One of the most difficult moments for a professional athlete is when they finally come to the time when they must leave the game. Athletes will talk about the different aspects of this life transition that are difficult. Some will talk about the paycheck—candidly assessing how hard it is to walk away from such huge amounts of money. Others will talk about their love of competition and how they will miss the game itself, as well as the adrenaline rush of playing a sport they love at a high level while competing against the very best. Still others discuss how much they’ll miss the camaraderie of the clubhouse or the locker room. The relationships and bonds that are established by going into athletic battle together can be its own great joy.
For many, however, the greatest challenge of all is the sudden thrust of uncertainty into their lives. Athletes who, in many cases, have played their sport since they were 5 or 6 years old, now face a time where they will do something they have perhaps never done before. It goes beyond unsettling. It can be downright frightening when you are forced to contemplate living in ways you have never experienced before.
The same is true for anyone who changes jobs, switches schools, loses a marriage partner, or experiences a health or financial reversal. Suddenly, often unexpectedly, you find yourself facing a new kind of life that is utterly unfamiliar, when you truly have no earthly idea of what’s next. For the child of God, however, the clear lesson of those life-moments is that we can plan all we want, but only our heavenly Father really knows what tomorrow holds. That may, in part, be what prompted the apostle James to write:
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that” (James 4:13-15 NASB).
Is James saying that it’s wrong to plan? Certainly not. He just wants us to understand that all of our planning and scheming and manipulating has severe limitations. Someone said, “Man proposes . . . God disposes.” God is the One who knows the end from the beginning. He is the One whose purposes are certain. He is the One who is perpetually unsurprised and unshaken by the seasons of change that can invade our experience.
This fact—the fact of a knowing God—may be unsettling. But it should be deeply comforting. The One who loves us eternally is also custodian of our today, as well as all of our tomorrows. Knowing that all of our uncertainties are known by Him can give us confidence for life—even when we don’t know what’s next.
Bill Crowder, Sports Spectrum Chaplain