October 22, 2013


side·line  (noun)

1. sports a. A line along either of the two sides of a playing court or field, marking its limits. b. sidelines The space outside such limits, occupied by coaches, inactive players, and spectators.

2. sidelines The position or point of view of those who observe rather than participate in an activity.1

I like to use this term to define seasons in life when you feel as though you’re out of the game. Maybe it is because of an illness or injury; maybe unemployment, depression or grief, or anything else that makes you slow down, sit down, watch, and wait. Over my time in the mission field I’ve dealt with some issues and learned that sidelines are not where I like to be. And here’s what I’ve learned:

1. Accept it. You can spend the whole game asking the Coach why He pulled you out, but He may not tell you right away. Save yourself the time and energy, and learn to trust Him.

31 12. Rest. Take some time to let your mind and body slow its pace. Usually you don’t see the sidelines coming, so you can’t prepare yourself for the sudden halt from 90 to 0 miles per hour. Let your mind and heart take some time to catch up with reality. Give yourself permission to be still for a while.

3. Be thankful. As long as there is life and the hope of heaven, there is something to be thankful for. You can always start with “it could be worse” scenarios, but ask God to train your eyes to see what you actually have to be thankful for.

4. Encourage your team. Those you know who are still in the game are frustrated at times too—getting beat up on the field, exhausted, and not scoring well. They can use an encouraging word, a laugh, or just a cold cup of water from the sidelines.

5. Be a secret weapon. Pray. If you have time to sit on the sidelines, praying is one of the best things you can do. When you pray, it’s like sending in a backup team of invincible players onto the field. More battles are won through prayer than through human effort.

6. Get to know the Coach. You have lots of time to talk to Him, to watch how He works, to hear His encouragement to you, and to let Him heal your wounds before He sends you back into the game.  

7. Keep your uniform on. You are not forgotten by your Coach. You are a valuable part of the team—whether you’re on the benches or on the court. Stay invested, keep praying, do what you can, and watch for the signal to jump back in. And when you do, remember to encourage others still on the sidelines themselves.

“Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus” (1 Thess. 5:16-18, NLT).2

  1. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, fourth edition, copyright © 2000.
  2.  Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.