By Jacob Kersey/The Washington StandNovember 21, 2023
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Nearly three minutes into the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) championship game, OL Reign soccer star Megan Rapinoe suffered an Achilles injury in the final game of her career. In her remarks during the team's postgame conference, Rapinoe expressed her frustration with the untimely injury. "I mean, I don't deserve this, I'll tell you that much." She vented her disappointment by declaring it proof that there is no Higher Power. "If there was a God, like, this is proof that there isn't."
Rapinoe's career has been marked by many instances in which she's made her unsavory political opinions clear for all to see; this most recent incident is a peculiar window into her spiritual life.
Professional sports have a way of testing the character, mental toughness, and, yes, faith of athletes and coaches alike. To the ones on the field giving it their all, the testing only intensifies when things out of their control, like a game ending injury or bad play, occur. Jobs are on the line as eager backups look on from the sidelines.
A bad performance or an injury can cost a player their starting position or possibly even their career. In the world of sports, foundations are tested and character is revealed. Considering the influence that professional athletes can have on our children, the character and faith of prominent athletes is something we should care about.
Another high performing athlete suffering a recent injury to their Achilles is Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, who, in contrast to Rapinoe, has been outspoken about his faith. In a recent conversation with Focus on the Family, he shared an insight he experienced during a college game he played against Notre Dame where he threw an interception that cost his team the game. "If I had built my life on football, I'm in trouble right now because football just crumbled."
He continued by recalling his prayer in that moment, "I thought, 'Thank You for the gospel and thank You, God, that my life is not built on football but my life is built on You -- and You're not changing.' And so I can throw an interception and be pulling turf grass out of my helmet. ...I can face all that knowing that God is not changing. God saw this event before it happened. He is sovereign over it. He allowed it to happen. And I have to trust Him that He is going to make good out of it and He is not going to waste it."
During the 2022 NFL season, Cousins led the Vikings to the largest comeback in league history, scoring a 39-36 victory against the Colts. Going into week eight of the 2023 NFL season, Cousins was second in league passing yards and had kept his team in the hunt for the playoffs. Unfortunately, he suffered a season-ending injury that same week in a game against the Green Bay Packers.
In spite of the injury, Cousins cheered his teammates on from the cart that would transport him off the field. Since then, he has been seen in a walking boot and on crutches serving Thanksgiving meals alongside his team at the Salvation Army. Instead of blaming God or expressing doubt about His existence, Cousins told the StarTribune that he and his son have "learned that it is truly more happy-making to give than to receive."
The contrast between Cousins and Rapinoe is clear. When faced with a serious injury, unable to perform on the field, one questions God's existence and the other sees everything as an opportunity to bless others. It's clear who has built their life on a foundation of sand, and who has not. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus reminds us that a wise man builds his life on a rock, a firm foundation.
For Cousins and for all Christians, Jesus Christ is the rock, the firm foundation upon whom we build our lives. While circumstances may change, the Apostle Peter reminds us in 1 Peter 1:4 that our inheritance is "imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you."
No matter what we face on earth, as followers of Christ we look to the Bible for truth. Romans 6:6 announces for believers that our old self was crucified with Christ in His death, Philippians 3:20 pronounces our citizenship is in heaven, and 2 Corinthians 5:17 declares us a new creation in Christ.
Those who have built their life on Jesus and find their identity in Him, well fed or hungry, in abundance or in need, win or lose, touchdown or turnover, healthy or injured, are content and secure, for their foundation is Christ -- and He is unshakeable.