Andrew Luck’s NFL season started with a goodbye.
After eight years leading the Indianapolis Colts, Luck, deemed a once-in-a-generation quarterback by reporters and players alike, called it a pro football career player at 29 years old.
Over the last four years, the four-time Pro-Bowler endured a sprained shoulder, lacerated kidney, partially torn abdominal muscle and a concussion. On the night when news of his decision to leave the league was made public, he was suffering a calf strain and a broken heart caused by disapproving fans who unfortunately added insult to injury.
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With humility and graciousness, he thanked his team, his wife, the city and its fans for their support as he takes time away from the game he loves to prioritize his health and his family
He made a commitment to himself that he would never play in that type of pain again. He kept his commitment.
“It’s been unceasing, and unrelenting, both in season and in the off-season. I felt stuck in it, and the only way I see out is to no longer play football. It’s taken my joy of this game away,” Luck said in an impromptu press conference following his decision.
No matter how great his earning potential was, no matter how many millions of dollars he would’ve gained, the physical price was too high to pay.
What Luck gained was clarity and perspective on how he wants to spend the rest of his days.
He knows there’s more to life than just sport. And instead of the game costing him his life, he chose to step away from the game on his own terms.
Like Luck, there are countless athletes who are facing the reality of the incredibly tough decision to step away from sport and enter into a new chapter of their lives.
If you’re an athlete with a similar decision to make, hold on to these truths as you wrestle with early retirement.
There is no shame in prioritizing your health.
It is indescribably hard when injuries or other issues decide how long your athletic career will be. Know that you did your best. It’s a battle to hold on to that truth and at the same time fight the lie that you’re letting everyone down. To prioritize your physical and emotional health takes courage in a sport culture that can at times reward persevering through serious injury and disregard proper recovery.
It’s even more difficult when outside observers want to make personal decisions for you. The truth is that they have not felt the pain you’ve felt. They don’t see the MRIs, the X-rays, the isolation you experience. They don’t have an intimate knowledge of the physical and emotional realities you face. You do. You will consult with your family and confide in your teammates, but ultimately, the decision is yours to make.
There’s more in store for you.
You are contemplating one of the toughest decisions of your life. It’s hard to envision your life without the routine of practice, competition, early morning workouts and all the things that come with being an athlete.
As you find a new rhythm to your new normal and process grief, know that your inherent worth isn’t dependent on your ability or inability to perform. You are not disposable. Know that there is still purpose for your life.
God isn’t done writing your story.
As much as you love the game, it can’t provide the sustained contentment and joy that you desire it to.
More and more athletes are coming to the realization that there’s more to life than their performance on the field and are searching for something to fill the void. Some are trying to find peace and comfort through people, hobbies, alternative medicines and a long list of other things.
We can fill our lives with great relationships, material wealth and accumulate accolades, but Christ is the One who ultimately gives sustained contentment.
May God reveal Himself to you as:
The One who empathizes with you and sees the work you’ve put in (Psalm 34:18)
The One who gives rest to the weary (Matthew 11:28)
The One who will never leave or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5)
The One who can relate to what you’re going through and is well acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53:3)
The One who gives peace beyond all understanding (Philippians 4:6-7)
The One who is able to supply all your needs (Philippians 4:19)
The One who loves with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3)
May God reveal Himself to you as the One who can provide joy that the world can’t give and the world can’t take away.