Can you relate? I’m sure you’ve suffered from the flu, or maybe something worse like cancer. You may have had a broken bone, or an illness like fibromyalgia or lyme disease, or suffered a stroke or heart attack. Those can definitely take us “out of the game” and send us to the sidelines. Physical ailments are not the only things that can derail us. Consider these:
- Financial problems can cause us to change financial course, and alter many of the comforts we’ve come to know and love. I am acquainted with many people who are homeless. It’s not what they expected, but they’re forced to deal with the reality of building their lives again from the bottom up.
- Relationship problems can cause us to step away from work, school, or other goals, either physically or emotionally. Broken friendships, divorce, problems with children or parents can all consume our time and energy, leaving us sidelined for a time.
- Loss of a loved one, loss of security, loss of a dream, or some other loss can take us “out of the game” and send us to the sidelines while we search for a “new normal.”
- Struggles faced by our loved ones can also leave us sidelined from our usual priorities. When a child, sibling, parent, or grandparent, or perhaps even a close friend, is suffering, often we step away from our own lives to tend and care for their needs.
There are many things that can send us to the sidelines, away from the track we were on to reach our goals. Is being sidelined always a negative thing? While it may feel like it in the moment, as most of us don’t choose to be sidelined, I think it can serve a very positive purpose.
While I will never be accused of being a sports enthusiast, it is my understanding that players are typically sidelined for one of three reasons:
- As a penalty, which came as a result of choices that were against the rules
- As a much-needed rest after playing faithfully, giving players a chance to rehydrate and get refreshed before heading back into the game
- As a preventative or restorative measure when a player is suffering from an illness or has sustained an injury.
As I see it, being sidelined is typically for the good of the individual, with the hope that over time, he or she will be ready to head back into the game of life to continue to work toward their goals. I must admit that two weeks ago, I prayed a sincere prayer that God would grant me rest. I felt totally overwhelmed with a son changing college plans last-minute, another son being diagnosed with asthma and the need to find a new home for my beloved cat, another son heading to Israel, a steady workload of students, a lawn bursting forth with spring and needing weeding and mulching, etc. Life was good, but I couldn’t figure out how to get some extra sleep or restoration for my weary soul. God, in His infinite wisdom, knew that it takes some drastic measures to slow me down and give me rest. A nasty case of shingles, while I would not have chosen that (and would never wish it on anyone!) has led to long nights of sleep, rest during the day, time to listen to music and interact with my children, time to think and plan for students and other upcoming activities, and time to be tended to by my four-year-old, who loves to play doctor. And while I haven’t been thrilled to hear that I am a likely candidate to suffer long term effects of this bout with shingles, and may have to endure future episodes, I, like the apostle Paul, am learning “to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:11-13)
I’m praying that each of you will find your strength in Him, whether you’re fully immersed in the activities of life, or whether you are currently also sidelined. May He grant your “daily bread”—all that you need, each and every day, to fulfill His calling, until the day He calls you home to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:21)