Hope When Health Fails

John Olerud is an all-star first baseman for the Seattle Mariners, earning two Gold Glove Awards. He's played in three World Series, two with Toronto and one with the New York Mets. Olerud nearly died from a brain aneurysm while in college, and his 2-year-old daughter was born with a birth defect that has prevented her from walking. He recently talked with sportswriter Gail Wood about the hardships Christians can face.

Question: You were holding your daughter while nurses worked on her in the hospital. Talk about how that reminded you of a Christian's relationship with God.

OLERUD: I think the thing that jumped out to me is sometimes we have questions about why we're going through things. We ask, "Why are we suffering and why are things going like this?" My daughter was getting poked. Here she was in what she'd thought were safe hands. And I'm letting them poke her. I think a lot of times as Christians we think, God, what is going on? If You're there, why are You letting me get poked? For me, I was looking down at my daughter, saying, "You need to get these antibodies and you need to get all these fluids in you." That's what was best for her. I knew there was no reason to explain because she wasn't going to understand anyway. That hit home. During our sufferings, our trials, we're praying the same way: "Lord, I don't understand what's going on. Do something about this." And I'm sure He's up there saying, "Love to explain it to you, but you wouldn't understand. This is just something you have to do. Trust Me."

Question: So, being a Christian doesn't mean saying goodbye to problems?

OLERUD: Absolutely not. That's how we're made mature and complete. The Book of James has been a big help for me. God uses trials to make us more mature and complete. That's part of our growing. Ultimately, there is going to be prosperity when we get to heaven. It's going to be unbelievable. But in this life, if you're thinking you're going to get everything you want in life you're going to sour on Christianity because there are going to be trials. If you think it's nothing but good times and blessings, you're going to come up saying, "This Christianity thing isn't true because I'm getting hammered here."

Question: Did your aneurysm change your perspective on life?

OLERUD: Definitely. I realized I'm not in control of things as much as I thought I was.

Question: Do you think your recovery from your aneurysm was miraculous?

OLERUD: I think the whole thing was miraculous. It was miraculous that the aneurysm leaked just enough where I had a grand mall seizure that sent me to the hospital. They searched for a problem, couldn't find it and sent me back to school. Just before I got back to exercising and running, my dad (who is a doctor) calls me back to the University of Washington for more study. They found the aneurysm; they did the surgery. It was a lower-risk surgery because I had a month to heal (from the aneurysm) and get stronger. Everything went smoothly. I was back playing baseball in a couple of weeks. I didn't have to go through rehab, learning to walk and talk like so many other people do. I think it's definitely a miracle.

Question: How's your Christian walk?

OLERUD: It's an ongoing process. Christ is going to be working on me. He's the One who is going to do the perfecting. Not me. That's a good thing.

"Reprinted by permission of the Pentecostal Evangel."

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