As we head into the final week of the NFL regular season, America is buoyed by the heartening news of Damar Hamlin’s return to the Buffalo Bills. Still listed in critical condition and in the intensive care unit of the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, doctors say that the safety of the star is “neurologically intact” and shows “remarkable progress.”
Hamlin’s shocking collapse on Monday Night Football, along with an unprecedented outpouring of love, support and even public prayers for the 24-year-old, shocked the nation. In fact, when was the last time you saw a sports analyst, along with his colleagues at ESPN, bow their heads and call upon the Lord in prayer?
First, let’s be clear. Prayer can make a difference. With the healing of Damar Hamlin, I believe we saw that God answered prayer in real time.
But why is an increasingly secular nation, where faith and prayer are often mocked and mocked, suddenly turning their collective eyes to God? What happened?
Cynics may chalk this week up to raw emotion, but I think there’s something deeper and more important going on. Although many may not say it, there is a spiritual hunger in America – and it manifests itself in various ways, but especially in times of crisis.
The shocking scene of Damar Hamlin’s cardiac arrest and then limp body lying on a football field Monday night was a harsh, but instructive, reminder that life is fragile — and we are fragile. When an athlete in his life almost dies playing a game of football, we are reminded that we are all living on borrowed time. Crisis and disaster cause us to cut through the fog and steam of life. It forces us to focus on what matters most.
For many of us, Damar Hamlin represents the hopes and dreams we have for the next generation. He is a young man who sees his life and his work as a matter of divine calling. He has a purpose. He has goals. Speaking of the platform God has given him to give back to his community through his charity work, he recently said, “I feel like God is speaking to me. I really feel that is my purpose. That’s why He put me here.”
Do you know why God put it? you here? Not far from Cincinnati’s Paycor Stadium where the football star collapsed, there were many men and women Hamlin’s age desperate for purpose, many struggling with lives of addiction, violence, and despair. In fact, a report last fall found that violent crime among Cincinnati teenagers was at a twenty-year high.
Most of these individuals in Cincinnati, Buffalo and every other city come from broken homes, and most have no father in their lives. Damar Hamlin defied the odds. His parents, Nina and Mario, gave birth to him when they were teenagers. Mario was imprisoned for three years for selling drugs, but the family stayed.
“We’ve weathered every storm from hell and back as a family,” Damar wrote of his father on Instagram in June. “Our story is not to be ashamed of because it made us who we are. Happy Father’s Day pops. You taught me a lot in life but the thing that will stay with me is to sacrifice for the people you love. Whatever is needed for the family. “
Damar Hamlin almost lost his life and that platform last Monday night, and America was stunned. We should have. There are few things more depressing or sad than seeing so much promise suddenly dashed. But do we have a similar burden for men and women like Damar who are outside the spotlight, struggling to survive, hopeless, bankrupt of dreams and purpose?
Much has been made this past week about the violent aspects of football. League officials are always looking for ways to make the game safer, and that’s a good thing. But the core issue is not the violence in the field – it is the violence in it, including the degradation and cultural challenges caused by the breakdown of the family and America’s abandonment of its spiritual core. Historically, faith and family have been the foundation of our nation’s strength – and it remains the way forward.
Let’s continue to pray for Damar Hamlin, and may this difficult moment not be wasted, but instead be used to turn hearts and minds to the Great Healer who loves and cares for Damar, you and me.
This article was originally published on Fox News.