Last week I posted a warning on the dangers of elevating Olympic athletes to a god-like status (you can read that article here). A few days later I read the tragic news of a young New Zealand cyclist who took her life, a day after the closing ceremony in Tokyo. This very capable individual had competed in Rio but for some reason wasn’t picked for the team. She had recently posted on social media about the pressures of elite-level sports. It doesn’t take much to put two and two together. It appears that it was all too much to bear.
Now the nation mourns for her. And so do I. When the pressure to perform (or the desire to achieve) becomes so great that life is not worth living, then something is terribly wrong. Just as life does not consist of the things we possess, nor does it consist of the people we please, the achievements we make, or the medals we attain.
It was in the course of mulling over these things that I came across Psalm 100:
Let the whole earth shout triumphantly to the Lord!
Serve the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Acknowledge that the Lord is God.
He made us, and we are his,—
his people, the sheep of his pasture. (Psalm 100:1–3)
One line came into sharp focus that I had not noticed before:
He made us, and we are his.
We are creatures; we are not gods.
We were made by God; we did not make ourselves.
We are finite; we are not infinite.
We are mortal; we are not immortal.
We are temporal; we are not eternal.
We are not God; we belong to God.
We are HIS.
The only way to understand a tragedy like this is to understand it theologically. That is, through the lens of divine revelation. Human studies – anthropology and psychology and psychotherapy provide no answers.
Sin caused us to seek god-like status independent of God. Instead of ruling and reigning over creation under his guidance, provision and care, we sought to rule and reign without him. The result in our world is evident – conflict, chaos, and confusion; disharmony and disorder in human relationships and disorientation in ourselves.
Jesus came to restore us to our God-given identity and purpose. By way of his death and resurrection, we regain what was lost at the fall. The broken pieces of the Imago Dei are put back together. Jesus invites us to abandon our little kingdoms to be part of his eternal kingdom. There we will rule and reign and priests and kings the way God intended it (Revelation 5:10; 22:1-5). And we will understand ourselves as we truly are.
I wonder how different things might have been for that athlete who came to the end of herself if she would have known this. I know that there are many people who struggle with mental health. We live in a broken world and Christians are not immune to this. But knowing who we really are, why we are here, and where it’s all heading does make a difference. It gives us life and hope.
Kevin Black posted a great little article on this very Psalm. His words ministered to me personally. I think they serve as a fitting end to what I’m trying to say:
Today, we still try to play the role of God. And this is a tiresome, possibly deadly pursuit.
But here’s where Psalm 100:3 points us: God is God … He made us We are His …and we are under His care. I forget this. I neglect this. I rebel against this. In a thousand ways, I tend to Lord over my own little universe, and my reward is fear, apathy, anxiety, discontentment, and the deadly pride to think I’m better off self-dependent.
But God—in His tender care— graciously reminds me here that it’s best for me to be subject to Him, to operate under His care, to look to Him alone for all my needs, to acknowledge HIS Lordship and embrace my position as God-dependent. We know that fruitful life and ministry come only through Christ-dependency (John 15:5).
So today, let’s take some soul-level rest knowing that the Lord, He is God. Let’s look to our shepherd, Jesus Christ, for all our needs like a sheep would because we belong to Him.