“Winners are not worriers; we are warriors, fearless and not afraid to fail. If you struggle with fear, pray and ask God to help your unbelief.”
“Even though things were bad, it motivated me – rather than brought me down. My husband knew I was on fire. I wanted to fight everyone. It wasn’t about letting the anger out. I did what I needed to do to win. But I had that extra fire.”
These are the words of Sarah Stevenson, Great Britain’s big hope for a Taekwondo medal in the Olympics. Last year, Sarah’s mother and father were both struck with terminal illnesses, months apart from each other, when Sarah was just 28 years old. They had been married for over 40 years. Her mother was diagnosed with cancer first, then a few months later Sarah learned of her father’s fate: he had a brain tumour. So, at a time when Sarah should have been preparing for the Taekwondo World Championships in Korea, she had her mother fighting cancer on one floor of the hospital, and her father battling a tumour on another. Sarah was literally running up and down the stairs along with her husband, caring for them both.
Despite the immense shock, heartache, and not wanting to leave her parents’ bedside, Sarah abided by their wishes and went to the World Championships – and won. She returned home to a celebratory welcome from both her parents, who had been sent home. But the festivities were short-lived. Sadly, her father died two and a half months after his tumour was diagnosed; her mother passed away shortly after that. In an interview for The Guardian newspaper, Sarah says her mother’s funeral was the worst day of her life. She also says that she hopes what she has been through can encourage people in some way.
Sarah’s story has definitely encouraged me. Her bravery and determination have done more to focus my heart on overcoming obstacles than any sermon on a Sunday morning could achieve. There are many more stories of triumph over tragedy that I have heard in the run-up to the Olympics. Like the war heroes who have lost limbs, but with unflinching resolve have worked through the curve balls life has thrown at them, and are now competing in the Paralympics.
The Bible says we overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony (Revelations 12:11). This basically means that it’s good to share what we go through; the experience and the strength we receive from our trials will help someone else. I have said many times in my articles that we were not designed to do life alone. When I read stories like Sarah’s – and others like hers – there is a familiar theme: they have people around them to offer support when they need it most.
Obstacles – if you haven’t noticed – are a fact of life. Psalm 34:19 says, “The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all.” Psalm 30:5 says, “Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes with the morning.
So how do we do we develop a winner’s spirit, and come out of trials better not bitter? During difficult times we can draw strength from the Bible. It is a book of peace, promise and passion to all those who believe. As mentioned above, we can also draw strength from those around us, and have faith that God will do what He said He will do.
At some point in our Christian life, we need to consistently remember that God is in our boat. It will not sink; we will not drown; the trial has come to make us stronger and – crucially – God puts a time limit on our weeping. Don’t let your night season last too long. Every truly successful person has had to deal with some sort of obstacle. Whether it’s dressed up as redundancy, bankruptcy, bereavement, or a health situation that suddenly changed their life forever, at some point they had to pick themselves up and start believing again. We could all do with banishing worry and fear from our lives. Winners are not worriers; we are warriors, fearless and not afraid to fail. If you struggle with fear, pray and ask God to help your unbelief.
This is a prophetic year – a year of jubilee, plus we have the greatest sporting event in history on our doorsteps. It’s a year for celebration; starting afresh, and having the mindset of a champion. There is no mountain too high to be overcome and no valley that’s too low to dig yourself out of.
Sarah will be at the Olympics this year, hoping to win a gold medal in memory of her parents. She has a goal that keeps her focused on what lies ahead. Clearly, she has learnt to dream again and has not thrown in the towel.
What goal have you set for yourself that will help you to dream again?
You can follow Esther Williams on twitter @mew36