Quiet Strength - Faith lessons worth sharing

I have been reading a book for weeks now; Quiet Strength by Tony Dungy. When I pick it up, I have a hard time putting it down. But I am often reading more than one book at a time and sometimes I'll go days before I pick it back up again. Today I read and couldn't put it down. If you are a Christian but not a football fan, I still recommend this book. If you're a Christian AND a football fan, you must read this book. It is so good, so inspiring. I love to read about real people, real lives and real struggles. If you read it, you will find yourself loving Tony Dungy.

There were several quotes I read today that I wanted to share.

In one part of the book, Dungy is talking about having principles that we will not violate, and he says this:

"Change isn't always bad; we should always be learning and improving. But the change I was seeing involved principles, not procedures. To my way of thinking, that was bad."

A few pages later, he writes about being fired from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers organization. He didn't see it coming, in spite of rumors, because ownership had assured him he was their coach and his job was not in jeopardy. In the middle of a big disappointment in his life and career, a member of the front office staff said to him, "Coach, I just wanted to say that I've appreciated seeing your witness in light of the circus that is occurring all around." Without having a chance to reflect on his answer before he gave it, Dungy responded, "...there are times when I believe God welcomes the circus into our lives to give us an opportunity to show that there's another way to live and respond to things."

He went on to write, "Over the next couple of days, Lauren and I spent some time with our feet up and a lot of time on our knees. I didn't know why we were leaving the Bucs, but I knew God was closing this door for a reason...I believed we had done things God's way, or tried to, and He was moving us in another direction. My time with the Buccaneers had given me a tremendous following in the community and an ability to rally interest and enthusiasm around things that were important to me..." He was considering whether God might want him to leave football and work full time in prison ministry.

It was right on the heels of this that he was contacted by the Colts. Jim Irsay, owner of the Indianapolis Colts, had called and left a lengthy voice message for Tony, telling him, "...I want an organization -- and team -- that emphasizes character, values, and family, and I want it to extend out into the community in a meaningful way...You're the only person I want for this job..."

Dungy's life is a testimony of someone who has not been willing to compromise his faith, his principles, or his family in order to succeed. The year after he was let go, the Bucs won the Super Bowl. It was a painful experience personally, although he was happy for his old team's success. Of that time, he wrote, "A Super Bowl win with the Bucs would have been wonderful. I could have used that platform in a tremendous way. But I think my getting fired had an even greater impact. It's easy to be gracious when you're getting carried off the field in celebration. It's more difficult when you're asked to pack up your desk and your pass code doesn't work anymore. I think people look more closely at our actions in the rough times, when the emotions are raw and our guard is down. That's when our true character shows and we find out if our faith is real. If I'm going to call myself a Christian, I have to honor Jesus in the disappointments, too."

In spite of his faith, his integrity and his dedication to his family, his teenage son committed suicide. He writes, "For reasons that will never be fully known, Jamie had taken his own life." He spoke at his son's funeral about how we are to bless the Lord at all times. He quoted from Psalm 34, in which David wrote "I will bless the Lord, and praise for Him will always be in my mouth." He writes of telling the congregation of people that day, "David didn't write that at a time of triumph. He wrote it when he was on the run from Saul, fleeing for his life in desperation. Even so, he was able to say that he would constantly praise God and bless Him."

He wrote about the painful process this was for him and his wife. "We talked about the way this situation had forced us to practice what we preach. I had counseled so many players and others throughout the years, and now it was time to follow my own advice. These were certainly tough times, but our family couldn't quit living just because times were tough. Lauren and I knew our only option was to trust God and let Him lead us through the pain. Even though we didn't understand why Jamie had taken his life, our job was to persevere and continue to follow the Lord no matter what."

As he was working through his grief and trying to keep his trust in God, he wrote of his thoughts. "How ironic, I thought. Here I am, a spokesman for the All Pro Dad program, helping others be better parents, and my child took his own life. I figured this would wipe out any credibility I might have had."

And then he tells of the cards and letters that began to roll in. "Many who wrote were parents who had been there, who had felt the same pain, loss, grief, and hopelessness I was feeling. Parents who, like us, were retracing their every step, trying to figure out what went wrong and what they could have done differently. I could tell their letters had been written from the deepest parts of very scarred hearts...According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, over the last four decades suicide rates have tripled for young men and doubled for young women. In 2005, 17 percent of high school kids seriously considered suicide. These kids don't necessarily have bad parents. Their thoughts of suicide can't all be explained. Bad things happen in life. Depression happens. All kids are susceptible...No one is immune."

People often ask Lauren and me how we made it through something like the death of our son. Everyone is different, but for me, focusing on the things I knew to be true helped me find the path to recovery. First, I focused on my faith. Two years earlier, former Tampa Bay quarterback Trent Dilfer's five-year-old son, Trevin, had died. I clearly remember calling Trent and telling him that we were praying for him and that I appreciated his witness and the strength of his faith. Trent and I had been through a lot of ups and downs together, and when Trevin died, Trent was such an encouragement to me. I told him I was certain I wouldn't be able to handle the death of a child with the kind of grace and courage Trent had shown. His answer was immediate and direct.

"You could, Coach, if you had to. The Lord will give you the strength at that time to go through it, because you can't do it alone."

When Jamie died, I realized that Trent had been right. God's strength is sufficient. I would need to continue to rely on God's strength in the days, weeks, and months to follow. As Trent had done for me, I wanted to pass this encouragement on to someone else who might need it someday.

Moreover, I had always said that football was my job but that it was not the most important thing in my life. Jamie's death had reinforced that. Now I would learn if my faith and my ideals would hold up when put to the test. Over the years, many of my players had faced tragedies -- their parents or siblings had died, or they were grieving over miscarriages or caring for sick children.

I had always said that trusting in the Lord was the answer. Now, facing my own tragedy, I knew I needed to accept the truth that God's love and power were sufficient. If I really believed it, I needed to use this personal and painful time to validate that belief. God would work for the good of those who love Him, even if we didn't understand how He was going to do it.

I so love and identify with this last paragraph:

"Why do bad things happen? I don't know. Why did Jamie die? I don't know. But I do know that God has the answers, I know He loves me, and I know He has a plan -- whether it makes sense to me or not. Rather than asking why, I'm asking what. What can I learn from this? What can I do for God's glory and to help others?"

Sometimes we go through things and instead of trying to figure out how we can learn and grow and glorify Him, we vent at God about how unfair our circumstances are. We don't always recognize it for the spirit of entitlement that it is. We are in essence telling God He owes us something more than He has given us. I pray that through God's grace and mercy, I will never have that attitude toward Him no matter what He allows me to go through. God has shown me mercy instead of wrath. He has sent His Son to die for me. He's promised that nothing can separate me from His love if I am in Christ. There will be times in our lives when Jesus is all we have. But we must remember that Jesus is all we truly need. If you are in need of encouragement in this area, read Tony's book. I promise that you will be inspired to trust God.


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