Substitutes Bench

Towards the end of 2022 Cristiano Ronaldo got sanctioned by the coaches of his club, Manchester United, and of his national team, Portugal, for, more or less, the very same reason: Having been one of the best football players in the world for so many years, he wasn't used to being a substitute player and showed a bad attitude when he was benched. 

Andreas Brehme, another world class player, had his difficulties with the bench as well. At the end of his active career as a professional football player he agreed with his coach to either play a game from the beginning or to watch it from the stands. He considered himself just not being the type for the bench.

These examples illustrate a common human desire: We all like to be the center of attention. We prefer being admired on stage than applauding others. We'd rather sit in the first row than in the second. But we cannot always determine our circumstances, and sometimes life deals us the bench, the role of a substitute - not only on the football field. It seems that God Himself likes to use this kind of tool when He wants to prepare us for something greater to come. Moses, for example, was adopted by Pharaoh's daughter and ready to take on a high position in Pharaoh's court. But then he had to flee out of Egypt, and he lived for forty years in the desert as a shepherd before God eventually used him mightily to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Or David: He was anointed to be the king of Israel, but then he had to wait more than ten years before he actually became king while King Saul tried over and over to kill him.

These examples show us how God is using periods of waiting (that's basically what is happening on a substitutes' bench) to form our character. Mostly He is dealing with our pride during these times. Because pride blocks God's work in us, we are often hurting ourselves the most. Naturally nobody is aiming for the substitutes bench. We are all looking for promotion to develop our talents and our calling. But no matter how successful we are in this - sooner or later we will face circumstances that represent the proverbial bench. The challenge is how to deal with it. Do I try to escape it at all costs, or do I allow these circumstances in my life to shape my heart and trust God that He will use it for a greater purpose at a later time?