The Super Bowl is over. The NFL season is already fading from memory, but there is one story that sticks with me. It is the story of Damar Hamlin, a young man who was playing safety for the Buffalo Bills, who had a sudden cardiac arrest on a football field in front of a packed stadium and a national television audience. The game stopped. The stands fell almost silent. Players and coaches from opposing teams came together out of concern for this one player, to support each other as the medical teams worked to save Damar Hamlin’s life. They were successful, and last week, before the Super Bowl, surrounded by the medical team that saved his life, Damar Hamlin spoke at the NFL Honors ceremony. If you have not watched the speech, I encourage you to find it on YouTube and listen to it, but here, let me quote a chunk of it:
“First, I would like to just thank God for even being here. Every day, I am amazed that my experiences could encourage so many others across the country and even across the world. Encouraged to pray, encouraged to spread love and encouraged to keep fighting no matter the circumstances. Sudden cardiac arrest is nothing I would’ve ever chosen to be a part of my story but that’s because our own visions are too small even when we think we are seeing the bigger picture. My vision was about playing in the NFL and being the best player that I could be, but God’s plan was to have a purpose greater than any game in this world.
“My entire life, I felt like God was using me to give others hope. And now with a new set of circumstances, I can only say he’s doing what he’s always done. I have a long journey ahead. A journey full of unknowns and a journey full of milestones, but it’s a lot easier to face your fears when you know your purpose.”
Which reminds me of a story in the Bible, at the end of the Book of Genesis, when Joseph, who had risen to a position of power in Egypt, confronted his brothers, who jealously had sold him into slavery there years before. Joseph’s brothers were in Egypt seeking food for their families because there was a famine back in Israel, but when they realized that they were seeking aid from Joseph, they were worried, expecting him to exact revenge for what they had done to him. “Do not be afraid!” Joseph said to them. “Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people” (Genesis 50:19, 20).
And Damar Hamlin is bearing witness to something similar, because while terrible things happen to people, with God at work in the world, there’s no telling what God will do with even the worst things that happen to bring out something good if we have the faith, the patience, the trust to wait for it.
–Pastor Don Steele