Playing the Hand We Are Dealt

It’s not the cards you’re dealt, it’s how you play the hand.

Last week on TV, I heard a professional player at the World Poker Championship paraphrase a quote from Randy Pausch, saying, “I can’t control the cards that are dealt, but I can control how I play the hand.” The actual quote from Randy’s book, The Last Lecture, reads “We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.” Either way, these powerful words carry a message that I personally can relate to.

In my life, I couldn’t control nor change the situation I found myself in. And truth be told, at first I was in such agony that I didn’t realize I could choose my path out. A lifetime of faith had me crying out to God, but in my despair, I couldn’t hear His reply. I was the drowning person who couldn’t hear the directions of the rescuer and instead just flailed about helplessly. But as the fight-or-flight response began to subside, my mind and heart quieted down and I began to sense a flicker of hope. To be sure, choosing to play the hand I was dealt according to God’s plan for me was not straightforward, easy or neatly wrapped in a bow. No, it was a messy road, filled with potholes and puddles. Not because of God of course, but because of my own weaknesses and depression. But faith is rewarded, no matter how fragile. In Isaiah 41:10 God says, “fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” And, He does just that when we choose to trust in Him.

Often people will say to me, “I don’t know how you do it,” or, “I can’t imagine what you have gone through.” And while these words appear to be defining how great the challenge was or just how terrible the cards were, that’s not what they are really referring to. I believe that what is really meaningful, and hopefully even inspirational to people, is not what I have been through, but how I chose to play the hand. I chose not to lose faith in God’s plan for me. I didn’t give up on life and I didn’t give up on God. It’s not that I possess amazing strength, but because I am in relationship with someone who does, that saved me in the storm. Through His grace, He preserved me.

We can’t choose the cards and we can’t change the cards. And, while God is with us through it all, He doesn’t judge us on the cards we are dealt. He knows our heart and judges us on how we play the hand. God desires that we walk by faith at all times. Choosing faith and confidence in God despite the magnitude or severity of the circumstances we face is never easy. But pressing on proves our love of God and is the key to eternal glory with the Father.

So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. (1 Peter 1:6-7)

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