Bryant Young was a 14-year NFL veteran who played his entire career, which included four Pro Bowls, with the San Francisco 49ers. Below, Young shares his story of how Christ has increased in his life through trials and tragedy.
I began seeking God when I was flat on my back with an injury. I was weak, vulnerable and powerless. And God began to go to work.
There was a time when football was great, but I knew there was so much more to football — the impact that can be made off the field and how we can influence souls for the Kingdom. Guys who were really on fire for the Lord were my San Francisco 49ers teammates and they became really important people in my life. How they lived their lives and their zeal for Christ was infectious. We had a really healthy spiritual environment in our locker room.
I accepted Christ as my Savior when I was 10 years old, but I didn’t have a deep personal relationship with Christ growing up. I wouldn’t open up my Bible. That didn’t happen until the early part of 2000, when I made a commitment to serve Christ like I hadn’t before. I rededicated my life to Him and started to live my life for Christ. I was at a different point in my life. With a wife and a child, I had a lot of decisions to make and I knew I couldn’t do it on my own. I was seeking direction. The best thing for me to do was go to Christ and surrender all areas of my life. I’m still a work in progress.
As dads we are supposed to be protectors, we’re supposed to guard our families, our children and our spouses, and when we can’t do that, we feel helpless. I went through some dark times, but I tell you what, my faith in God has been my Rock. He sustained me and gave me what I needed in those moments to get to the next moments, the next day, the next week, the next month.
“Don’t give up hope. Continue to stand firm on who God is and that He loves you even if He’s not answering your prayer the way you want Him to. His plan is perfect and He will always love us through it, no matter what.” — Bryant Young
But God really grew me in the midst of pain and grieving. Having Christ while going through those times produced even more endurance than I already had. It produced a proven character, and that proven character solidified the hope we have. Through sin which entered this world, we are not immune to any affliction. There are things that will happen to us, and how we handle those things grows us in a lot of different ways. That’s our testimony. It’s part of our story that we’re able to share — not just how we get through but who God is. Think about Christ dying on the cross for us. He died a bloody death for us because He loves us. To understand that and comprehend that, we are not immune to suffering ourselves.
I especially learned that when my son was diagnosed with pediatric cancer. He battled for two years before passing away at 15 years old on October 11, 2016.
But we are hopeful. I am assured that he is in Heaven now. We had the opportunity to walk with him and talk to him about what he’s going to be looking forward to in Heaven. That was beautiful for us to be able to do.
My advice for those who are going through a tragedy is to continue to hold on. God loves you no matter what. In the Book of Romans, God said that He works all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). We may ask, “Where is this going? This is really hard. How does this grow me?” We just have to hold on.
Sometimes it was so hard to even get up in the morning and pray. That’s when we have our community of believers who are able to stand on our behalf and pray for us. Don’t give up hope. Continue to stand firm on who God is and that He loves you even if He’s not answering your prayer the way you want Him to. His plan is perfect and He will always love us through it, no matter what.
My wife and I were always givers, but we learned a valuable lesson during that season of our lives. We had to learn how to open our hands to allow other people to bless us. We were in a position where we had to let go and be able to receive God’s love in the form of other people serving us, praying for us, or whatever other way that looked.
Today, God is still teaching me to keep growing. There is no moment when we arrive. We always have to continue to seek, grow and learn. Even the same scripture can speak to you in new ways when you read it another time. I don’t have all the answers, so I’m learning to be open for God to work, to be open to how He speaks to me, and to stay in step with the Holy Spirit. I want to be available for Him to speak to me and then be obedient to what He has to say.
I’ve heard some really powerful speakers in my day and I’ve been challenged to get it right with my kids so that they will learn and grow as well. Leaving a legacy of faith is important to me. How I live my life is not about one act, it’s about how I can be faithful to what I believe on a daily basis. It has to be my lifestyle. I’m trying to run the race the Apostle Paul talks about, so I want to always be open to God’s transforming power.
— Bryant Young, former NFL defensive tackle
Created and led by pro athletes, The Increase is a ministry on mission to see all athletes, coaches, fans and people everywhere have an Increase experience with Christ as found in John 3:30. For more stories, videos and resources to help you discover that the best life is found as we die to self and live for Jesus, visit TheIncrease.com.