Imagine you’re an athlete due for an incredible comeback after being off the field for most of the previous season. You’re healthy, you’ve been given the go-ahead to participate in high-level competition and you are committed to playing with every ounce of effort you’ve got.
Then it happens.
That ankle sprain is bothering you again.
You hear that unforgettable popping sound in your knee again.
Your hamstring is giving you problems again.
You’ve caught the injury bug again.
You’re in the back of an emergency vehicle again.
You’re having the same conversation with your team doctor again.
A season full of athletic potential goes unfulfilled. Again.
In the back of your mind, you replay the months it took you to get back to full form. In your hearts of hearts, you know several months of physical therapy, doctors appointments and rehab sessions will be marked on your calendar instead of the team schedule. The thought of having to do it all over again leaves you breathless.
How can athletes be comforted when they’re certain there’s an uphill battle ahead of them? Maybe these words of encouragement can help.
Be real with God
Realizing you’ll have to go through months of rehab yet again can trigger a range of emotions from anger, heartache and disappointment to acceptance that you’ll be sidelined for a while.
Questions may continue to swirl in your mind.
“How could this happen?”
“I thought I did everything right by taking my safety and health seriously so how am I in this situation again?”
“Why am I struggling like this?”
You’re not alone in trying to understand life’s equations when they don’t seem to add up. Consider the story of Job. Job was desperate for answers as to why God allowed such hardship in his life, racking his brain and arguing with his friends about God’s goodness and justice.
God honors his honest wrestling because of his intimate engagement with the Lord. Job’s encounters with God aren’t shallow and transactional, but deeply relational. For Job, the mystery of God was infuriating and comforting all at once.
Reckon with your reinjury authentically with the Lord. The recovery process is filled with a lot of unknowns. Some you’ll be at peace with, some you’ll have a hard time with. It’s ok if you don’t have the words to form a prayer. God can translate uncontrollable tears, inaudible screams of frustration and deep sighs. God is well acquainted with grief and can handle your questions and doubts. In your uncertainty and your contemplation, He is inviting you to wholeheartedly trust Him when things are out of your control.
Take recovery one day at a time
You’re no rookie to the recovery process, but every process is different.
Don’t beat yourself up thinking of all the what-ifs. Your injury is not who you are. You are not what happened to you.
God wastes nothing in our lives. Every circumstance and every experience is an opportunity we learn and grow from. Your perspective about your present reality can guide you to a place of praise and help you find out who you ultimately place your trust in.
There will be times when you’ll treasure the support you get from your loved ones and days where you don’t want to hear a word from anyone. Prepare for the good days and bad days ahead.
Make a routine of keeping scriptural truths in the forefront of your mind everyday. Here’s a few to keep in your phone or on your bathroom mirror:
“The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Deuteronomy 31:8).
“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
It can feel like you’re in a wilderness experience, unsure of how you’ll come out of this recovery process and longing to know when things will get back to normal. Ask the Lord to help you in your unbelief. Throughout scripture we see that it’s in the wilderness where God sees those who are hurting and meets the needs of the weary searching for refuge.
Be a living testimony
The legacy you leave on your team goes far beyond what you do in between the harsh marks, how stacked your stat sheets are, or how many times your name is etched on the plaques inside the athletic facility. Your legacy includes how you respond to adversity.
Your recovery is a chance to walk it like you talk it. How will you activate your faith when you’re not on an active roster? When God calls you to a new level of dependence, how will you respond? Show how real God is to you.
Share with others about how you’ve seen the Lord work in your situation. Pray the Lord’s faithfulness in your life would make an impression on your teammates, that their journeys of faith would be impacted by yours. Not only that they see you, but the Holy Spirit working through you.
Pray for the medical staff committed to seeing you back on a field of play. They want you to get back to playing the sport you love just as bad as you do.
Surround yourself with truth tellers. That could be anyone from a best friend, an athletic trainer or a licensed mental health professional. Have people who you can share honestly with and encourage each other in the process.
Your recovery is a chance for the people around you to witness your spiritual maturation and your physical restoration.
Rest in the fact that the same God who brought you through your previous setbacks, is the same God who will be with you through the process of your comeback.