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Washington coach Ron Rivera finishes cancer treatments: How might God redeem your suffering?

Ryan Denison is the Senior Fellow for Theology at Denison Forum, where he contributes writing and research to many of the ministry’s productions.

He is in the final stages of earning his PhD in church history at BH Carroll Theological Institute after having earned his MDiv at Truett Seminary. Ryan has also taught at BH Carroll and Dallas Baptist University.

He and his wife, Candice, live in East Texas and have two children.

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Washington Football Team head coach Ron Rivera watches teams warm up before the first half of an NFL football game between the Washington Football Team and the Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020, in Landover, Md.
Washington Football Team head coach Ron Rivera watches teams warm up before the first half of an NFL football game between the Washington Football Team and the Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Ron Rivera embarked upon his first season as head coach of the Washington Football Team, previously known as the Redskins, by announcing to his players in August that he had squamous cell carcinoma and would have to immediately begin both chemotherapy and proton therapy. That journey turned an important corner on Monday as he completed the last of his treatments.

The prognosis was good from the start, and his doctors have said that all the signs are pointing in the right direction, but that’s never a guarantee, and he’s not out of the woods yet. Through it all, though, he’s been on the sideline for every game and missed only a handful of practices. 

Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio has helped to pick up any slack and spoke for the team when he said “We all admire his toughness. He’s obviously in a big battle, a personal battle. We all feel for him. We pray for him a lot . . . His toughness and determination, it really stands out.” 

Rivera has remarked that the side effects of the treatments surprised him a bit, with the fatigue perhaps the most difficult to deal with, but he’s endured it well and, in so doing, has galvanized the team. The thumping they gave the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday—admittedly not all that impressive a feat, even though the Cowboys came into the game with a better record—has Washington in second place and primed for a possible run to the postseason. 

No matter what their final record might be come January, this season has already been a success for Rivera and so many who have looked to him as a model for handling adversity. 

Allow God to bring good from the bad

One of Christ’s final teachings to the disciples before his crucifixion was that “in the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33). He followed it up with the encouragement to “take heart; I have overcome the world” before going on to pray that, among other things, we would remain faithful in times of trial (John 17:15) and “be one” just as he and the Father are one (John 17:21). 

The “tribulation” we face in this life often brings the chance to be the answer to Christ’s prayer by finding peace and strength in God before helping others who are suffering to do the same. 

When Ron Rivera’s players encounter difficult times on the field or in their personal lives, they’ll know they can look to him for support and as an example of how to persevere. The same can be true for each of us if we’ll allow God to bring some good from our struggles to help others who are going through something similar. 

All of us have something in our past that the Lord can redeem to help others. And it doesn’t have to be cancer, depression, or some tragic circumstance. To the person struggling with whatever we’ve previously faced, we might be the lifeline they need to pull through and turn to the Lord for strength and support. 

For whom can you be a lifeline today? 

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