This past weekend professional football in America opened its first week of its 100th regular season. In honor of the dawning of the season, I was reminded of an incident that occurred several years ago.
We’ve all heard countless sports stars thank God for the victory after a big game. The comment has been made countless times that you never hear athletes blame God for the loss. (“We would have won the game if Jesus hadn’t made me fumble.”) Most people thought it was a joke ... until a player opened up in such a way late in the 2011 football season.
Buffalo and Pittsburgh were playing in overtime. Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick threw what should have been the game-winning touchdown pass to receiver Steve Johnson. It hit him right in the hands, right there in the end zone — and Johnson dropped it. Buffalo missed the opportunity to score and, a few minutes later, the Steelers won the game.
Afterwards, Johnson, who was an outspoken Christian, vented his frustration on Twitter, in all caps with the following:
I PRAISE YOU 24/7!!!!!! AND THIS IS HOW YOU DO ME!!!!!YOU EXPECT ME TO LEARN FROM THIS?? HOW???!!! ILL NEVER FORGET THIS!! EVER!!! THX THO...
Interesting tweet, to say the least. It quickly became fodder for sports bloggers and commentators. However, Johnson’s words reminded me of some words from King David:
”How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” (Psalm 13:1)
Johnson (and David) spoke what so many of us so often feel: that God is looking the other way when we need Him most. All of us have felt this way at some point in time.
It was foolish for Steve Johnson to blame a football mistake on God, but it’s not foolish for him to turn to God first to express his frustration and disappointment. Turning to God and pouring out his heart gave him the chance to think things through and set things straight.
Johnson released a follow-up tweet that didn’t get quite as much media coverage:
I learned A lot Within 24hrs. Saw Both Sides. (Ups&Dwns) I AM HAPPY & THANKFUL 4 YESTERDAY! w/out Sunday i Wldnt have grew closer w/The Lord!!
(He was probably tweeting from a phone, and mistakes in spelling and grammar should be overlooked.)
Johnson did publicly what many of us could stand to do privately. When faced with disappointment, instead of giving God the silent treatment, be courageous and transparent enough to express your thoughts to God — even at the risk of feeling silly about it. (I’d probably steer away from Twitter, though.)
Pastor Rick Warren once said, “Revealing your feeling is the beginning of healing.” You see this principle at work in the Psalms. Perhaps this week and every week, it would do each of us good to put it to work in our daily lives.