“You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” (Genesis 50:20)
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) (ESV)
Sometimes there is something in a tragedy that transcends the moment – that alters the trajectory of an event – that captures challenges the zeitgeist in a way that can be transformative. We live in the ‘Age of Crises.’ The Economic Crisis, Vaccine Crisis, a looming Food Crisis, an Energy Crisis….and more. And there was this football game, big game by NFL standards that had barely begun and a banal ordinary play occurred – a reception by Tee Higgins of the Cincinnati Bengals then tackled by Buffalo Bills Safety Damar Hamlin that turned into one of those moments that helps us define what is really important in life. The 24-year-old Hamlin took a helmet to the chest. He sprang up, then seconds later fell backward – completely out. And in that moment, everyone knew there was something terribly wrong. Players from both teams began yelling desperately for the medical staff. His uniform was cut off of him. He was administered CPR for about 9 minutes. And then a defibrillator was used. He needed to be resuscitated twice. At this writing he remains unconscious, in critical condition. And therein lies the tragedy.
We’ll talk about what the causes might be. But the immediate effect was that it united not just the two teams, not just the two fan bases – but in some ways a large portion of America – in PRAYER. Players from both teams immediately surrounded their fallen comrade, driven to their knees praying for Damar. The two quarterbacks, Josh Allen & Joe Burrow embraced. Players were distraught and crying. This was family. Dan Orlovsky, an ESPN analyst broke script and led fellow commentators and audience in an on-air prayer. “God we come to you in these moments that we don’t understand, that are hard, because we believe that You’re God and coming to You and praying to You has impact. We’re sad, we’re angry, we want answers, but some things are unanswerable. We just want to pray, truly come to You and pray for strength for Damar, for healing for Damar, for comfort for Damar. Be with his family to give them peace. If we didn’t believe that prayer worked, we wouldn’t ask this of You, God. I believe in prayer, we believe in prayer, and we lift up Damar Hamlin’s name in Your name, Amen.” In the midst of the tragedy we are watching God move. Damar Hamlin’s charity, a toy drive hoping to raise $2,500 was blitzed by givers, and has raised over $4 million. It’s a small step but a needed first one. Tragedy is uniting America in prayer for Damar. Lord, let that be the first step toward a seeking of your face, the first step toward national repentance. We need you Jesus because we cannot face the many crises we are facing without you. And perhaps, this distraction….this diversion…..has communicated to us that wisdom. Let us pray that this is a turning point!
As this went to press, the Bills announced that Hamlin was showing “remarkable improvement” and that he appears to be “neurologically intact.” His teammate Kaiir Elam tweeted out this message on Wednesday morning.