Shall we accept good from God and not trouble?
When everything’s going our way, life feels easy. We know what to do when all goes well. So, what happens when we’re faced with adversity - a loss, a health scare, financial strain, a pandemic? Most often, our initial reaction is panic. We revert back to what we know - worry, anger, tight-gripped control. Without practice and planning, we cannot expect that we will rise to the occasion when faced with a challenge. Yet, with a combination of faith and mental conditioning, we can learn to not only survive in the face of an obstacle, but to thrive.
LIFE CAN CHANGE IN AN INSTANT
For University of Tennessee cornerback Inky Johnson, September 9, 2006, started like any other game in Neyland Stadium. A projected top-thirty draft pick, circumstances changed for Inky when a routine tackle turned into a life-threatening injury. In an instant, Inky sustained a career-ending injury that paralyzed his right arm and hand, shattering his dream to play professional football in the NFL. Yet, Inky’s injury did not destroy his motivation or crush his spirit.
Through faith and divine intervention, Inky overcame an underprivileged past and defeat to learn that God has purposes and plans far beyond our own. Inky shares that he is often asked if he would change his circumstances. Unequivocally, he says that he would not. While his initial dreams of an NFL career ended, Inky found the silver lining in the storm of his injury. He has found a calling to use his situation to add value to people’s lives. After recovering from his injury, Inky returned to the University of Tennessee to complete his degree, ultimately earning a Master’s Degree in Sports Psychology. He now shares his message as a corporate speaker across the country. And, most important to him, is the strengthening faith that he and those he encounters have experienced because of Inky’s resiliency.
He says, “The one thing we all have in common is that we will encounter adversity, but we have to decide how we respond to it. My arm and my hand are paralyzed, but my heart isn’t, my mind isn’t, my dedication isn’t, my work ethic isn’t, my commitment isn’t.”
RESPONDING TO ADVERSITY
Your talent is God's gift to you. What you do with it is your gift back to God.
The bumps and bruises along the roads of life too often lead us, as adults, down a path of doubt or cynicism, leaving us feeling defeated. Indeed, we should not hold expectations of a clear or easy course to achieving our goals or dreams. But, if we walk with childlike faith (Mark 10:15), we may consider it pure joy whenever we face trials of many kinds, because the testing of faith produces perseverance (James 1:2-3).
Here, Inky Johnson shares his lessons learned for excelling in the midst of adversity.
Condition yourself to optimism. When troubles land at our doorsteps, the knee-jerk reaction is to focus on what we have lost or sacrificed. But, by turning the experience on its head, we can ask ourselves what we have learned and what we have gained.
Have the character to do what you said you would do. When Inky was injured and could no longer play football, he did not quit. His experience as a team member was not conditional on playing time; rather, being a part of the team and the University of Tennessee community was about staying true to his teammates and to his ultimate goal of earning a degree, as Inky views education as the great equalizer. We, too, must ask ourselves, “Can we be committed to the process, even if the outcomes are different than what we expect?”
Be accountable. There can be no excuses. “Who we run with determines the direction we run,” says Inky. We get what we give and how we treat people matters. Be a good person. Inky continues, “If you must choose between being kind or being right, choose to be kind, and you’ll always be right.”
Perspective drives performance. When we aim for the impossible, we may not reach perfection, but we will gain much along the way. There are no guarantees to be great. People are afraid to fail and will not try if they do not feel they will be successful. This is why it is crucial for schools like Mount Paran Christian School to begin early to instill a culture that views failure as an integral part of the learning process.
Your relationship with God is everlasting. Your faith journey is more important than any job, a hobby, a dream, or any relationship. It’s a relationship that will last an eternity. Never allow your identity to be tied up in what you do, whether it’s sports, a gift or talent, or a profession. For performers and athletes, especially, parents and students should remember that your sport or talent does not define you. Whether or not it takes you to the next level, lack of success does not equate to failure. The reason you play or perform is to glorify God. It's His purpose and work in you that defines you.
Inky reminds us that control is an illusion and that we must let go in faith, remaining grateful that God has His own plans. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
REMEMBER YOUR MISSION
Life can make us forget our mission. It causes burn out or leads us to underachieve. Adversity is an incredible tool, but we do not use it because it shows up in ways we never expect. So, we must ask ourselves, “What can adversity produce or correct?” We must determine, our we failing, or is God prevailing?
Inky Johnson is one of the most sought-after speakers in the world. For more than a decade, executives, professional sports teams, and business owners have benefited from the raw energy of Inky’s thought-provoking and inspirational presentations. Whether the topic is leadership, teamwork, excelling in the midst of adversity, embracing change, mental agility, or perseverance, Inky’s message is effective and profound. Inky is the host of Serendipity with Inky Johnson Podcast. He devotes time to mentoring athletes and underprivileged youth and is one of the founders of The Inky and Allison Johnson Foundation. His two children are students at Mount Paran Christian School.
Amber Irizarry is the communications content specialist for Mount Paran Christian School.
As part of our school mission to partner with home, Mount Paran Christian School is proud to offer opportunities throughout the year to guide parents through the challenges of raising children. Click here to learn more about the ParentEd. series, hosted by Mount Paran Christian School.