Michaela says. Romans 8:18 (ESV) says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
"I’m so much bigger than being an athlete."
Michaela grew up learning about God, but it was in high school that she started to grow in a personal relationship with God. Another season of growing in her faith took place after going on a mission trip with Athletes in Action® in 2019.
“On the trip with AIA®, I was immersed in an environment where I realized my identity isn’t in being an athlete, and it still sticks with me today. I’m so much bigger than being an athlete,” Michaela says.
Michaela traveled with other college basketball players to Barcelona to build relationships and share their faith with community members through service and basketball. The players visited schools, attended church and shared their testimony during the 10-day stay in Spain. They also played games in Spain against professional teams. The college athletes got to experience sharing God’s love with others and were able to use basketball to do it.
“Basketball is a tool for my impact in the world. God can use basketball for me to be a light for Him. I think to myself, ‘How can I make an impact regardless of how I’m feeling?’ I want to use my story to encourage others and be a light,” Michaela says.
Michaela’s faith in the midst of hardships has helped her as a member of the WSU basketball team. As a freshman, she entered a team that had just gotten a new coaching staff and many new players.
“I was brought in with the coaches when they first got here. It was so hard those first two years. We were struggling. We were having to teach everything.”
The team persevered through the rebuilding years, and reaped the benefits of their work. During her junior year, the WSU women made the NCAA tournament for the first time in 30 years. “It was so rewarding. It was everything we dreamed of and worked for, to make the tournament and win a game.”
What means more to Michaela than basketball wins is the growth that she and her team displayed in their character.
“We have shown resilience in the setbacks and controlled what we could. We’ve learned so many lessons about changing the culture, and it’s so much bigger than sport. Those lessons will benefit me for the rest of my life,” Michaela says.
The challenges Michaela faces in basketball and in her personal health has led her to a deeper faith in God’s goodness and love for her. Her decision to follow God has brought her a peace that overpowers her pain and fear.
“After Spain, I gained so much more hope and peace inside and a less anxious soul. I live with a greater purpose, greater hope and eternal perspective,” she says.
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