Deion Sanders is the only athlete who has played in a World Series and a Super Bowl. To what did that success lead him? Attempted suicide.
Sanders played in the 1992 World Series (Braves). He is a two-time Super Bowl champion (1994-49ers; 1995-Cowboys). Despite fame and fortune, in 1997 he drove his car off a 40-foot cliff. Intentionally. He writes in his biography, “I was going through the trials of life. I was empty, no peace, no joy.” His soul warred with the fruitlessness of his life.
With Sanders, did God almost drop the ball? Is it his job to ensure you have a nice life while you try to be a moral and successful person? That sounds religious, but it isn’t Christianity. The Christian worldview makes sense of life as you experience it, and trials are part of everyone’s experience. But trials do not tell your whole story.
Good can come from suffering. By it we can experience God’s comfort and grace. Theologian J. I. Packer explains that the purpose of troubles and perplexities of life “is to ensure that we shall learn to hold Him fast. When we are caught in rough country in the dark, with a storm getting up and our strength spent, and someone takes our arm to help us, we shall thankfully lean on him.” When suffering finds you, walk it to the foot of the cross. There you’ll meet the One who knows about suffering and gives you peace despite the human experience. That’s the rest of the story.
“It is through many tribulations that we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). Suffering teaches you to accept God’s rule in your life. Chuck Colson, who spent time in prison after Watergate, agrees. “God uses the thorns and thistles that have infested creation since the Fall to teach, chastise, sanctify, and transform us, making us ready for that new heaven and earth. The greatest blessings in my life have emerged from suffering. God’s purposes are the context that give suffering meaning and significance.”
Meaninglessness tortured Deion Sanders. But then he experienced this truth: “He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. For the moment, all discipline seems not to be pleasant, but painful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterward it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Heb. 12:10-11). He said after the suicide attempt, “I finally just got on my knees and gave it all to the Lord. My faith is everything. It’s the air that provokes me to live.”
Now Sanders coaches young men at Jackson State University. He partners with Stand Together in Dallas to eradicate poverty and youth violence. Through the way of suffering, he has found the peaceful fruit of righteousness and offers it to others. Let that be your story, too.