Josh Lindblom is a 34-year-old pitcher in the Milwaukee Brewers organization, splitting time between Milwaukee and Triple-A Nashville. Drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the second round of the 2008 MLB Draft, he made his MLB debut in 2011, then played for the Philadelphia, Texas, Oakland and Pittsburgh organizations, and also five seasons in Korea, before signing with Milwaukee in December 2019. He recently completed one master’s degree and is pursuing a second. As he balances baseball, school and family, he also pursues his relationship with Christ, and is periodically writing about sports and faith for Sports Spectrum.
As athletes — no matter what level — the only thing that is certain is uncertainty. Worry can creep into our minds and flood our thoughts, feelings and actions. I am no stranger to these feelings, and when I am feeling anxious, I turn to one place — the Book of Psalms. The Psalms contain the entire range of human emotion. The psalmists have experienced the heights of hope and the depths of despair. The Psalms are not disconnected from reality. The psalmists know the “valley of the shadow of darkness” is a real place (Psalm 23), and do not think anxiety and fear are to be ignored, but engaged and brought to the Creator of the world. The Psalms were also my partner through the darkest time of my life.
“As the deer pants for water, so I long for you, O God. I thirst for God, the living God. Where can I find him to come and stand before him?” — Psalm 42:1-2 (TLB)
I remember the day vividly. I was sitting in the NICU with my wife, Aurielle, and asked, “What if everything isn’t OK?” For this to make sense, you need the backstory. In July of 2016, while I was playing in South Korea, doctors diagnosed our daughter, Monroe, with a congenital heart defect. She would need to undergo multiple heart surgeries. I had just landed in the United States after what had been the worst statistical season of my career, and two areas of my life — family and profession — were on a collision course. Uncertainty and anxiety crept in. What if our worst nightmares came true? What if I didn’t have a job the next season?
“Day and night I weep for his help, and all the while my enemies taunt me. ‘Where is this God of yours?’ they scoff. Take courage, my soul! Do you remember those times (but how could you ever forget them!) when you led a great procession to the Temple on festival days, singing with joy, praising the Lord? Why then be so downcast? Why be discouraged and sad? Hope in God! I shall yet praise him again. Yes, I shall again praise him for his help.” — Psalm 42:3-5 (TLB)
I think I cried myself to sleep for three months — if I even slept at all. The enemies were not external but internal. I asked God every question imaginable: “If You are real, how could You let this happen? Where are You? Why are You not near now, when I need you the most?” I experienced the entire range of emotions, just like the Psalmists do.
“Yet I am standing here depressed and gloomy, but I will meditate upon your kindness … All your waves and billows have gone over me, and floods of sorrow pour upon me like a thundering cataract.” — Psalm 42:6-7 (TLB)
“Discouragement waits for us around every corner. Even though the walk through the valley is frightening, we have a Shepherd who never leaves our side.”
People really weren’t helpful either, and at times they felt like enemies — like Job’s friends. I needed more than sentimental statements. I didn’t want Bible verses. I didn’t want to hear that God had a plan because, if I am being honest, I thought His plan stunk. I was in a dark pit and what I needed most was someone to jump in the pit with me.
“Yet day by day the Lord also pours out his steadfast love upon me, and through the night I sing his songs and pray to God who gives me life.” — Psalm 42:8 (TLB)
I know what you are expecting — you are expecting me to say that person was Jesus who was with me. Well, it was and it wasn’t. It was Jesus’ presence through a teammate. I remember the exact moment: I got on the bus, looked him in the eyes and broke down. He said nothing but just wrapped his arms around me. That is a moment I will never forget. For the first time, I knew I wasn’t alone in the darkness. It was little moments like these that carried me through the valley of shadows and darkness.
“‘O God my Rock … why have you forsaken me? Why must I suffer these attacks from my enemies? Their taunts pierce me like a fatal wound; again and again they scoff, ‘Where is that God of yours?'” — Psalm 42:9-10 (TLB)
Back in the NICU, just hours before our daughter’s surgery, the enemies began their taunt. They were relentless. As my wife and I waited for the team of doctors to come get Monroe, we also waited for God. Maybe a last-second miracle. Maybe God would throw a Hail Mary. Maybe a walk-off home run when we were down to our final out. Maybe a buzzer-beater. But nothing happened — until something did.
“But, O my soul, don’t be discouraged. Don’t be upset. Expect God to act!” — Psalm 42:11c (TLB)
Monroe made it through her heart surgery, and later a second, and is now as spunky and energetic as ever. Her story just goes to show no part of our lives or careers is exempt from uncertainty. The majority of my athletic career has been an expedition through the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Many of you reading may feel the same way. Whether it be a poor performance or a horrible season, the uncertainty of making a team or having a job the next year, a child in the NICU or a tragic phone call from home, discouragement waits for us around every corner. Even though the walk through the valley is frightening, we have a Shepherd who never leaves our side.
“For I know that I shall again have plenty of reason to praise him for all that he will do. He is my help! He is my God!” — Psalm 42:11d (TLB)
As I prepared this post, I began to wonder why I write. I write because — looking back on everything I have been through, the highs and the lows — I have never been alone. I write because I know what it feels like to walk through darkness. I write because grief, sadness and despair don’t play fair or follow a process. I write because people in my life have been God’s presence for me, and now I know I need to be that presence for others. I write because everyone has a story of God’s faithfulness that needs to be told.
— Pitcher Josh Lindblom on spiritual growth: ‘We are never refined in isolation’
— THE INCREASE: The Infinite Value In Every Human Being – Josh Lindblom
— Dansby Swanson helps hometown Braves win World Series: ‘God’s blessed me so much’