by Emily Cole
“Lord, You have established peace for us; all that we have accomplished You have done for us” (Isaiah 26:12, NIV). When I read this verse, I am constantly reminded of the faithfulness of God. He has given me gifts to play soccer and a passion for the sport for the last 16 years of my life. Ultimately, though, all that I have accomplished in soccer I give back to Him because of my faith. Faith, as many of us know, is hard; it requires belief when we feel frustrated, obedience when we feel discouraged and humility for all the moments we don’t understand why something is happening. This is true in both sports and life. For me, my faith and soccer are intertwined. They always have been, and I’m not sure I could ever separate the two. Throughout my life, soccer has brought me some of my greatest joys, but also some of my toughest moments. It’s easy to look at the verse in 1 Thessalonians that says, “Give thanks in all things” and truly be thankful when I am scoring game-winners, receiving awards and winning championships. However, when I have missed championship PKs or easy shots on goal, or when I have sat in a doctor’s office learning of a knee injury that would cause me to lose playing for more than a year, it has not been as easy to remain thankful. In fact, it is extremely hard to say, “Lord, I still trust You.” But that is also the beauty of sports. Like so many things in life, God gives and takes away. He is constantly teaching me that soccer does not define me; the way I play does not define me; the number of awards I win does not and will not define me. Instead, I choose to remember that soccer is a gift. The ability to play, the friendships I have made and the smile it brings to my face every time I step on the field are what matter and are ultimately why I love to play. They are what God had in mind when He gave me the passion for it, and that same joy is what He calls us to remember in all things during our lives. We should never let sports define our faith, but instead we should allow our faith to define what our sport means to us. In all I do as an athlete, I give God the glory, for it is through Him and for Him that I play.
“Not to us, Lord, not to us but to Your name goes all the glory because of Your unfailing love and faithfulness” (Psalm 115:1, NIV). I remember writing this verse on the side of my cleats during high school when I really decided that I wanted to honor God in the way I played. Since that moment, I have played soccer from a different perspective: a faith-filled perspective. So, yes, ALL that I have accomplished HE has done for me. With my heart alone, my weakness, pride and selfish ambitions will lead me when I play. But, thankfully, with Jesus, and because He has changed me forever, my heart is filled with joy, peace, passion and a renewed thankfulness that I carry with me each time I step on the field to play the game I love.