Handling the curveballs of life

Hall of Famer Ted Williams once said that “baseball is the only field of endeavor where a man can succeed three times out of 10 and be considered a success.‘ On average, major league batters hit 30 percent of the pitches they swing at into play.

Getting three hits in 10 plate appearances may not sound impressive, but when you consider the dominate, high-powered pitchers these batters face, hitting a 90-mph ball with a bat that is 2 ¾ inches in diameter is remarkable, especially when facing a pitcher with a nasty curveball.

Pitchers who master the art of throwing a curveball can make even the best hitters look foolish. Bert Blyleven, who had a wicked curveball, said, “Everything is set up by a good fastball. When a pitcher has command of his fastball every other pitch in his arsenal will be more effective.‘

New York Mets great Dwight Gooden had an amazing curveball. “Doc‘ Gooden had a 98-mph fastball as his anchor pitch, but skillfully mixed in a sweeping curve when least expected, making him one of the most dominate pitchers in the 1980s. At age 19, Gooden became the youngest player to pitch in the All-Star game, where he struck out the side in his first inning. Dwight Gooden went on to set the rookie strikeout record later that season.

To date, 80 pitchers have been inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York. All of these pitchers could throw some nasty pitches, but none of these hurlers, combined, could throw anything as wicked as the prince of darkness. The Bible records numerous accounts of the devil throwing some pretty nasty curves, but Satan’s pitch to Job was one of most despicable. Job was a man of impeccable character. His family was blessed; his barns were full; his fields were abundant with crops; his safes were crammed with treasures. Suddenly, without warning, the evil one threw a series of nasty curves in Job’s direction. Satan attempted to rip Job’s world totally apart, but despite his evil attack, through God’s power, Job managed to stay in the batter’s box long enough to hit the ball into play. The devil threw spitballs and curveballs at the man of God, but nothing in Satan’s arsenal was able destroy Job or his faith.

One of the greatest challenges in life is navigating the choppy waters of an unexpected trial. We might not have called it a curveball, but we’ve been in those situations where everything was smooth sailing, when suddenly we were blindsided by a vicious, unforeseen event. Memorial Day weekend 2014 was one of those times in my life. During that weekend, an uncle was murdered; my stepmother and stepfather were involved in a fatal automobile accident, where Hershel was killed and Betty suffered multiple broken bones; and a 23-year-old nephew overdosed on heroin.

Three traumatic curveballs in a matter of 12 hours — how are you supposed to handle that kind of news? Maybe I didn’t do it totally right, but what I did was share my grief and pain with my Christian brothers and sisters. My close friends gathered around me, my church family prayed for me, and my incarcerated brothers at Pugsley Correctional Facility expressed their love and support. As shocking and as difficult as the weeks were following those deaths, I never once felt abandoned and alone.

In John 16:33, Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.‘

Everyone has more than their fair share of troubles, but through Christ, we can have peace no matter what life throws our way. Life is an uninterrupted classroom. If we pay attention, we can learn something new every day. Even when we make a royal mess of things, if we learn from our mistakes, dust ourselves off, get back in the batter’s box, and swing the bat, we can hit into play, even when the nastiest curveballs are thrown in our direction.

Job shows that it’s possible to be “more than conquerors through him who loved us‘ (Romans 8:37). Through Christ, we can hit the ball, regardless of how nasty the devil’s curveballs may be.