Yorkshire, England: 2019 World Championship Time Trial
My head was pounding, spinning out waves of extreme nausea. The slightest movement made my eyes twitch, nonstop. All I could do was be still or throw up. I kept doing both. Vertigo had me in its grip and wouldn’t let go. How was I going to race my bike in the World Championships the next day?
My physical senses shouted impossible, but my inner eyes, ears and heart fought to stay focused on God’s promises. HIS WORD. Could I believe Him when every external circumstance was screaming the exact opposite message?
Faith has been a big theme for me this year.
I want faith that walks on water. Faith that doesn’t flinch in storms. Faith that doesn’t fail. Faith that gets out of the boat without sinking like a bag of bricks. All season, I’ve prayed about this. I seem to be good at getting out of the boat, but Lord, why do I keep sinking? I want faith that marvels over You so deeply that I will continue doing crazy, water-walking things with You!
So this year, at age 44, I “got out of the boat” when God said yes, move toward the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. It started well. I won the National Championship which secured me a spot in the 2019 World Championship challenge. My training and preparation was going excellently. Leading into the race, I felt good enough to medal—even win the World Championship again. I sensed God’s presence was so near, His directive very clear, and His power so accessible. I felt it was all coming together . . . until it wasn’t.
On the biggest race day of the season, with Olympic selection on the line, two massive storms threatened to sink my faith. Externally, there was torrential rain flooding Harrogate, England. But the internal storm was worse. Vertigo overwhelmed my body and halted all my preparation (and me).
In the moment, I couldn’t see how I could climb onto that bike and do the task in front of me. All I could do was choose to believe God’s promises. He would fight for me. He is my strength, my refuge, my victory. And because they were written on my heart, I could cling to His Word when my physical senses were failing me. Peter sank when the circumstances around him got louder than hearing Jesus’ word, “Come.”
So there it was. Would I still believe the promises God had been speaking to me on this trip and all this entire season? The answer was in the challenge. In spite of the storm waves that rattled me, would I still believe? Would I keep moving in the direction of His voice?
Moving made me physically sick, but I had to try. In faith with the expectation that God would show up. As I warmed up on a stationary bike, God began to cover me. His promises are true. He is faithful. And when I rolled down the start ramp, moving in spite of how I felt, pedaling in faith, HE showed up. I was an empty vessel, filled just in time. He fought for me through the vertigo, through the rain, and even through a bike mechanical problem all the way to the finish line.
I ended up in fourth place. One spot from automatic selection for the Olympics, but still on the long team. And you know what? This is the perfect place for me to keep getting out of the boat to walk with Him. I have no certainty of what is ahead but I am sure of Him. He is who He says He is, and what He says is true.
So onward I go, safely tethered to His Word, practicing water-walking faith. Knowing Him better along the way. Grateful that He is infinitely patient with me. He is watching me, and He is always listening for my help cries when I begin to sink!
I wait quietly before God, for my victory comes from Him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will never be shaken.
Amber Neben is an ambassador for Christ disguised as a bike racer. She is a 2x USA Olympian in Road Cycling, 3x Time Trial World Champion, 6x National Champion, 2x Pan-American Champion and multiple Tour de France Feminine winner. Amber founded The Dare to Be Project, which inspires financially and physically challenged youth to embrace life and dare to be their dream. Read more from Amber on her blog Cycle and Soul.