During his remarkable career as a Greco-Roman athlete, Jim Gruenwald managed to become a two-time Olympian and one of the unquestioned leaders of the US National program. He was an elite international competitor who was uncompromising and vicious on the mat; yet filled with a love for Christ and a willingness to passionately share his faith off of it. Today, he is the head coach at Wheaton College in Illinois, as well as a highly-influential voice pertaining to all matters of encouragement, devotion, and Christian servitude.
Trust, love, and hope. On the surface, not the first three words you would normally associate with the image of a wrestler, let alone one straining to become an Olympic Champion. Yet there are very few words as important.
I normally do not like to get preachy in my articles but the words are straight from the Bible: “Calling to mind before God our Father what our Lord Yeshua the Messiah has brought about in you; how your trust produces action, your love, hard work, and your hope, perseverance.” — 1 Thessalonians 1:3
Despite its Biblical origin, this message is tremendous for even the more “secular” aspects of our lives. My coaches at the Olympic Training Center would always thunder away that we must “believe in the plan, trust in the plan.” Trust produces action. When we trust in the coach’s plan, we act on it without complaint — although, an occasional challenge is permitted. After creating the necessary mind and muscle memory, we trust in our technique and then work relentlessly to score. When we learn to survive and then thrive in the dark place, we trust our conditioning and fearlessly exert ourselves to the utmost, be it in practice or competition.
That trust is more easily developed when built on the concept that love produces hard work. When you love something, your mind and body are able to go beyond the deep pain and exhaustion of the moment. The pain distances and only slams home once you are finished.
I love to wrestle. I also love to coach. And love produces hard work, yes; but the work does not seem as hard when you love it. Work may seem hard, sometimes perhaps even impossible to those from the outside. But the truth is when you love it, you don’t care. Granted there might be limits to even love and/or commitment, but it is rare for most people to hit those limits.
Yet even when should we hit such limits, hope is there to produce. perseverance. Hope is the reliance upon a higher power. When trust and love fail, hope carries the day. When we reach our limit, hope allows us to persevere through that limit. One more rep. Hold position. One more attack. This is not the wishful thinking some have with regards to , as with trivial circumstances, such as “I hope to win a million dollars.” Rather, hope is the assurance that the suffering will end; and at the end the suffering is the confident expectation that I have improved.
Therefore, I persevere even while wrestling against overwhelming adversity that seems an eternity.
One of the greatest performance killers is fear. Trust, love, and hope are the fear-killers. Whether straining to become an Olympic Champ — or simply just trying to navigate through life — as I rely upon God, my trust, love, and hope grow.
Trust God and act with the abilities He has uniquely bestowed upon you. Love God and work hard where He has placed you. Hope in God and persevere with the knowledge that if He requires something that is beyond your limits, He is limitless, and He put you there so that you will lean on Him to increase your capacity to hope.
If you would like to follow up with Coach Gruenwald regarding faith development, or if you are someone who is searching, or just someone who is looking for help navigating life, he can be reached directly via email.