The other players had just left. I had closed in prayer at the end of another Baseball Chapel time, but he stayed. Looking up at me he said, “You’re from a Jewish background, right? How does that work, your becoming a believer?” I gave him the condensed version of how I came to the Lord almost forty years ago. Then he expressed his frustration with his life. That’s probably why he had stayed. I had taught on Joseph and how his ability to focus on God’s goodness amidst his terrible circumstances not only had sustained him through great difficulties but allowed him to remain free of bitterness and be a blessing to others. All of professional sports is full of dashed dreams, but in the league in which I minister players more regularly find themselves dangerously close to the precipice of despair. “What am I doing here?” he asked me. There are the really young guys fresh out of college for whom this is their first pro gig. They probably just missed being drafted by a Major League club and are waiting for their big break. Then there are the veterans. They’ve been around for the long haul, had a year or two in the majors, or the minors at least. They would rather play baseball in an independent league than not at all. But then there are those like the player I was talking to. Still relatively young, but getting to the stage where the door to greatness is just about closed. “What am I doing here?”
So we talked about Joseph whose dreams appeared to be even more impossible. God seemed to indicate he would be a ruler one day. Instead, he was sold by his own brothers as a slave and eventually ended up spending years in a dungeon for something he hadn’t done. “What am I doing here?” And then there’s David, called to be King, given an early promotion to the King’s court, but it wasn’t too long before he was running for his life from that same King, living in caves. “What am I doing here?”
“Hold on to your God-given dreams,” I say. “Keep your eyes on him, and wait and see what he will do.” Then I prayed God’s blessing on his life, that he would stay close to the Lord and that he would be a blessing to others.
I am no professional athlete, but I knew exactly what he was feeling, having a dream and wondering what in the world is going on. As I was teaching on Joseph and referred to being overlooked, getting the wrong end of the stick, having unrealized expectations, I knew what I was talking about. Been there. The encouragement to be like Joseph was not just for the players. I was preaching to myself.
For me, enough time has gone by to learn how this works. The road to the destination God calls us to takes all sorts of dips and turns along the way. When we are younger we don’t realize how much we actually need time to get ready for what God has in store. It also takes time for our God-given dreams to be sufficiently clarified. We are too quick to determine where we think God is leading us. Only God sees the whole picture of our lives. But even as we struggle down the twisty road of life, he is faithful. As I quoted when I spoke on Joseph, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). When we are in right relationship with God, it doesn’t matter what the world throws our way, God’s goodness will always prevail.