Millions watched after Damar Hamlin, safety for the Buffalo Bills, collapsed onto the field. The once cheering stadium, in an instant, became hushed, with all eyes focused on the injured player. As the cameras panned across the field, players huddled together, kneeling in prayer for Damar Hamlin, and in the studio, sportscasters’ shaky voices led millions of their viewers to pray for God to help and heal. In an industry and a culture that tries to push God out, God was the only one we could turn to in that moment of crisis.
Thankfully, as of writing this, Damar Hamlin is doing better. Every day he is getting stronger and hopes to make a full recovery soon. However, Hamlin’s football career will have a lasting impact, not because of his accomplishments on the football field but how God used him to bring men to their knees and millions to pray. God uses crises and difficult situations to bring us to an end of ourselves. We often go through life utterly oblivious to the world around us, and we can so easily become delusional that we have it all together. That can change instantly, and suddenly you find yourself at the bottom of life. At that moment, the choice you make can be made to look inwardly or outwardly for hope.
You can (and many people do, unfortunately) turn inward, or as Augustine coined the term, incurvatus in se, which means to “curve inward into oneself.” For example, hardships and suffering can cause one to cave in on oneself, causing someone to become resentful, spiteful, and suspicious of the good. Like a collapsing star creates a black hole; likewise, a person who responds to crisis inwardly is left with hopelessness and inescapable darkness.
When facing any suffering, we have to look outwardly. As stated earlier, difficult situations are meant to reveal how powerless we are and how easily the world overcomes us around us. It also forces us to look to God for our help. Take what happened to Damar Hamlin as an example; he is a world-class athlete competing with other world-class athletes on a global stage. The precision, skill, and athleticism on that football field are unmatched. However, none of it mattered or prevented Damar’s injury. Damar still collapsed, the players were left powerless to do anything, and at that moment, Damar’s life was in God’s hands.
And it was God that everyone looked to.
Psalm 121:3 says, “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.” Psalm 121 is the second Psalm in the Songs of Ascents. Psalms in these categories were traditionally sung as whole communities traveled to Jerusalem for the various Levitical feasts. Why Psalm 121 is so profound because it is a powerful reminder of God’s aid and is meant to give confidence to those who believe in him. The phrase “I lift up my eyes” denotes a yearning and longing for relief. To illustrate, in Peter Jackson’s film adaptation of the Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, there is a scene where Aragon, Gimili, and Legolas are defending the fortress Helm’s Deep from the assailing armies of the wicked wizard Saruman. They are overwhelmed and surrounded, and when you think it is all over and defeat is inevitable, suddenly, from the hills rides Gandalf with a multitude of friendly forces to rescue our beleaguered heroes. It is a powerful scene and gives expression to how the psalmist feels. We have all been there. Perhaps you are there now, and you can be assured that you have someone you can turn to.
Notice who the psalmist is looking for and who he recognizes as the source of his hope. It is undoubtedly not himself nor his situation but God alone. The psalmist includes the words “who made heaven and earth” to communicate the power and sovereignty of God. Since God is the one who created all things and all life is in his hands, he is the only one that can help in our struggles and difficulties. What happened to Damar Hamlin was just what happens every day in this world; the only difference was it was televised to a national audience. Difficulty and suffering happen to people, and they cry out to God, who responds to those afflicted. Though our present situations may be bleak, our help is in God, and he will come.
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