Are you kidding me?!
Oh, dear Lord, this is terrible.
If you had heard me that morning in my sunroom, you would probably think I was in need of a doctor. On the contrary, I was inflicting the pain on myself with my morning workout.
I was just starting back up with a fitness program I was doing after taking a break from it for a few weeks. And it hurt. I was tired. And obviously loud enough for my 4 year old to wander in to see what was going on. 😉
“Mom, if you just did easier cardio, your arms and legs wouldn’t hurt so bad.” (Yes, he is 4.)
He was rational, logical, and…right.
Oh, everything in me wanted to stop. But I knew I had to keep going. I knew from past experience that it was worth it.
“You’re right, buddy. But this is good for me. If I quit and do something easier, my muscles will never get stronger. If I keep doing it I’ll get better at it…and eventually it won’t hurt as bad anymore.”
It was another one of those moments when words for my son came out of my mouth that I really needed to hear myself.
It had been a hard week. Ministry had been draining and discouraging. Adam was busy and had long meetings most every night. I felt a bit depleted and lonely and was really missing my friends that know and understand my heart best.
Isn’t there an easier way? Was this really good for me? Was it making me stronger? Would it eventually not hurt so bad?
In 1 Timothy 4, Paul is writing to a young “pastor” left in charge of the ministry in Ephesus and Asia Minor.
Now the Spirit says that in later times some will depart from the faith… (vs. 1)
People were believing lies. They were turning away from the faith they knew. They were giving up.
Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness: for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way… (vs.7-8)
The Greek word here for train is gymnazō, which means “to exercise vigorously; to discipline”.
So, Just as difficult physical training produces a stronger body, the tough stuff of life should prompt my spiritual training…and result in godly character…that results in permanent benefits.
But a hard week can certainly drive me to my knees. And leave me feeling weak and helpless.
My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
I guess that fatigued, muscle shaking, sweat dripping place is exactly where God wants me to be. Paul knew that…and had experienced it’s Truth.
…I am well content with weaknesses and hardships. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:10)
Okay, I understand “I’ll do my best to try to survive the hard stuff” or “I’ll clench my teeth and try to push through this workout”…but “I am well content”? Really?
The Greek word for content here is eudokeō: “is good to one; to do willingly; to prefer; to choose rather; to take pleasure in“.
Hold the phone. Like those crazy people that actually like the Insanity workouts?! Paul says that he prefers, would choose, would willingly go through the tough stuff of life and take pleasure in it. But, why?
…as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. (1 Timothy 4:8)
This hard work. These hard days. This loneliness. That discouragement.
This willingly pushing through. This taking pleasure in weakness. This not giving up.
This spiritual training is not only reminding me where my strength comes from, but is also resulting in my good both now and in eternity.
So the hard workouts and the tough lessons are worth the sweat and pain and exercise that goes into them.
For this end we toil and strive… (vs. 10)
That same week, Isaiah was at the kitchen table trying to write a letter to someone. He gets frustrated easily when something doesn’t come naturally to him and got seriously ticked off when every time he tried to make a v, it looked more like a u. I was busy taking care of Toby in the other room, but could hear Adam gently encouraging Isaiah not to give up and to try again.
“Learning is hard, Isaiah. You have to practice. But Daddy will stay right here and help you. I won’t ask you to do anything that I know you can’t do. Don’t give up. It will look so good when it’s done.”
Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. (vs. 15)
Keep trying. Keep practicing. Your Father is beside you. It’s not something you can’t do with His help. It will be worth it.
Around that same time, Toby was starting to try to walk. Adam and I would sit on the floor a few feet apart and would try to get him to go back and forth between us. He would stumble and stagger and fall and his little (or not so little :)) legs were shaky. We realized, though, that he would do a whole lot better if he stopped looking at the ground or at his feet or even where he was going. He walked the best when he was looking up.
…because we have set our hope on the living God… (vs. 10)Watching him, I realized that I was the same way. I did much better when I took my eyes off of the obstacles in front of me, off of the task before me, and off of my tomorrows. I’m so much more content and less stressed when I set my eyes on Jesus.
…seek the things above, where Christ is…Set your mind on things above, not on things that are on earth. (Colossians 3:1-2)
We also found that Toby walked better when he had something in his hand.
…devote yourself to Scripture…Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you… (1 Timothy 4:13-14)
Do the things that help you keep your balance. Immerse yourself in the Word. Hold on to the gift, the task, the hard work you’ve been given.
…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)
Even Jesus had to keep His eyes up to endure His race – a workout much more difficult than we will ever experience. And what was His motivation?
“Jesus was carried in the agonies of the last lap of his race by the hope of joy. ‘For the joy that was set before him [he] endured the cross, despising the shame’. Jesus kept his eyes on the same place we should — his own future exaltation at the Father’s right hand, with the completion of our salvation crowning his head. This was his joy.”
– John Piper
How different would my hard days be if I started and ended them with my eyes looking up? Like Paul…and like Jesus…could the hard workouts really start to be the ones I preferred? Believe that the trials of life were really for my good? Be motivated to keep going by the joy of not only having my Father beside me, but also of His holding promises for me in eternity?