As a part of my New Years Resolution, I’m reading The Bible this year. And, each Sunday, I’m reflecting on what I’ve read, which often coincides — funny how The Bible works like that — with something happening in my life. This isn’t meant to proselytize or to thump The Bible. Writing just helps me understand what I’ve read, so that’s what I’m doing.  

It has become one of my favorite post-SANDCAST refrains, something I either post about or rave about to anyone who’s willing to listen. Nearly invariably after each episode, I’ll proclaim the most recent guest as one of my favorites we’ve had yet.

We’re more than 70 guests in. Nothing’s changed.

This week, of course, was no exception. Tri Bourne and I hosted Brooke Sweat, who is as humble as she is athletic, a bit of an “aw shucks” Florida girl who became an Olympian despite a cavalcade of obstacles – knee problems, shoulder problems, not qualifying for the AVP Tour in 10 tries problems.

But then, in 2016, Sweat, alongside Lauren Fendrick, did it. They qualified for the Rio Olympics. The immensity of that accomplishment should go without saying, and as impressive as that is – and it is, indeed, impressive by all accounts – what she said about her experience at the Games is, to me, far more memorable.

Sweat and Fendrick didn’t play as well as they’d have liked. They lost all three matches, two in the third set, in what could be argued was the toughest pool in the Olympics that year.

“Losing all three sets in the Olympics? Yeah, that sucked,” she said. “But it happened for a reason. I might not know that reason but I’m trusting that there’s something that’s going to come out of that. Right now, it’s motivation. Not just getting back to the Olympics, but to win. So it’s serving a purpose for my life right now.”

I love that. It’s one of my favorite things any guest has said on the podcast yet.

It’s fitting that we had Brooke on SANDCAST the same week I was reading through Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and now Deuteronomy. Not that hiking through the desert for 40 years and going through the two-year Olympic grind are the same thing, but there are certain similarities. There are also some stark differences in mindset between the Israelites and Brooke.

Going through the desert could not have been fun, though it probably had its moments, just as hitting 23 international tournaments in two seasons despite a bum shoulder was likely an arduous yet thrilling ride for Sweat.

Yet here’s the difference: The Israelites repeatedly lost faith. They make God a “What Have You Done For Me Lately God.” In just a few weeks, they seem to forget that God was the guy (or gal) who, through Moses, parted the Red Sea and led them to a safe escape out of a tyrannical regime and into safety. Soon, they complained of being hungry – what have you done for me lately?

So God provides Manna from the sky. Soon, they complain it’s too bland — what have you done for me lately? So God, a little ticked now, makes them eat so much quail they get sick of it.

Soon, they complain of thirst. So God tells Moses to crack this rock and – voila! – they have water.

And yet, the Israelites continue to complain, wondering if they’d have been better off remaining as slaves in Egypt – what has God done for me lately?

Sweat could have taken a similar route. She could have wondered “Why let me get to the Games in the first place if I’m just going to lose all three?”

Maybe she did wonder that. But it’s not the lasting impression she has. Instead, Sweat knows, through faith, and not a “what have you done for me lately” mindset, that those Games happened the way they did for a reason. She even has the humility to recognize she might not ever know that reason, but there is one, because she has that type of unwavering faith in God.

A former pastor of mine, Caleb Anderson, spoke on this topic. He mentioned that a good bit of our names are derived from the Bible, but he also mentioned something I’d never really thought to consider: There are a great deal of names in the Bible, the vast majority of which we do not use in modern society to name our children.

We only name our kids after the ones who did not waver in their faith in God. It’s why all of us have a friend named Joshua but not Dibon. Why we all know a dozen Marys but no Elealehs. Why I have a pastor named Caleb and not Beon (if you have friends names Dibon, Elealeh or Beon, my bad).

God, from what I understand in my reading of the Old Testament thus far, isn’t meant to be a “What Have You Done For Me Lately” God. He’s meant to be an “Ok, Let’s See Where You’re Taking Me” God. We all have points in our lives where we can ask the Big Man what he’s done for us lately. Most of us will probably wonder that aloud in prayer.

And yet it’s those moments of trial where we could wonder what He’s up to are the exact moments that we begin to really develop, to learn, to grow. In the Old Testament, we see this with Noah, with Joseph, with Abraham, with Moses. There’s a not so coincidental thread in the Bible thus far: The protagonists whom God has tested with the most adversity are the ones whom we admire the most, are the ones whose stories we tell to children and most often discuss in sermons and studies.

They’re the ones who didn’t ask ‘What have you done for me lately?’

My reading this week, and listening to Brooke on SANDCAST, gave a whole new meaning to the oft-recited saying “be firm in the faith,” not only because she discussed it, but is living it. Nearly every teacher I’ve had has told me to “show not tell” in stories. I feel like faith isn’t all that different. Sure we can go to church every Sunday, we can check our boxes, we can tell everyone we’re being firm in our faith and that we have trust in God. But showing it, truly living it out, is something entirely different, particularly when we’re tested, as Brooke was at Rio.

“It’s hard to look back on it still to go all the way out there and not make it out of pool,” she said. “I wish it went different, but it didn’t. So, that’s life.”