Only God Makes a Man Strong

January 9, 2023

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.
Not as the world gives do I give to you.
Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”
– John 14:27 (ESV)

I received what is often called a “God Wink” recently. It was New Year’s Eve and I was reading the last few pages of the David Maraniss biography on the life of Roberto Clemente. Clemente helped pave the way for Latinos to not only play, but excel in the Major Leagues. His accomplishments include 3,000 hits, two World Series Championships, World Series MVP, National League MVP, 12 Gold Gloves and induction into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. The name Roberto Clemente is spoken in the same sentence with Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle and Henry Aaron as the greatest outfielders of the era. As I closed the book, it occurred to me that Roberto Clemente’s tragic death had taken place exactly fifty years ago, December 31, 1972. A coincidence, I don’t think so. God always has a purpose.

To many, Roberto Clemente was complex. Much of this came from American sportswriters as they tried to describe this proud Puerto Rican. He was often called a “hot dog” for his basket catches and was misunderstood due to his difficulty with the English language. In the early part of his career, Clemente felt disrespected as a player and struggled to find true happiness in the game.  Clemente’s mother, Luisa, had a tremendous impact on his life. In the difficult times, he clung to the words his mother had repeatedly spoken over him as a child, “Only God makes man happy. Life is nothing. Everything ends. Only God makes man happy.” Regardless of our career path, happiness can be allusive. We can spend a lifetime looking for happiness and peace in our relationships, finances or accomplishments and still feel miserable and defeated. Luisa knew the answer. True happiness and peace can only come from God.

Thank you Lord for the life of Roberto Clemente. He impacted the lives of others with passion and grace. Teach me to make the best of the day you have given me and to always be aware of the needs of those around me. Amen.

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