January 2 – 10, 1982 was an extraordinary eight-day stretch for the San Diego Chargers. On January 2, the NFL team survived what would come to be known as “The Epic in Miami.” With temperatures around 80 degrees combined with oppressive humidity, both teams were battling heat exhaustion and dehydration as much as they were each other. To make matters worse, the game was not decided until nearly a full quarter of overtime had been played. The Chargers prevailed over the Dolphins, 41-38. That earned them a trip to Cincinnati to face the Bengals for the right to play in the Super Bowl. Talk about extremes.
That game would become known as the “Freezer Bowl.” Eight days after surviving stifling heat, the Chargers faced an air temperature of -9, and a wind chill of nearly 60 below zero. That is a differential of about 140 degrees from what they faced in Miami. Perhaps not fully recovered from the rigors of the previous week’s game, the Chargers fell to the Bengals 27-7.
NFL players know what game conditions can be like in January. They are coached and trained to be prepared for challenging conditions (although what the Chargers faced in consecutive weeks might be unique). We often live life as if we have the same benefit of preparation for unexpected extreme conditions. If we survive an “epic,” we tend to give the credit to ourselves. We also tend to be sky high after such a victory. If it is followed by a painful loss, as was the case with the Bengals, we can crash to dangerous emotional lows. The Apostle Paul warned about these highs and lows:
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:12-13 (NIV)
There is a lot to unpack in those two verses. First, Paul is warning that periods of plenty can be just as dangerous as periods of want in our lives. He is saying that our contentment should be consistent, regardless of how extreme the changes in our circumstances might be. Otherwise, life will be a series of highs and lows. Many people have experienced those emotional extremes in the months since the pandemic has changed our lives. Paul’s remedy for this danger is verse 13: “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.” This could be one of the most misinterpreted verses in the Bible.
Paul is not saying accepting Christ makes us Superman and that we can accomplish any feat. He is saying Jesus gives us the strength to be content in any circumstance because we are seeing life from God’s point of view. Whatever our circumstances, we can have the joy, peace and contentment Jesus promises. It is the strength to endure the hardship, not a promise to take the challenge away or give us everything we want. Like the Chargers, He gives us what we need to survive, even if we don’t prevail on the scoreboard of life at that moment.
We never know the future, but nothing seems certain anymore. Many schools are not opening this week and many high school and college football seasons will not happen this fall. Just as the Chargers could not have known the extremes they would face in the span of a week, neither do we. Most of us do not have coaches and trainers to help us face the extremes in our lives. What we do have is Jesus. And that’s enough to endure the extremes of politics, public policy and pandemic we most likely will face for the foreseeable future. And we can trust that God will give us what we need, not what we want. And then we indeed can do all things through Him who gives us strength.
This post is republished with permission from Oakbrook Church, De Pere, WI.