James 4: 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.
I recall professional sport seasons being cancelled, usually because of union disputes. To name a few, there was the MLB strike of 1994 which cancelled the entire post-season and World Series (that one hurt as a Montreal Expos fan since they were favored to win it all). In 2011 there was the NFL lockout, then the NBA lockout. Similar stoppages in play happened in most other professional leagues. My memories during those times were a bunch of TV networks trying to figure out how to fill the airtime usually designated for games. TV analysts became collective bargaining experts or forced to cover obscure or off-season sports.
COVID-19, however, is something much different and unprecedented, as every sporting league from minor sports to professional, and around the world, has been postponed or cancelled. Obviously the first concern is saving lives and all the cancellations are prudent and wise, but they bring with them so much uncertainty. Hundreds of thousands of student athletes have been sent home, many in their senior year, having lost the opportunity to compete for a final time at the highest collegiate level. We flew our youngest son back in one day from Houston to Toronto as they began talking about shutting down borders. He, like so many others, is left with so many questions, especially at the end of March 2020, where the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is still planning on holding the Tokyo Olympics! “How do I qualify if I can’t even compete at NCAA’s this year, or anywhere else in the world?” “How do I train with every gym and recreation facility closed, and with instructions to self-isolate? “What am I doing next year?” Athletes, coaches, administrators, parents and others are asking very similar questions. What do we do now?
While times like this can be extremely challenging, they can also provide very healthy changes in how we look at life. Approximately 2000 years ago, James provided some great wisdom pertaining to the future:
13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. 17 If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them. James 4: 13-17
Prior to now, I think we all had a difficult time truly understanding the meaning of “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow”. Athletes and coaches usually have a good idea of what is happening tomorrow, the following week and next term. We’ll start our first competition in Azusa, CA in mid April, we’ll do a couple small meets then we have conference championships, regionals and then the championships. Here’s your training schedule for the week. Let’s do it! And there is nothing wrong with that; it is wise and prudent to have such plans, but times like this remind us that we may hold on to our plans a little too tightly.
I do not believe that the above scripture from James means that Christians must preface every sentence with: “If it is the Lord’s will…”, but we certainly must have that attitude. Our lives must be prefaced with that phrase. We must hold on to everything with an open hand and invite God to do with it as he wishes. If we make our plans without consulting God we are, as James said, boasting in our “arrogant schemes”. Turn to God in these turbulent times. Be wise; don’t operate in fear; offer up all your plans to God.