As we all know we are at the end of the football season, with the Super Bowl just ahead of us. While I do not care for sports at all, this has been an interesting year for the NFL's Cincinnati Bengals.
The Bengals had a very bad year. With a new coach, Zac Taylor, and with no wins to their credit, it looked like they were headed to their 12th loss, which would had been referred to as the “dirty dozen.”
However, they managed to pull off a win by beating the New York Jets on Sunday, Dec. 1 with an amazing score of 22 to 6. To get to their first win, there were some bumps for the nine-year quarterback Andy Dalton.
Normally I would not be writing about football but Andy Dalton’s character and the way he handled adversity deserves to be mentioned. His actions are rare today and especially in sports.
After a record of 0-8 at the beginning of the season, Dalton was told he would be benched on his birthday. “Happy Birthday Andy, but you have been benched, go eat your cake on your bench,” as I have been kidding with people around me. Of course, it was not a laughing matter for Dalton and I am sure it was humiliating. What was inspiring for me was to watch his amazing example throughout this ordeal.
Dalton did not get mad and quit, instead he got out there, encouraged and worked with the quarterback and his teammates for the next three games. As reported by WCPO Cincinnati, Dalton said he "wanted to be bitter when Cincinnati Bengals coach Zac Taylor benched me during week 9 so the coach could see if rookie Ryan Finley could reinvigorate the offense. It took me a day or two before I realized that was not going to get me anywhere."
Of course, Dalton had no idea whether he would return to play the lead quarterback for the Bengals. However, he still pushed on and set an outstanding example not only for his team but also for all us to watch. In the face of all the adversity, Dalton kept his faith, his trust in God, and maintained a positive attitude! Even Dalton’s coach, Zac Taylor, who benched the quarterback, noticed Dalton’s attitude.
“Just his veteran leadership, his presence, his character, he stands for all the things you want in a player. And, so for him, when he’s the backup quarterback, he’s thinking ‘I didn’t get to finish with a win.’ You felt terrible for that part of it. So, for him to come back and lead us the way he led us and get this win is just... you know, it says a lot about his character and the adversity he’s overcome,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said. “He just kept being the leader through it all.”
“I didn't know why it was happening, but I knew God has a plan for me,” Dalton said. “He has a plan for my family and my life, and I had to trust and believe in that. This is just part of my story and part of something I'm going to be able to relate to people on a different level now than I probably could not have before. Initially it was tough, but I wasn't going to let the circumstance really get to me.
“At the end of the day, that's not who I want people to see me to be, and that's not my character,” he added. “That's not what God has called me to be.” Dalton relied on his faith to get him through those rough few weeks before he was brought back as quarterback.
We all go through setbacks or even feel like we have been benched like Dalton. Sometimes we are not treated fairly, but how do we respond? Do we continue to trust God knowing that He is in charge of our life no matter what direction or situation we may find ourselves? Dalton had no idea he would ever be playing again for the Bengals. However, when he did come back, he came back with a major win for his team.
Dalton’s faith in God even through adversity reminded me of my favorite scripture found in Jeremiah 29:11: "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future" (New International Version).
While Andy Dalton did not know what his future was when he was benched, he knew that God was in charge of his life. In addition, while going through his trial, he went on to help and encourage his teammates.
Let us all learn from Andy Dalton’s amazing example. To persevere when we have setbacks that we do not understand. To set a positive example for those around us to learn from. To know that God is indeed in charge of our life for our good and for the good of others around us.
Of course, our future is far greater than being a starting quarterback on a football team; as our goal is to be in God’s great Kingdom.
In the meantime, we will have to go through highs and lows before we get there. How will we respond when we are hit with the lows? Always know that God will see you through it. And people are watching to see how we respond.