Spiritual warfare is real.
Heading into the 2018 season, I was really excited for the year in Tampa. I was told that I wasn’t going to be traded, but I was. I felt lied to; it was really hard to leave. I think the hardest part about it is that you don’t fully realize the impact Jesus is having in the locker room until you have to leave. The relationships I had built and the emotions I felt when leaving was difficult, but it was cool to see the ways in which God was and is working within the Rays’ community.
The day before I was traded, my grandfather had a heart attack. I flew from Seattle back to Florida and then almost immediately had to fly to Arizona. When I got to Arizona, I was super excited to join such an awesome organization. The Diamondbacks really have built a crazy cool culture with great teammates and leaders here. I arrived and didn’t play for a week, but when I did, it wasn’t more than five days into spring training that I dove for a catch and tore my pec.
Obviously, that is not how I planned to start the season with my new team. A few days after I tore my pec, my grandfather passed away. It was a really difficult time. I didn’t think my injury was that bad so I tried rushing it, but discovered I wasn’t ready. I ended up missing three months of the season and was so frustrated.
Through it all, my wife and I kept saying, “God is still good.” Even through the really hard times, when it seems like nothing is going to work out and your emotions tell you they won’t, we clung to His promises. We held tightly to the verse, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
Just entering a new organization, trying to build relationships with your teammates, and being injured is not a great combination. It was a real test of my faith and the Lord showed me a lot during this time. Baseball is just a vessel and it can be taken away at any moment. I could have ended my entire career with that one dive, but thankfully the Lord had a different plan for me.
This season, and the ups and downs I’ve experienced through it, has made me that much more grateful for the gift of this game. As I’m rebuilding my season, I know my hope doesn’t come through baseball; my energy, source and strength comes from the One who breathes life in me, and that’s Jesus Christ.
I came back in May to play 12-14 games, during which I had about four hits in 14 games. It was not good. I dug myself in a good hole, then a little later I came back to get two hits in a four-game series. It was a tough hole to try to climb out of, but I didn’t care. I knew God had given me this ability and passion and He had a plan.
During that time one of my coaches was talking about expectations. As Christ-followers, we know God is a good God and can expect good things to happen when we follow Him. I expect the miraculous from Him and have faith in whatever He has in store for me in His timing. If He wants to use the talents and gifts He’s given me for His glory, He can and He will.
With that confidence in Christ, there’s peace. As I kept pushing through, I was surrounded by a lot of encouragement, including from my manager, Torey Lovullo, who kept reminding me that he believes in me and brought me here for a reason. So I remain focused and trusting in the Lord.
I learned to lean on my authenticity. Sometimes we try to fit a mold, but I can’t do that. And I don’t think Jesus wants anyone to just fit in. You’d be surprised at the amount of pressure and expectation that’s placed on professional baseball players, but I have fun trying to be myself. I always aim to honor the Lord, the game and others around me. I want to be the man God created me to be and that’s someone who has a lot of fun playing this game. When I do choose to have fun with it, I tend to play really well.
I sit here now halfway through the season, having gone through all of that, struggling a little bit out of the gate to get back into the game. Again, it wasn’t the way I wanted to start out with a new organization, but overall it’s been really good and lately things have been looking up. I’m happy with the way things are working out and I’m happy with the relationships I’m building here. I’m just super thankful for everything this year and for everyone who has helped me walk through it.
— Steven Souza, Arizona Diamondbacks right fielder
The Increase, part of the Sports Spectrum Network, is a community of Christian pro athletes sharing their personal stories of the decrease of self and the increase of Christ (John 3:30). Visit TheIncrease.com for more stories and videos.