Olympic Swimmer Michael Phelps Saved From Suicide
It is said that with great power comes great responsibility. And the Bible is certainly chocked full of stories to support this. So often the "mighty" fall into sin. But God is always ready and willing to restore us. And Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps has an incredible story of how God's grace not just saved, but transformed his life!
Credit: Twitter / Simon Bruty for Sports Illustrated
A Rising Star
Michael Phelps became a household name when his God-given athletic talents landed him on the US Olympics swim team. He not only succeeded, he excelled.
Over the years, he became the most decorated Olympic athlete of all time with 22 medals, 18 of which were gold for swimming!
But all too often, fame brings along its own share of intense struggles. And Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps was no exception.
"I was a train wreck. I was like a time bomb, waiting to go off. I had no self-esteem, no self worth. There were times where I didn’t want to be here. It was not good. I felt lost,” he explained.
From there, things spiraled out of control fast. Despite the many accolades, Michael was plagued by substance abuse and depression. And soon, the results of reckless lifestyle made for shocking headlines across tabloid covers all over the globe.
Credit: News Of The World
With his sins so incredibly public, Satan's lies took root.
“This is the end of my life… How many times will I mess up? Maybe the world would be better without me” he thought to himself.
Michael stopped eating. He couldn't sleep. He holed up in his bedroom at home in Baltimore and seriously contemplated suicide.
It could have been the end. But God was not done with Michael yet!
Credit: Simon Bruty for Sports Illustrated
When Michael hit rock bottom, his good friend, NFL star Ray Lewis, stepped in.
Credit: Nick Wass/AP
Ray is an outspoken Christian and pushed Michael to get the help he needed in rehab. Ray gave Michael the encouragement his broken friend so desperately needed, saying:
“This is when we fight. This is when real character shows up. Don’t shut down. If you shut down we all lose.”
The words struck a chord with Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps. And as he headed into treatment, Ray gave him a special gift -- his very own copy of Rick Warren's “The Purpose Driven Life." And the Christian book had a profound impact on Michael.
"Man this book is crazy! The thing that’s going on…oh my gosh…my brain, I can’t thank you freaking enough, man. You saved my life,” he gushed to Ray.
Once Michael had opened the door for God, the restoration process began. After reading “The Purpose Driven Life," Michael told ESPN Magazine he realized there was a purpose for him on this planet. He finally believe in a power greater than himself.
From there, everything changed for Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps. But it was the change within that couldn't be ignored.
Michael with long-time coach, Bob Bowman Credit: Bob Stanton/USA TODAY Sports
"I'm the most skeptical person ever," Michael's long-time swim coach, Bob Bowman says. The pair have had an explosive relationship from day one. Their fights are legendary, but even Bob couldn't deny the change he saw in Michael.
"I don't believe any of that 'He'll never change, he's always going to be that way.' But he was completely different in a way I never imagined. He was honest, engaged. I left there that day thinking maybe there's a chance this would help him."
Healing Old Hurts
Bob had become a surrogate father of sorts to Michael. Michael's parents divorced when he was 9, and he spent most of his life estranged from his father, Fred.
Credit: Courtesy Fred Phelps via ESPN
But our God is the Healer of all hurts. Michael's transformation included reconciliation with his dad. Fred had tried to reconnect with Michael over the years, but in the midst of his struggles, Michael simply wasn't ready yet. But God has since restored the bond between father and son!
And now, God has blessed Michael with his very own son!
Credit: Boone Studios
The Blessing Of Boomer
Michael had always refused to hold babies. Family, friends -- it didn't matter. He'd decided early on that the first time he held a baby, he wanted it to be his own. On May 5, 2015, held his first baby -- his precious son, Boomer Robert Phelps.
Back In The Pool
All eyes are again on Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps as he competes in the 2016 Olympic games in Rio. But this time, Michael has a different, more purpose driven point of view.
“I’ve been able to let go of some of the things I’ve been carrying with me for my entire life,” he says. “That’s allowed me to get back to something I love (swimming) and enjoy what I love. It’s about looking in the mirror and actually being happy with who you see. A lot of people in the world have a hard time doing that.”
And this time, there's much more that awaits him after the closing ceremonies!
Credit: Rob Schumacher, USA TODAY Sports
Life After Olympic Glory
Michael will be focusing on family. He will be tying the knot with Nicole, his long-time girlfriend and the mother of his child. Spending time with her and Boomer is of the utmost importance.
There's even talk of Michael teaming up to assist Bob in coaching at Arizona State University.
Credit: Getty Images
And while Bob loves seeing Michael back in the pool, he's even happier to see his transformation to a purpose driven life.
"The swimming is fine -- I'm glad for the swimming," Bowman says. "But quite frankly, if he stops right now and never swims again but stays in this place as a person, I'd be thrilled."
And part of that purpose is to invest in others. In addition to his time with family and Bob, Michael plans to spend more time working with his foundation, Michael Phelps Swimming, which is designed to teach the sport to all ages and all abilities, along with water safety.
Please keep Michael and his family in your prayers, that this new chapter will bring him even closer to accepting and committing to a life in Christ. His struggles were great. But when we turn our mess over to the Heavenly Father, there's no end to what He can do in our lives.
"And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you." 1 Peter 5:10
The fact is, aside from Jesus, none of us are perfect. We all struggle with sin and temptation. Even those viewed as "God's favorites" fall victim to the devil's snares. But it is important to remember that, thanks to Jesus' sacrifice on the cross, we are not defined by our failures. God's grace and love is bigger than our own flawed nature!
Be sure to share this story with anyone you know who needs that reminder today!
"Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago." Acts 3:19-21
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