Houston Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud led his team to a 30-27 comeback victory over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, throwing the 22-year-old’s name into NFL MVP contention.
But Stroud’s life has also been a comeback story – thanks to God’s grace and mercy.
He was born on October 3, 2001, in Rancho Cucamonga, California, as the youngest of four. Stroud’s father, Coleridge Bernard Stroud, III, has been in prison since C.J. was in middle school, after being sentenced to 38-years-to-life in prison for kidnapping, carjacking and robbery – leading to severe financial debt for C.J. and his family.
Following his father’s arrest, C.J. went to college where he found Jesus Christ.
“When I got to college, I found Christ for myself,” Stroud said prior to being drafted into the NFL in 2023. “I’m still learning. I’m definitely not perfect. I am [a] sinner and I definitely do repent of my sins.”
Before the 2023 NFL Draft, Stroud said, “First and foremost, I want to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for blessing me with health, favor and opportunity.”
After Sunday’s victory, Stroud talked about his faith and his thanksgiving for the grace of God.
Explaining how he can lead under pressure, “For me, it’s a lot of prayer,” Stroud said. “I don’t deserve His grace and His mercy but He still gives it to me and I love Him for that.”
“It’s not about me, it’s about Him and His glory. So I think that’s where it comes from. I think God made me like that,” he added.
Stroud also alluded to his difficult personal life growing up, sharing,
I’ve been through a lot. Not only in football but things that made me kind of chill when everything is going crazy. And I thank God for putting that [in] me because that’s something that you need playing in this position.
Stroud was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy in 2021 and 2022, before being selected by the Texans as the second overall draft pick in 2023. He told Fox News prior to being drafted into the NFL that his faith is what keeps him grounded.
Football has a lot of ups and downs, it has a lot of twists and turns, but at the end of the day, it’s all about your foundation. And something that’s set my foundation is my faith.
It’s something I’m not perfect in, but I try to work every day to be better, and I think that’s what saved me. If it helps encouraging anybody to help them in their lives, whatever they’re going through, then I’m all for it.
One can contrast Stroud’s humble, yet wise reaction to Sunday’s victory to comments recently made by U.S. soccer player Megan Rapinoe, who identifies as a lesbian.
Rapinoe suffered an injury in the final match of her career on Saturday with an apparently torn Achilles tendon.
Speaking about her injury at a post-match press conference, Rapinoe said, “I’m not a religious person or anything and if there was a god, like, this is proof that there isn’t.”
When faced with trial, adversity and suffering, we can respond in two ways – with faith, or without.
To be sure, it’s easier to give God glory – as Stroud did – when everything is going well. It’s more difficult to do so when things are not.
While suffering and evil are never directly willed by God, He can use our suffering for our good. That’s a reality that Stroud acknowledged and experienced.
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8: 28, ESV).
Stroud thanked God for what he’s been through in the past because it’s helped him better perform as a quarterback today.
Just like Christ’s sufferings on the cross, there is a redemptive element to suffering. We can offer our sufferings up to God and He can use it for His purposes.
“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church” (Colossians 1:24, ESV).
And lastly, we can know that the coming glory upon Christ’s return will far outweigh our momentary troubles. No matter our present sufferings, though it may not seem like it at the time, they are “not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18, ESV).
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4, ESV).
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Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins recently appeared on the Focus on the Family Broadcast to share his family story and his football journey. He also discussed the importance of discipleship and evangelism in impact the culture. You can listen to “Kirk Cousins: Living as an Ambassador for Christ” by clicking here.
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Photo from Getty Images.