Football and Faith

12.06.17 Leave a comment

In case you’re not a fan of the National Football League, you may have missed a very frightening and revealing moment in the Monday night game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals.

In the ninth play of the game, Steelers inside linebacker Ryan Shazier made what appeared to be a fairly routine tackle of a Cincinnati running back.  However, the jarring collision took place at just the wrong angle so that Shazier’s neck was compressed causing unknown and potentially serious injury.

In the next seconds, Shazier moved his left arm into the middle of his back and then rolled over with his legs immobile on the turf.

The next 10-15 minutes were, as one journalist wrote, not just scary, but terrifying” because of the prospect of an injury that could change Shazier’s life forever.

It was clear that players on both teams were jolted by this potentially devastating injury.  The game went on, but the Steelers seemed to be playing in some sort of unfocused frame of mind.  What began to trickle in as the game went on and most especially after the game was the outpouring of concern and specifically a non-stop flow of one word of unusual importance.  In today’s culture of social media, individuals can freely express their thoughts, feelings and intentions and nearly 3/4ths of all of the tweets and comments that were received in the hours following this difficult moment mentioned the word prayer.

That prayer was mentioned in so many of these tweets and comments is very revealing, especially when you look at the names of the people that expressed their concern in this way.  Here are just a few of them:

young lion @ryanshazier, God is able.  Thoughts and prayers are with you and Steeler nation.  Ray Lewis

Prayers and love to @ryanshazier and his family!  Praying God’s healing hand on him!  Love you 50, get better soon!  Big Ben 7 (Ben Rothlisberger)

Prayers for @ryanshazier.  Mohamed Sanu Sr.

Prayers up for @ryanshazier.  God got you bro.  Jordan Howard

Prayers up fo r@ryanshazier.  Jalen Ramsey

Want to say prayers up for my dawg ryan shazier.  Man, we are all praying for you. God has a plan.  Juju Smith-Shuster

Nothing but prayers for Shazier.  Jerome Bettis

Praying for you bro @ryanshazier.  Khalil Mack

Prayed for my bro shazier!!! Please be good!! Jay Ajyi

In the following hours athletes from every sport including Andrew McCutchen, Sidney Crosby as well as coaches and team executives conveyed not just their support, but their prayers for someone that was quite possibly in a very desperate situation.

After reflecting on this for the last day or so, I couldn’t help but be reminded of a similar gut a thousand times more intense reaction form Americans following the 9-11 attacks some 16 years ago.  The following week the churches of our nation had the highest weekend attendance in decades.

It seems that when we face the unthinkable and uncontrollable issues of life we default back to the one source of hope and strength that has guided our nation for nearly 300 years.  Perhaps the Psalmist says it best in 121:

“I lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.”  Psalm 121:1-2

Just last evening, coach Mike Tomlin of the Steelers commented that Shazier was in a very good “spiritual place” with his family and loved ones.

This isn’t just a fascinating commentary on the true foundations of our journey in life, its a reminder, that we never know when circumstances are going to require us to call upon a strength, a comfort and a hope that only a source outside of ourselves can possibly bring… and that is the God of heaven and earth.

Its encouraging to know that many of these players make time to cultivate their faith week in and week out, as well as those in  management, ownership and a thousand other disciplines in athletics, business, politics and medicine, etc.  However, wouldn’t it be encouraging if that recognition was celebrated a bit more frequently in the good times and not just referenced in the times of potential tragedy.

Our prayers do go up for Ryan Shazier and his family.  However, they should also  be raised up every single day for those that we care about and love, as well as those who have been given positions and responsibility to lead our nation and our culture into a future where only God’s grace, mercy and strength will see us through.


Pastor Jay


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