Fellowship of Christian Athletes Staffer Shares His Experience with an Athletic Season Cut Short—and Realizes Now That God Had a Different Story Written for Him
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — In “normal” circumstances, coaches and athletes everywhere would have been preparing for the end of spring sports seasons, possibly training extra hard for playoffs, tournaments and invitationals, and getting ready for celebratory team banquets.
But all of that has gone by the wayside because of the coronavirus pandemic. Seasons were abruptly cut short, and young athletes are facing disappointments as their hopes and dreams are dashed.
The Fellowship of Christian Athletes acknowledges that many coaches and athletes are facing challenges in today’s sports world. Danny Burns, Senior Director of Technology Integration at FCA’s Support Center in Kansas City, Missouri, knows exactly how they feel.
Burns helped lead the Northwest Missouri State Huddle as a varsity distance runner until 2004. Graduating from Calvary Theological Seminary in 2010, he’s one of the pastors at the Avenue Church in Kansas City and has a passion to see the Gospel transform lives.
“As a coach or athlete who spent their entire career preparing for this year, the canceling or suspending of the 2020 athletic season can be a dark time,” Burns shared with the FCA community. “Coaches concluding their career or chasing the elusive championship, senior athletes hopeful to be in front of scouts or simply finishing well in the sport or on the team they love. But unprecedented moments like these can squeeze our faith. We are confronted with a wide range of feelings and emotions. As Christian coaches and athletes what are we to do?”
Burns reminded these coaches and athletes of the Bible verse Philippians 1:6: “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” On the FCA website, Burns also recently shared three ways coaches and athletes can deal with “A Season Deferred.”
1. Wrestle With God
The Psalms are filled with those who cry out to God in desperation, frustration, doubt and anger (Psalm 13:1-6, Psalm 35:17-18, Psalm 42:9-11).
“Our God is big enough to take it,” Burns says. “He can handle it. So talk to Him. Then notice in each of these passages that the writer concludes by praising God. As we reflect on who God is, all that He has done for us up to this season, our talents and skills, His never-ending grace and love, may we find comfort in this heavenly perspective.”
2. Evaluate Our Identity
“When I was a NCAA Division II distance runner, I was faced with a season-ending knee injury,” Burns recalls. “Prior to the start of that season, I had spent the entire summer training harder than I ever had before. It paid off—I entered that year in the best shape of my life. In a few short weeks however, I was done. That season-ending injury would turn out to be the end of my college career, as I was never able to compete at the same level.”
During that time, Burns said, the Lord showed him that he was more than his sport.
“I was more than that spot on the roster, the scholarship, the gear, the reputation and the stats,” he said. “My athletic career was what I did, it wasn’t who I was. And as I heard from Him about my identity in Jesus, the range of emotions and feelings quieted, and I became confident in who I was and where I was going—even though I couldn’t yet see the destination.”
3. Find True Hope
With seasons in limbo and athletic futures uncertain, coaches and athletes eventually need to turn their hope to the “author and perfecter” of their faith, Jesus Christ—as difficult as that may seem.
“Don’t forget how you got here and what He’s done,” Burns said. “Then grow in confidence that what He’s done, He will continue to do. You may not see it now. You may not be able to imagine it yet. But the God who saved you is the same God who will provide for you now and until you see Him face to face.”
Burns added that, looking back, with his own collegiate career over, the journey the Lord had for him was one he couldn’t have written for himself.
“And I’m glad I didn’t,” he said. “I was able to become a chaplain to my teammates and go on to minister to other athletes from a variety of sports. I was given the privilege of serving coaches and athletes through my various roles at FCA. And over the past 15 years, the blessings from the Lord are too many to name. May you find true hope in this season deferred. He’s got you. He’s got this. He always has and He always will.”
Earlier this spring, FCA introduced FCA Virtual, an online and social media initiative to rally coaches, athletes and staff around the incredible stories of what God is doing through virtual FCA ministry.
FCA Virtual is a space to gather ideas about how to engage teams and Huddles in online spiritual growth and to look for ways to serve and connect in this time of limited social interaction. FCA hopes coaches and athletes will be encouraged by what God is doing around the world through the virtual avenue. FCA Virtual will also help coaches, athletes and teams to keep up with evolving ministry and training events in the field, as they unify leaders around a common rallying cry during a time of increased isolation. Learn more at FCA.org/Virtual.