Lessons from an Olympian: Go after God
Instead of Going for the Gold
By Heather Riggleman
Last night my family and I were piled on my bed glued to the screen to witness the greatest athlete of all time take to the vault. She thundered down the runway and launched herself into the air, seeming to lose herself in midair. She twisted her head sideways on the way down as if to look for safe passage and only completed one and a half of the two twists she is known for. Then she popped forward on her landing and we all could read the thousands of thoughts through her mind. She knew she had done her best. She knew she had doubts. She knew she was fine physically, but mentally, she was at war. Then she did what no one expected. Instead of puffing up her pride and pushing through the mental block, she walked over to her coach and told her, her head wasn’t in the game!
Just yesterday, Simone took to Instagram to share the battle she is facing. “I truly do feel like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders at times. I know I brush it off and make it seem like pressure doesn’t affect me but…sometimes it’s hard,” she stated in her post.
Instead of pushing through it, she had the courage and the faith to rely on her teammates instead of her own abilities. Instead of going after the gold, she is firmly resting the fate of the competition in others who can lift her up. Instead of pushing through it, she is resting her career and future firmly in God’s hands. And this is the lesson we can take from her: Go after God instead of the gold.
Can we all just take a moment to thank God for Simone’s example? When the going gets tough, when the battle is bigger than herself, she hands herself wholly over to those who can lift her up and to God! She has been titled the best athlete in the world. The 24-year-old gymnast, who won four gold medals at the 2016 Rio Olympics also captured six medals at the 2018 World Gymnastics Championships in Doha, Qatar, and took on the title as a superhuman breaking several world records for a young, female, black athlete.
When the Going Gets Tough, The Tough Go After God
“You have given me your shield of victory; your help has made me great.” – 2 Samuel 22:36 NLT
Imagine being 24 and feeling the weight of the world on your shoulders. That kind of pressure is immeasurable even for a superhuman like Simone Biles who is a beast in the Olympic world. Right now, everyone is judging her for making a solid choice to step back instead of claiming her title as the world’s best champion. But the difference between Simone and those judging her actions is this: Instead of white knuckle gripping her way to the gold, Simone has faith that the competition and her future rests squarely in God’s hands. Her team went on to win the silver medal while Simone cheered them on from the sidelines.
In a world that condemns quitters and praises the tough, we fail to see the courage, resilience, and wisdom it takes to know when to step back and say, “I’m not okay but God’s got this.” And for this, Simone’s actions are worth her weight in gold.
She says, “I was taught that you can go to Him for anything and he’s the One that directs your life. She would always tell you if you don’t know, leave it up to God. Pray to Him about it.” And because of her faith in God, she made the tough decision to step back.
Did Simone Make the Right Decision?
Pain, struggles, trials, and difficulties will fill our lives no matter how much we prepare for them. Simone has been training for the Olympics her entire life. She specifically trained for this competition for the last couple of years and the path she is on is a loud declaration to all believers: life is hard. Things get tough. The unexpected will happen no matter how much you prepare for it.
If someone told you when you got saved that everything would be easy from now on and that you’d skip through life on flowery beds of ease, they lied. But we can remember this: tough times don’t last but God does. We can also remember the words of Paul, “…I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me (Philippians 4:11-13).
Paul’s aim here is the same as Simone’s: contentment, not achievement. Rather than envisioning all that he can accomplish, he is focused on his response to his circumstances, whether favorable or not. With that in mind, here are a few things to consider:
Both poverty and prosperity come with serious traps.
Poverty can leave us bitter if we aren’t careful to keep the right headspace.
Prosperity can trigger pride leaving us with a puffed-up sense of worth.
Either way, we’re in trouble if we fail to see our circumstances the way Paul did.
Had Paul applied this to Simone and the Olympics, he might have said, “After training my guts out and giving it my all, I can live with the results knowing I did my best and left it all to God. Regardless of the medal and world title that’s at stake, I can leave the outcome in God’s hands. Win or lose, I can express my faith and rely on my fellow teammates with love and respect—all because of the strength, courage, and wisdom I possess as a follower of Christ.”
Simone made the best decision, not only for herself but also for her team! She wasn’t lacking in strength, faith, or character. And where she was lacking, God met her there. Her motivation to step down wasn’t rooted in fear or because she was afraid of lacking in personal achievement. Instead, her decision to step down was rooted in the abundance of what Christ has already achieved through her—including her identity in Christ.
Go after God Instead of the Gold
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize (1 Corinthians 9:27-29).
Can we all just take a moment here to thank Simone for her bravery? Thank you for looking fear in the eye and telling it: “Not today. You will not take me down and you will not take down anyone else that is struggling mentally. You will not deem me weak when I have a God who is the author of my future.”
May we all go after God instead of the gold. May we all know that we will face tough times, but it’s how we handle them that makes all the difference because the world is watching.