All things work together for good

Jinger and Jeremy Vuolo
Jinger and Jeremy Vuolo in a photo from social media.

Former professional soccer player Jeremy Joseph Vuolo, husband of TV reality star Jinger Duggar from TLC's "19 Kids and Counting" and "Counting On", is now the pastor of a successful church in Laredo, Texas but he was not always such a good boy.

Jeremy Joseph, a tall, dark, and handsome 30-year-old from Philadelphia talks openly about his "wild years" in late high school and college.

"I began to drink and to attend parties on the weekends with different people [during my senior year]," the former athlete says. "This continued into college, and the sin became worse and worse.

"Thankfully, God spared me from much during those years, but I also gave in to much. I was part of the college party scene and was living foolishly. I began sliding deeper and deeper into the pit of lust and selfishness and pride."

During this time he was also training to become a professional soccer player and played goalkeeper for his school in New York.

"But as my life in the party scene got worse, my performance on the field did as well — and so did the relationships with those around me. At one point it got so bad that I even spent a night in a holding cell at the local police station for refusing to obey a police officer during a night downtown."

He pleaded guilty to second-degree harassment in February of 2008 when he was 20 years old. The result was a $250 fine and a "one-year conditional discharge".

Jeremy says that night behind bars changed his life:

"My sin was catching up with me, and I knew it. I remember sitting with my head in my hands and crying out to God, 'God, I cannot live like this anymore'.

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"I had come to the end of myself. My mistakes had become such a burden to me, and I wanted out of it. Looking at Jesus with faith in what He had done, I [left] my sin and ran to the cross for forgiveness."

Though Jeremy knew Christ had forgiven him and made him a new creation, he explains he was not freed of his sinful tendencies overnight.

"I continued to battle against my natural desires, except now I began to see great victory in my life. The sins that had once enslaved me and shackled me, I now began to have victory over," he says.

"I was not perfect. Christianity does not mean you become a perfect person. It means the bondage to sin in your life is broken, and though we may stumble and wrestle against sin, there is victory."

Jeremy Vuolo
Jeremy Vuolo in his soccer-playing days.

After college, Jeremy went on to play for the Finnish club AC Oulu of the Veikkausliiga, Finland's top soccer league, before signing with Major League Soccer's New York Red Bulls in 2012.

He signed with the San Antonio Scorpions of the North American Soccer League in 2013 and re-signed with the team in 2014.

He says his faith has also played a tremendous part in his sport. "As an athlete, everybody knows you're going to suffer disappointment," he says in an Athletes in Action video.

"I've slowly been learning how to deal with that. And I think it really comes down to having your base identity being in something other than your skill."

Jeremy goes on to explain, "My identity needs to be in something that's never going to change, and that's Jesus Christ.

"It begins and ends with having that foundation in Christ, finding my identity not in my skills on the field, not in the person I am, not in the relationships I have, not in my accomplishments or how people perceive me, but having my identity found in the person of Jesus Christ and who He is and what He did for me and His unconditional love for me."

"I find Romans 8:28 to be an incredible comfort," he adds. "It says this sovereign God, who is in control of the Universe, has promised me He's working all things together for my good, for the good of those who love Him and have been called according to His purposes.

"Knowing there's a God who is in control, there's a God who is sovereign— I can rest in that. So of course, emotionally, you're invested, your spirit is in it, and you're disappointed when something goes wrong. But that shouldn't be the end of it.

"I know there is a God who has promised me that every single thing— not every single good thing that happens to me, but everything, good and bad, my mistakes, my failures, my successes— He is working out together for my good."

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