On Life as a Suffering Lineman

On Life as a Suffering Lineman

I’m convinced that many of us sports fans would love the opportunity to be an NFL player – especially one who is a top-3 draft pick, 9-time Pro Bowler, and making over $80 million.

But, how would you like to play for one of the worst franchises in sports and experience only one winning season during a 10-year career? Do you think you’d still want to keep playing? Better yet, would you be able to be on the field for every single snap?

Although incredibly difficult, Cleveland Browns’ offensive tackle, Joe Thomas, has accomplished the feat of playing in 9,684 straight snaps while dealing with six head coaches and blocking for 18 starting quarterbacks.

ESPN’s Elizabeth Merrill recently wrote a fascinating feature on this likely Hall of Famer who is currently enduring an 0-13 season. Thomas plays a not so glamorous position for a struggling franchise, and yet he’s one of the best at what he does and continually shows up game after game.

Regarding Thomas’ commitment in the face of trying circumstances, Merrill writes, “There is something romantic, or maybe maniacal, about a man who comes to work every day, pours his heart and soul into preparing for a game and does so well that he grades off the charts, but loses that game nearly every week and still comes back every Monday for more.”

Thomas’ football experience could be called sports torture, but even so, he hasn’t left for another franchise and has shown how to suffer well for the sake of his loyalty to Cleveland and his teammates.

When NFL players get into the league, they probably don’t think about the suffering involved. Most likely they never consider how playing every snap for a struggling franchise might even be worthwhile.

Likewise, as followers of Jesus, I don’t think many of us embrace the idea of suffering and may even have the false expectation that everything should be easy and carefree. We certainly shouldn’t have to experience loss after loss, should we?

The truth is, however, that even Jesus suffered while He was on earth. If we want to be like Him, we will also experience suffering before we get to Heaven. God uses the difficulties for His purposes while making our faith stronger. None of us want to lose season after season, or deal with the same struggles over and over again, but God uses it all for His glory and our ultimate good.

Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (NLT) that he asked God three different times to take away the thorn in his flesh, which was being used to keep him humble, but each time God said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”

Paul went on to say, “So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Today as we consider our struggles and weaknesses, let’s remember that God’s grace is all we need. Let’s boldly ask Him to strengthen us, so that we can suffer well for His sake.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, I pray that my life would be filled with obedience to do Your will, even if that involves suffering. I pray I would understand that when I’m weak, it’s an opportunity for You to reveal Your power. I pray You would shine through my weaknesses. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Check out more from Bryce Johnson on sports, faith, and life at Unpackin’It