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Navy linebacker Paul Carothers finds ultimate joy in Christ through tragedy

Starting linebacker Paul Carothers’ career with the Navy Midshipmen couldn’t end on a much happier note.

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Carothers is a senior and a captain on this Navy team, which steamrolled archrival Army, 31-7, in Philadelphia last Saturday in the teams’ annual rivalry showcase. It was Navy’s first win over Army since 2015, and the victory gave Navy 10 on the season and vaults the Midshipmen to No. 23 in the country.

For Carothers, Saturday was the first time in four attempts that he experienced a victory in the storied rivalry. Now, Carothers will end his college career in the Liberty Bowl, where the Midshipmen will play Kansas State on New Year’s Eve.

A lot is going right in Carothers’ life.

On the field, Carothers has paired the team success with some success of his own. He became a starting linebacker in his fourth game this season, in which he recorded 12 total tackles. Throughout his senior season, Carothers has posted 55 total tackles and four sacks. He had garnered enough respect around the locker room that his teammates selected him to be a 2019 captain prior to the season, before he had ever started a game.

Off the field, Carothers is expected to be commissioned as a Marine Corps officer upon his graduation. He will simply be the latest member of the Carothers family to serve his country. His two older brothers are both Navy graduates and his grandfather spent 36 years in the Marines himself, serving his country in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

Carothers has spent the last four years preparing himself to face life-threatening situations in the Marines that many people can’t imagine. Yet it was something as innocuous as a phone call from his mom in November 2016 that Carothers found nearly unbearable. Only by his faith did Carothers find the strength to overcome.

During that phone call, as the Navy football team was on its way to play East Carolina, she broke the news that Patrick Carothers, Paul’s father and a U.S. Marshal for 26 years, had been fatally shot while serving a fugitive warrant in southeastern Georgia. Patrick was 53.

“It broke our hearts, and something like that changes your life and what you think about on a daily basis,” Paul recently told The Philadelphia Enquirer.

The gunman was killed shortly thereafter by Patrick’s team, which accompanied him to serve the warrant, but that offered little solace. Much of the foundation of Paul’s life was shaken, including his faith. Yet it did not crumble. In fact, he credits God with strengthening his faith through the ordeal and helping him to see the joy in every circumstance.

“I’m better for it honestly, because it really showed me some faults in my character, in myself, that made me better,” Carothers told The Enquirer. “But I found that through my faith and through my maturity — it’s grown throughout the years — that Jesus gives me joy in every situation, and in situations our human minds cannot comprehend.

“So with that, I have joy every day and I’m privileged to have had the time I did with my father. He was a wonderful man and this world was better because of him.”

Carothers says he has been released from the burden of holding onto hatred. Because of what Christ forgave on the cross, he too is free to forgive.

“[The gunman] just could have been having a rough week. There could have been things built up in his life,” Carothers said,” and nobody showed him kindness or love or concern.”

Through heartache, God revealed to Carothers how to find forgiveness and joy in Him when neither seemed possible. And even as he nears graduation and a Liberty Bowl appearance, Carothers knows that lasting joy is found in Christ alone.

No. 23 Navy and Kansas State kick off in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl at 3:45 p.m. ET on Dec. 31. The game is in Memphis, Tenn., on ESPN.

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