Even if you are just a casual observer of Major League Baseball, you probably know that Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada’s season ended during Game 2 of the playoffs when LA Dodger Chase Utley slid hard into second base, breaking Tejada’s leg. As you can imagine, there has been endless banter back and forth about the legality of the slide, the timing of the slide, the impact on the series, etc. Despite all that has been said and written about what happened, I didn’t hear any comments by Ruben Tejada himself. I was curious about how Tejada is dealing with the situation because it reminded me of when our son Will, then 11 years old, dealt with a season-ending baseball injury. Of course a season-ending injury when you are 11 in no way compares to one when you are in the MLB playoffs. But haven’t we all faced challenges that have kept us from accomplishing our goals, living our dreams, or simply doing something we were passionate about?
I still clearly recall Will’s injury … he was catching behind the plate, saw the runner on first starting to steal, and so he reached in with his bare throwing hand a little too early and got hit by the pitch. The next morning x-rays confirmed his right hand was broken and he couldn’t play any sports at least six weeks. His baseball season would be over by then, and he would miss basketball tournament and a basketball camp that he had been excited about.
Was it the end of the world? No, but as you can imagine, it was pretty devastating news for an 11-year-old boy, who like many 11-year-old boys, lived and breathed sports.
I was there when the doctor gave him the bad news. His mouth kind of dropped open, and I knew he was fighting back tears. As the doctor casted his hand, the reality began to sink in. In fact, it didn’t take him long to do the math in his head and tell me based on the number of games left on his team’s schedule, how many straight innings he would have to sit on the bench. I don’t recall the number, but I do recall that to him, the number seemed like eternity.
As we left the doctor’s office, Will took my phone, called his dad, and quickly shared the bad news. Then, instead of giving in to despair, he immediately began to rattle off a list of things he was going to do while his hand was casted. “Number 1, I’m going to develop my left-handed shot for basketball. Number 2, I’m going to do lunges to develop my leg strength. Number 3, I’m going to …” I don’t recall the entire list, but I clearly remember that it didn't take Will long to figure out how he was going to make something good come from his injury.
That is exactly what God wants each of us to do with our challenges. Sometimes we suffer in small ways (like Will’s broken hand), sometimes we suffer more significantly (Ruben Tejada out for the rest of the playoffs), and other times we may face life-changing situations (a debilitating illness, or the death of a child or spouse). Regardless of the magnitude, God wants to help us create something good from our difficulties.
Don’t doubt that good can come from setbacks, even tragedies, after all 1) we are promised with God, anything is possible (Matthew 19:26) and 2) God uses all things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). When bad things happen, God can create something good through us as long as we choose to look for the grace He will offer us, and use that grace in a positive, constructive way.
There are many aspects of life that we do not control, but the one thing we always control is our attitude, including our attitude when we suffer. As Victor Frankl, Holocaust survivor wrote in his book, Man’s Search For Meaning, “When a man finds that it is his destiny to suffer, he will have to accept his suffering as his task. His unique opportunity lies in the way in which he bears his burden.”