I recently read Sir Steve Redgrave’s book: “INSPIRED” – Stories of Sporting Greatness. For a sports’ nut like me it was a cracking page-turner of a good read!
The last sportsman he writes about is the former tennis star Pete Sampras (aka “Pistol Pete”). Redgrave recounts how Sampras retired aged just 31and then he writes:
“What interests me is what happened next. He played golf. He played the infuriating game so well, his handicap came down to 2 at the Bel-Air Country Club…He became a father of two little boys. He had a house built in a secluded spot in Southern California…He didn’t have to exploit his image, fortunately. He had won $43 million in prize money alone, so he could relax. Except he couldn’t. ‘After two and a half years it starts wearing thin. You’re playing golf every day. You’ve put on some weight. You wake up in the morning and you feel unfulfilled. I talked to my wife about it. She could see I was restless. I said to her, “I just feel a little bit empty. I need more than this.”
For some sportsmen they don’t have to wait till retirement to have this “inner itch” or sense of deep down emptiness. Shortly after England won the rugby World Cup in 2003, the Guardian had an article on Jason Robinson the brilliant England fullback. The reporter wrote: “Until the age of 21 (when he became a Christian) Jason Robinson devoured every temptation that came his way…His world was a whirling kaleidoscope of booze, birds and nightclubs.” As Jason Robinson himself said: “When I was going out clubbing and drinking, it didn’t satisfy the hunger within me.” He had everything most young men would want and yet he wasn’t satisfied; it left him feeling hollow.
It’s not just sportsmen and women who speak of this inner itch and emptiness. In an interview in 2001, Thom Yorke of Radiohead fame was asked why he carried on making music, even though he had achieved the critical and commercial success he had always hoped for. He replied, “It’s filling the hole. That’s all anyone does.” But when asked what happens to the hole, Yorke paused for a long time before admitting: “It’s still there.”
The writer of the Bible book ‘Ecclesiastes’ speaks into these honest outcries of Pete Sampras, Jason Robinson and Thom Yorke. In chapter 3 verse 11, speaking to this inner yearning for satisfaction, he says that God has: “set eternity in the hearts of men…”
Picking up on this verse the theologian Augustine wrote in the 4th Century AD: “You, Oh God have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.”
The claim of the Bible (in line with those words of Augustine) is that if we look to any thing or person for ultimate joy, peace, satisfaction and meaning other than the God who made us and who has revealed Himself in the person of His Son, the Lord Jesus, then we will find ourselves in more quiet and reflective moments echoing the words of Pete Sampras: “I just feel a little bit empty. I need more than this.” We will find that the things and people that we had looked to don’t ultimately deliver the goods.
It was with this sense of inner yearning and soul-searching that as a non-believing 19 year old I cried out to God in August 1996 to show himself to me (if he was there). 3 months later, by which time I had come to hear and believe the good news of the Christian faith, I had come to know the truth of Jesus’ massive claim in John chapter 6 verse 35: “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.”
It’s been rightly said that: “The church is the only organisation that exists for the benefit of its non-members” and if anyone reading this article would like to find out more about the claims of Jesus Christ or just talk to someone about your sense of inner emptiness (or indeed about anything else!) then please do get in touch. I’d love to meet you and have a chat! You might also like to click on the Exploring Christianity link.