If you have been associated with Sligo Church for any length of time, you know that I have a great deal of love for the sport of tennis, not simply because of the athleticism and skill that it takes to play the game, but for what playing it has brought to my life. Tennis has taught me many valuable lessons since I first picked up a racket at the age of 16. Because tennis for the most part is an individual sport, it has taught me how to deal with challenges on my own, especially during those times when on the court of life, the ball does not always bounce the way you expected.
Recently it was reported that one of the most decorated female players in all of tennis, Venus Williams, was involved in a tragic car accident, which resulted in the loss of life. When I first heard this story, my heart went out to the family of the deceased as well as to Williams, who is believed by authorities to have been at fault. Although I feel for all parties involved in this tragic situation, I especially can relate to what Venus must be going through, because I have been in her shoes, not just because I love to play tennis, but I too have had to deal with the loss of life by my own hand.
Without going too deep into this tragic event in my life, I have had to deal with the pain and regret that comes with being responsible for the loss of the life of another. When I saw Williams being interviewed a few days ago following her successful Wimbledon opening match, her inability to speak about the incident to reporters deeply resonated with me. For right after my own ordeal I too was unable to share with anyone what I was dealing with at the time. My incident took place over thirty years ago, and I am able to cope with it much better than I was able to at the time. But what played a pivotal role in helping me to get through such a painful ordeal, besides the support of family and friends, was the promise of Romans 8:28 which says:
“And we know all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose.”
The fact that I knew that God was in this unbearable situation with me and that I was not out there all alone, was the one thing that allowed me to hold on and not give up on life or on the purpose for which he had called me.
Now, let’s be clear. The promise that the Apostle Paul shares in Romans 8:28 is not a promise that only good will come into our lives as Christians. That is simply not the case! Rather it is the promise of assurance that we are not out there on the court of life by ourselves; that our Heavenly Father is with us every step of the way making sure that the tragedies of this life will not interfere with his ultimate plan for our lives.
I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God was with me during that tragic ordeal some 30 years ago, and that it was having the assurance of his presence that allowed me to ultimately persevere and not throw in the towel. And because he was with me, I am confident that he will be with you and anyone who may have had or will have the misfortune of being in my shoes.