Did We Win?

 In Student Ministry

I didn’t expect to start the year by witnessing a miracle.  But I did.  In fact, I think millions of us did.  Monday Night Football between the Buffalo Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals was supposed to be the primetime showdown between two of the best teams in the NFL.  It was supposed to be my first in-person NFL game in about 30 years.  It was supposed to be my son’s first ever game.  Instead, Paycor Stadium became the setting for God to perform a miracle.  In His perfect timing, God chose a football game that was being watched by millions to remind us that He is our Creator, He is present, and He is powerful.  God not only brought a young man back to life on a football field, but He also, at least briefly, united the country (even the world) in prayer.  He showed us the power of presenting our requests to Him.  He showed a doubting world that when faced with unbelievable challenge, we turn to our creator for hope, comfort, and strength.

At only ten minutes into the game, our excitement quickly turned to sadness and uncertainty.  Damar Hamlin, the Bills safety, made an ordinary football play.  He popped up, then immediately collapsed to the field.  Within seconds it was apparent that this was no ordinary football injury.  Medical staff from both teams rushed into action, but being 30 rows into the stands, it was difficult to see what was happening.  Our phones began chirping with text messages from friends who were watching it on TV.  All of us were wondering what was happening.  No one wanted to believe the worst.  Players surrounded Damar and the medical staff, but instead of facing their teammate, their backs were turned.  As moments went by, players began taking a knee in prayer.  This is something we see all the time when a player gets hurt, but this time was different.  Nearly every player, coach, and staff member kneeled together at midfield.  Social media became flooded with tweets and posts that simply read “praying.”  And although there was much uncertainty and sadness in those moments following his injury, the image of so many united in prayer was a beautiful reminder that our hope and strength comes from the Lord.  He had control of the situation.  We needed to put our faith in Him.

We filed out of the stadium in shock.  We barely slept that night.  We anxiously waited for news the following morning, praying we didn’t hear the worst.  That following day was a blur.  We went through the normal rhythm of the day with heavy hearts, listening to Buffalo sports radio as Bills fans waited for news.  We continued to pray for Damar’s healing and for his teammates who witnessed the tragic event.  I kept thinking about his mom, who was at the stadium and now sat in the hospital with her son.  The sadness made it feel like a weight on our shoulders.  We continued to wait and pray.  ‘Never stop praying.’ 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Two days later, the news we had been praying for—Damar had made incredible progress and seemed neurologically intact.  “Thank you, Lord!  You are so good!”  The next day brought even more incredible news.  With a pad of paper and a pen, Damar was able to communicate for the first time since his injury.  The first thing he wrote: “DID WE WIN?”  Doctors responded with, yes you did.  You won the game of life.

We may ask God why this tragic event took place, and that would be a fair question.  The answer we may not understand right now.  But we know God is present.  We know He is in control.  We know He hears our prayers and answers them according to His will.  We know He took a primetime football game, being watched by millions, to perform a miracle.  It is not our job to understand why, but it is our job to tell the good news of Christ.  We saw a miracle.  Our God is gracious and powerful and good.  He hears our prayers and heals the brokenhearted.  There is heartbreak at my house this week, as our Bills were eliminated from the playoffs and our season of adversity came to an end.  But we will still proclaim the goodness of God, because “did we win” will be answered with YES—we are chosen and we are saved.

‘Let each generation tell its children of your mighty acts; let them proclaim your power.  I will meditate on your majestic, glorious splendor and your wonderful miracles.  Your awe-inspiring deeds will be on every tongue; I will proclaim your greatness.  Everyone will share the story of your wonderful goodness; they will sing with joy about your righteousness.’ Psalm 145: 4-7

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