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The Promise of God in Threatening Pain

We live in a society that is petrified of suffering. Each day starts with a thousand moments of flinching at pain—at our alarm clocks, at the shower’s cold water, at missed emails that threaten loss and tragedy. We resent suffering and what it could mean for us. Job bewails that suffering looms with the shadow of divine disappointment: “I become afraid of all my suffering, for I know you will not hold me innocent” (Job 9:28).

Last night, I bolted onto the football field to face the Miami Dolphins. I was eager, surging with life, energy and strength. It was the last preseason game of my third season in the NFL. The ball snapped, and with a snap of his fingers, God mercifully showed me how small and weak I am compared to his grand and glorious sovereignty over all creation.

As I was hit from the side in my knee, I felt the pop, fell to the ground in excruciating pain, and knew my year was over before it had even begun.

In the NFL, it’s easy to publicly thank God when we win, when we are victors, when we feel like gods. I want to take the opportunity to thank God when I am afraid—I want to thank him for three things:

1. his promise to care for me in the midst of threatening pain;

2. his meaning, which he spins out of the thread of suffering; and

3. his joy, which resonates most beautifully when superficial pleasures fade.

God’s Sovereign Care

A few wrong angles, and I was hit, falling to the ground in pain. All of a sudden, five people ran out to me. My flesh and Satan would have me believe a thousand stories in that moment. “You’re done.” “You’re worthless.” “You’re going to lose everything.” “You can’t keep up.” “You’re pathetic.” But the more real story echoed through my heart. As I lay on the field, God’s Spirit through the word whispered in my ear, “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good” (Romans 8:28).

That verse was a promise to me. God works all things together for good. It was like the Holy Spirit was repeating it in my heart, over and over again, with each surge of pain through my knee: “For those who love me, I work all things together for good.” God cares for his people. We can’t bank on prosperity gospel promises. They can’t stand the test of God’s curse over the world. But God promises to care for us better than any worldly shepherd.

When we trust in the richest powers of the world, God says through Jeremiah, “All your lovers have forgotten you; they care nothing for you” (Jeremiah 30:14).

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Garrett Gilkey (@gagilk73) is a center and guard for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the National Football League (NFL). He was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the seventh round of the 2013 NFL Draft.