Last week my biceps were so sore from water skiing that I could hardly lift a gallon of milk. And this week, I can hardly sit on the toilet – it’s brutal getting down, painful getting up, and the toilet seat presses right onto my sore glutes and hamstrings. Go ahead and giggle. The struggle is real. As uncomfortable as tight muscles can be, I love being sore because it’s proof that I worked hard and that I’m building strength.
If sore muscles and building strength are evidence of physical training, what’s the proof of spiritual training?
1 Timothy 4:8 says, “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” According to this verse, the value of spiritual training is endless, which I completely agree with; but what I’m discovering lately is, proof that I’ve been spending time in the Word is my endurance increases. The more time I spend in the Word, or pray, or listen for the Lord to speak, the more able I am to endure whatever anxiety, fear, or anger comes my way.
Growing up playing volleyball, at the beginning of every season the captains of the team organized conditioning practice. This practice was completely separate from our normal bump, set, spike drills and did not even involve a volleyball; instead, it consisted of sprints, running up and down the bleachers, ab exercises, and strength training. The point of conditioning was less about learning a specific skill and more about helping our bodies adapt or endure through an exercise program. The more endurance we built up in conditioning practice, the longer and stronger we could play at our peak performance during a vigorous match.
What’s interesting to me is, when I notice that I’m out of breath quickly or struggling to lift my over packed beast of a suitcase into my trunk, the first thing out of my mouth is “Oh my gosh, I am so out of shape.” Or – “Man, I need to hit the gym.” I see the evidence of weakness, and know the solution is to increase my physical training.
But when I feel anxious, or fearful, or I cling to anger like a life preserver, my first response isn’t, “When was the last time I was in the Word?” It’s more like, “This sucks. How do I make this stop? What’s wrong with me?” And further down the anxious rabbit hole I go.
The last time I suffered an anxiety attack, I got mad that the Lord didn’t stop my anxiety in its tracks. With a tight chest and shallow breath, I accusingly cried out to Him saying, “God! Break me free from this! I know you can – so why aren’t you? Break me free!”
I recited all the scripture I’ve locked into my mind for moments such as this. I proclaimed the name of Jesus. I cried out for help. Yet there I was, stuck in the trap of anxiety.
In that moment, I was so consumed with the fact that God hadn’t broken me free from the anxiety right when I wanted him to, that I lost sight of the truth that even though life with Jesus is not a guarantee that I will be freed from every hardship that comes my way, it is an absolute promise that I will be able to endure it.
Spending time reading the Bible is not a “get out of anxiety free” card. BUT it is an assurance and a guarantee that I will be able to endure.
The more time I spend in the Word, the more I can lock the truth that Jesus will not let me go into my memory. The more I can claim His victory over the evil one. The more I can remember the truth that this too shall pass, that with Christ I am able to endure anything.
Just like strength training will enable me to lift heavier objects and run farther distances without losing my breath, spending time in the Word will give me strength and remind me that God is in control. The problem is, when I’m slacking in the “getting in the Word” department, my heart gets out of shape and I lose sight of that truth.
If we don’t take the time to condition our bodies, we can’t expect them to up and run a half marathon out of nowhere. And the same goes with spiritual training. If we want to see the proof, endurance in moments of weakness, we need to constantly and consistently prepare our hearts.
I don’t know about you but I need to hit the “weights” and build up my spiritual endurance. I want to be so strong that whenever weakness shows its face, there will be absolutely no doubt in my mind that I am able to endure. Together let's bathe ourselves in the Word and Truth of our heavenly Father and savior Jesus Christ. Let's fix our eyes on His truth, make Jesus’ name known, and endure any storm that comes our way.