We can learn a lot from adversity.
Jimmy Braddock was born into a poor family of Irish immigrants in 1905. His parents were hard-working and did all they could to support their seven children in the tough neighborhood of Hells Kitchen in New York City.
Jimmy dreamed of going to Notre Dame and playing for legendary coach Knute Rockne. But college wasn’t financially attainable and Jimmy went to work. He discovered that he had a gift for boxing, and after a series of successful amateur fights he turned pro at the age of 21.
He was known for his toughness and had a tremendously strong right hand. After three years, Jimmy had compiled an impressive 44-2-2 record. He was eventually given a fight against the heavyweight champion, Tommy Loughran in 1929. His successful career took a bad turn that night, as he not only lost his shot at the title, but he also damaged his prized right hand.
He went on to fight 33 more times after breaking his hand, but never returned to his prior glory- going 11-20-2 in that span.
Jimmy eventually found himself a forgotten, broken boxer. To make matters worse, the events surrounding the Great Depression created an unstable time for Jimmy and his family. He was unable to box. He was unable to find steady work. He had lost everything.
But something happened over the next several years. He had to walk many miles a day to the New York City docks to look for daily work. The manual labor he participated in each day not only strengthened and healed his right hand, but it made Jimmy’s left hand even stronger than his right. Jimmy’s health had improved, as had his resolve to better provide for his family.
He got the chance to fight professionally again- and he jumped at it. Jimmy was first regarded as simply a journeyman fighter…and easy victory for other young boxers. But Jimmy won his early fights. And eventually garnered enough attention that he was given another shot at the title in 1935. Fighting a much younger and much stronger champion, Jimmy overcame all odds and defeated Max Baer to become the heavyweight champion of the world!
What can we learn from Braddock’s story?
Life is all about valleys and peaks: Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4
Think about the obstacles that Braddock overcame. He was born poor, rose to become a successful fighter, lost everything and then fought back to reclaim his career and life. But he learned from each and every lesson in life. We can too. Our trials teach us steadfastness and perseverance so that we may become complete. What are you learning during periods of adversity?
When you don’t know what to do, do what’s right in front of you: Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established. Proverbs 16:3
When uncertainty and doubt hit Braddock’s life, he did what came naturally. He knew he had to take care of his family, so he went to work. He did what was right in front of him…a singular focus on survival. We can have similar focus in our lives too. If we turn our eyes to Jesus and make Him our first priority, all our other plans will become clear. What can we do? Read the Bible. Study and reflect on the lessons. Worship and serve others. Pray diligently.
Learn and practice gratitude: Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6:38
Braddock never forgot all the help he was given while he was a child and again as an adult when he lost everything. He repaid all the government assistance he and his family were given during the Great Depression. He joined the Army in WWII and trained soldiers in hand to hand combat. He later opened a construction business and provided many with an opportunity to make a good living. Braddock was grateful for what he had received. We should be too. Let’s have that giving spirit that comes from a relationship with Jesus. Let’s be thankful and give without hesitation to others.
My prayer this week is to look at obstacles as opportunities to learn and grow. Please let me know how I may pray for you.
God bless. And keep punching.