I didn’t want or need to see it. Twitter let me know that it was horrific. Within a ten minute span on social media, I felt the full gravity of the moment.
I saw the picture of Gordon Hayward’s face that had shock, pain, and “how can this happen?” written all over it.
Then a friend sent me a screenshot of Hayward’s ankle turned the wrong way. I was sick to my stomach—I still am when I think about it.
But as a Christ follower, I wondered what am I supposed to do next? I don’t know Gordon Hayward, but I know plenty of athletes personally who get injured and I am faced with the same dilemma: what can I do to help? Let’s start with what we should not do.
What they don’t need from us
Injured athletes don’t need our “good vibes.” Listen, I understand the intention behind sending our “positive thoughts.” When my son broke his wrist in two spots we had a number of people send those positive vibes our way. I get the heart behind it. I am not sitting on top of my theological high horse and judging how people deal with and offer hope to others going through hard times.
It just saddens me.
The genesis of my sadness is the realization that this has become the politically correct response from a secularized society. If you cannot pray and ask the creator of the universe to intervene, what do you do? Without a faith in God, who actively listens to and answers prayer, what can you offer?
All you are left with is trying to send positivity to someone who is in pain. At the end of the day, it probably makes you feel a little better for contributing something—but sadly, there is a ceiling on the amount of good it does towards the one who is hurting.
What they do need from us
There is a lot we can do for injured athletes we are in relationship with and proximity to. We can help with practical needs like transportation, food, and community. But they also need our prayers. In fact, for athletes we do not know, prayer becomes one of the only ways we can help.
Prayer is powerful because it works. God has given us an open line of communication where we can come to him and make requests on behalf of ourselves and others. What can we, as a community of believers, be praying for on behalf of injured athletes—even if we do not know them personally? Here are a couple ideas:
Pray for healing
Pray for immediate miraculous healing so a watching community of fans, coaches, and teammates, see and know that God has intervened and gets the glory. You can pray that they would heal completely and for the absence of lingering side effects.
Pray for wisdom
You can pray that the MRI or X-ray would reveal exactly what is wrong. You can pray for those making the decisions of how to proceed. Pray for the doctors recommending and performing the surgery if needed or for the trainers taping the ankle or wrapping the knee. Pray their skillful hands would repair whatever needs repairing with excellence.
You can thank God that he has given this skill level and knowledge to these individuals. Thank God we live in a time and place where injured athletes have quick access to all they need to heal up quickly.
Pray for the athlete’s heart
Pray they would lean into God during this hard time or that they would have a community that surrounds them with more prayer, with love, and with good deeds. You can even pray that God would use this unfortunate circumstance in their life to draw them closer to Himself—or even present them with an opportunity to share the love of God with a trainer, doctor, or other injured athlete.
Pray for the athlete’s family
When athletes get injured, their family needs love and support too. Pray that they would feel the love and care of God through other people’s support. You can pray God would give them peace that He is not surprised by this, that He loves them in it, and that He is in complete control.
Pray for the athlete’s teammates and coaches
Pray that they would come into a relationship with God as a result of this injury and the surrounding circumstances. You can pray that God would give this athlete the strength he or she needs to model Christ well through this hardship and that the teammates around them would take notice, wonder, and ask where their hope is at.
Pray that God would be glorified in the midst of this
This one is tough because it just happened and it is hard to see how any good can come of it. Romans 8:28 is still true—it’s always true, but they probably don’t care about hearing that at the moment. Pray that God, in a way that only He can do, would make His name known and get the glory. Most of us want to know that our suffering is not in vain so you can also pray that whatever good does come from this injury becomes known to the injured athlete in time.
Ps. We all need to remember that God gave us the gift of sport to enjoy and to glorify Him. He is free, as Lord of the universe, to use our sport in whatever way He deems best to conform us to His image. He may choose to bless us with the gift of athletic success to help us become more like Jesus. Or He may bless us with the gift of injury to do the same thing.