If we’re being completely honest with ourselves, this life that we live can be ridiculously tough. It can seem less like the roller coaster people often compare it to—because roller coasters are actually always fun—and more like a knock-down, drag out fight, complete with blood, bruises and tears. Constantly taking hits and all sorts of punishment; mental, physical, emotional, you name it, those pains can and often do feel never ending for many of us. We see the scars. We see the opponent, the Enemy. We tense up, and start thinking about reacting; about fighting back.
Except in our fights, many times we aren’t the Ali or the Jordan, or even the Rocky Balboa, all of whom had the strength to take the puncher’s chance and make the fight…well, a fight.
No, often times we are like Anthony Bennett. Drafted first overall but swimming in a pool of mediocrity and never rising out of it. Or Reggie Strickland, who boxed from 1987 to 2005, who was a glorified tomato can (sports idiom for a fighter or athlete who is a “guaranteed win” for the arranging fighter, rife with crappy, poor skills in general). Or even me, who in high school as a varsity wrestler my freshman year, never won a single match to my credit. We feel like the losers more times than not, and life never gives us a fair shake; a fair shot at achieving our destinies.
Except that’s far from the truth. Naysayers, life, Satan—they all are hiding a secret from you that they’re afraid you’ll discover.
Take it from me who, as I said before, was a perennial loser growing up as a young kid. I wasn’t good at basketball—I got smoked every time I played! I was too small, too skinny, and not athletic enough. My father tried to move me into soccer and as it turns out, I can’t run and kick a ball at the same time. We moved on to baseball, and although I could run faster by then, I was never the “power hitter” or the big-time guy. And like I alluded to before, in high school I wasn’t a very good wrestler until my senior year. I was a tomato can, filling the win column for the other kid, and only by the time I was a senior did I learn how to be decent. Only then to succumb to a multitude of injuries that sidelined me for more than half of my matches.
I want to be even more real with you guys outside of athletics, too. Because feeling defeated goes far deeper than just trivial games and sports. As a young child in 5th grade, my sister was crossing a well-known highway intersection and was involved in a near-fatal car accident. I was coming out of my elementary school when my friend’s mother rushed to get me and said, “Come with me, Michael. You are going to stay at our house tonight.” As the drive to their home progressed, something felt off. I asked why I was going to their house when my mom was supposed to take me home and would be at our home. That’s when she dropped the news on me. I remember it so vividly, because that moment is the beginning to God defining my life, “Michael…I don’t know how to tell you this, but your sister got in a very bad car accident. She might die.”
Throughout constant hospital visits and my parents being understandably very emotionally shaken like they had never been in their life, while my sister laid in a comatose state with a 25% chance of living, God was calling me to grow up fast. I would feel new emotions of despair and a hint of rage, and call out in anger to empty air, “WHY ME!? WHAT DID I DO?” I was held back from rushing into the emergency ward, fighting with nurses, screaming in equal fits of seething fury and misunderstanding. I remember it all so well. It was horrible, awful, and to this day I consider it the definitive, life-changing, character sculpting, trans-formative part of my life.
And all the while, something was building. There was so much heat in my chest all the time, so much fire and wanting to lash out. Yet God, for the first time ever in my life, spoke to me and I knew it. It’s just a test, son. This is going to make you who you will be the rest of your life. I’m testing you.
I asked the voice in a quiet hospital room by myself, “What do you want me to do?”
The answer: What do YOU want to do for me?
My sister ended up surviving that ordeal after months in a comatose state in the hospital—brain hemorrhage be darned. I was the first, before my parents and even doctors, to witness her brain start to function again—for her to begin the coming to process. Long story short, it was a miracle, and I can vouch and say it was a miracle and that I was there first-hand. She functions now, walks, talks, everything. I asked her once, because I admire how she survived and her story, what she was thinking coming back from a coma and all the therapy and recovery.
Her response was simple. “I want to fight.”
The secret that naysayers, the world, and even the Devil himself don’t want you to acknowledge is this: resiliency is a skill we were all born with. Resiliency is a powerful character that is innate inside all of us—the only thing we need to realize is that we are in control of how we utilize it. Sometimes it takes something as daunting as a high magnitude event, like my sister’s car accident, to kick that drive to fight into gear. Other times it might be something a little less, like not getting the promotion at your job, or not getting that letter grade that you wanted. Either way, resiliency is what makes us stronger. It’s what builds us to new heights we would never have reached if we hadn’t gotten hit in the teeth and knocked down.
Why? Because what all the negative people don’t want you to realize is that setbacks are really set UPs for comebacks!
Rocky didn’t beat Ivan Drago by never taking a hit; he got absolutely manhandled and knocked down (his best friend even had to die in the ring)! The 2016 Chicago Cubs didn’t just cruise to the title this year. They had to face multiple scenarios of loss, outsiders doubting them, elimination games, and staring failure in the face over, and over again, before they could make one of the greatest comebacks in modern-day baseball.
So too, must we all understand and keep in mind that failures and setbacks build our need for resiliency! That same resiliency is what sets us up with the ability to do the improbable when outside forces would tell us otherwise! Only when we have a facedown with failure; when we see those scars heal and our skin become tougher, do we truly understand the potential and opportunity God has given us to not only better ourselves as individuals, but also to make “impossible” scenarios become beyond possible realities.
Utilize the resiliency within you. Learn from your setbacks and take joy in knowing that God is setting you up for a storybook comeback.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” –Joshua 1:9 (ESV)
Written by: Michael “Bboy Roach1” Roach