Keeping our eyes on God in the midst of adversity can enlarge our perspective. For Olympic skier David Wise, standing firm in the faith, even in difficult times, has reminded him that it’s not about what he does, but who he is– and Whose he is.
When he’s not training for the Games, he and his wife Alexandra lead the youth group at their church in Reno, Nevada. He also writes a blog chronicling not only his journey to the 2018 Olympics, but also what his faith has taught him along the way.
Wise, a halfpipe specialist, is no stranger to success. A professional skier since age 18, the 27-year-old has ranked among the best since 2011. In 2014, he came away from the Sochi Games with a gold in the freeski halfpipe event. Four years later, he took another gold in the X Games, assuring him a spot in Pyeonchang.
A Rocky Road to the Games
His success is all the more impressive considering he suffered three concussions in two years. He was also plagued by back and shoulder problems in his quest to conquer the slopes.
He faced a series of setbacks off the ice as well, as he and his family endured one calamity after another. His sister, an Air Force captain, was struck by a boat while paddle boarding in Florida and lost a leg. He and his wife each lost a grandmother, while she also suffered the loss of her father. Their young son experienced a health crisis that the couple thought might take his life. Alexandra struggled with severe postpartum depression for a year after the birth of their second child. As if that weren’t enough, a member of the couple’s youth group committed suicide.
Understandably, all these tragedies affected Wise’s skiing. As his performance lagged, some of his sponsors jumped ship. His critics expected him to retire, but Wise wasn’t ready to give up.
In his blog, he reflects, “I’ve certainly had some people dancing on my contest career’s supposed grave and celebrating my downfall. Never the less, I’ve also experienced unconditional love and support from a select few that made all the weapons of my enemies turn to ash.”
Choosing Joy in the Midst of Heartache
Wise didn’t waver in his faith. Instead of letting his circumstances define him, he chose to turn them into opportunities for growth. Those years of loss and sorrow taught him to persevere in the face of trials, to choose joy in times of difficulty. His story is a modern-day example of Psalm 34:19, “The righteous person may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all.”
His family has also helped him remain grounded. He credits his wife, a true “Proverbs 31 woman,” with supporting him through the toughest times. The trials they experienced drove them closer to God and strengthened them in ways they could not have thought possible. His sister’s determination not to let her injury slow her down inspired him, too. After recovering from the boating accident, she returned to flying duty, making her the first female amputee to accomplish this milestone.
Wise acknowledges that the Olympics are only temporary. He knows that everything he has is a gift from God. Grateful for the trials he and his family suffered in the years leading up to the 2018 Winter Games, he is convinced that those tragedies prepared him to handle whatever comes his way, and to make a comeback in the sport he loves.
When he was abandoned by several of his sponsors, some of whom had backed him for more than ten years, he “turned the other cheek,” refusing to become angry. instead of causing resentment, the experience taught him “to cherish what I have instead of focusing on what I don’t,” leading him to conclude “I am surrounded by people who truly love and support me for who I am, not what I do on a pair of skis.”
Wise has also learned that so much of life has “nothing to do with skiing,” which he says has freed him to really enjoy the sport. With nothing to prove, he’s been empowered once again to reach the top of his game.
~ 1776 Christian