I just wrapped up the worst season of soccer I've ever been a part of. My team, the 2018 Washington Spirit finished second-to-last in the NWSL (The Women's Pro Soccer League in the U.S.) with a record of 2-17-5. There’s no sugarcoating our lack of success – we won two games in a 24 game season – and it is our job to win!
It was a challenging season spiritually and emotionally. After every loss I'd ask the Lord, “What are you doing here Lord?” The losses continued despite my best efforts and willpower. After a crushing 0-4 defeat I was ready to pack my bags and go home. “This is not what I signed up for when I joined the Washington Spirit,” I thought.
Thankfully I am not the author of my story. In fact, my story is God’s story for me. My circumstances were definitely not what I'd hoped for, but that didn't mean God wasn't in control or loved me any less. I found guidance on how to navigate my disappointment in the book of 1 Thessalonians. The writer, Paul, challenges the church to continue flourishing despite persecution in Thessalonica. He gives them these final instructions as he wraps up his letter:
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)
This verse began to change my perspective in this difficult season of my life. I want to break this verse down with you and talk to you about how each part of this verse took my eyes off of my circumstances and onto the Lord.
1. Rejoice always
This seemed somewhat delusional in the midst of an incredibly disappointing season. What could I possibly rejoice about? I was wildly unsuccessful according to the world's standards, but not to God. He doesn't care about my losses – He cares about my soul. What does this look like practically? It meant going to every training with my head held high, loving my teammates well, and living life to a different tune. If you can rejoice when the world tells you not to, that's when you know you're starting to look like Jesus and be a part of his counter-cultural Kingdom. This isn't easy and oftentimes defies logic, which means we need God's help.
2. Pray continually
My prayers during this time were primarily filled with questions. I was trying to listen for God’s voice through His Word, stillness, my teammates, and my church community. I would ask God questions like, “What are you doing in my life right now? How can I partner with you? What do you want of me? I don't want to miss anything you're doing.” This dialogue helped me to approach my life one day at a time and to not be overwhelmed by an overarching sense of failure.
3. Give thanks in all circumstances
I have learned that prayer humbles you before your Creator. The God of the universe hand-picked every member of the 2018 Washington Spirit and knew how our season would go before the beginning of time. And he chose me to be a part of it! At times it was tough to embrace this part of His story for me. Life is not always going to go as you expect or hope, but we are commanded to be thankful for EVERY situation we find ourselves in. Not just what we deem as good, but also the bad and downright ugly.
What strikes me is that we are commanded to rejoice, pray, and be thankful at ALL times, and that this is God’s will for us! This leaves no room to mope, complain, or be jealous of another. To walk in God’s will is to: rejoice, pray and be thankful. God may not give us what we want, but He always gives us what we need. I'd rather have that.
Aubrey is a professional soccer player for the Washington Spirit. In her first year with the team she set a new league record with 108 saves in a season. She began her professional career after graduating from Wake Forest University in 2014 and the past 4 years have taken her to Norway, Denmark, Australia, and three different teams in the U.S. She is passionate about loving her teammates, traveling, baking, and is very close to her family.