16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NIV)
Pain and suffering come to us all. Some pain we can almost predict, but others catch us off guard. An unwanted divorce, the unexpected death of a child, or being struck down in the prime of life by an unanticipated disease are just a few of the unpredictable forms of suffering that none of us could ever see coming. Such was the case for O.J. Brigance.
This coming Sunday is Super Bowl Sunday. A dozen years ago, O.J. Brigance was getting ready for the biggest game of his life. He was the special team’s captain of the Baltimore Ravens when they won the Super Bowl in 2001. He was fearless. He was a maniac linebacker who loved to bust the wedge on kick-offs. Then, in 2007 he was diagnosed with A.L.S. Slowly, but surely, the disease took away his ability to use his arms, then his legs, and finally his ability to talk. Doctors said he had 3-5 years to live. Instead of seeing A.L.S. as a death sentence, O.J. saw it as a reason to get focused.
The Ravens hired O.J. and gave him the title “Senior Adviser to Player Engagment.” O.J. wakes us three hours early every day so his wife and nurse can get him ready to go to work. While at work he uses a computer to give him a “voice” with the players because A.L.S. has taken his ability to speak. Brendon Ayanbadejo, plays linebacker for the Ravens. He says, “There’s days when you don’t feel like practicing, there’s days when your body doesn’t feel good, and then there’s O.J. coming up in his wheelchair and he already has a message for you and the message is, ‘Hey, how are you doing?'” Head Coach, John Harbaugh says, “He was one of the toughest, strongest warriors to play football in this league and yet by his attitude he has been made great by this weakness.”
The Apostle Paul wanted to be healed of his ailment and the answer was “No. When you are weak then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10) O.J. has found a strength he never found in the weight room since he began his battle with A.L.S. He says,
Regardless of what we go through in life there is always purpose wrapped within the pain. It all boils down to this: Every tragedy and triumph in my life has served to stand firm in this moment. To take what many perceive as an unbearable circumstance and impact the lives of others.
As painful and excruciating as they may be, our suffering is lightened by being able to see, like O.J. Brigance sees, that God has a purpose in every experience we will ever have in life. My prayer this morning is that we might be able to place our trials in His hands so He might use them to impact the lives of others for His glory and their encouragement.