It is said there is a mind body connection. And if you’ve ever tried to get out of bed at O-Dark-Thirty to exercise and failed, you know what I mean. You may also have heard the phrase, “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Committing to an intelligently-designed routine physical-exercise program has unimaginable benefits, not the least of which is to forge the spirit and flesh into one unit. But probably the biggest carryover of an exercise program is in your commitment to your faith in God. At least it is for me. Let me explain.
The last couple of years have been rehab so I’ve been lifting kind of light. In order to lift heavy stuff off the floor and over your head, you must master tension.
Tension is a form of stress.
Tension is what makes you strong. It’s the ability to flex, or tense, your muscles in the right time through each part of each exercise. Lose this ability and you won’t complete the lift, or worse, you’ll get injured.
One of the great benefits of mastering tension is that it has such wonderful benefits. Your body gets stronger. Your muscles get tighter. You burn more calories at rest. Life gets easier from a physical perspective. Lifting heavy weights trains your mind, body and spirit to endure.
Training for strength in the weight room is like faith in God – it takes work, lots of work. The more you push and struggle for more, the stronger you get. And if you follow “the rules” you will get strong. The more you exercise your faith, the more you know God through the Bible and what He says in it, the closer you will get to knowing him.
But sometimes, when training for strength and mastering that tension you will find that shortcuts present themselves as options. Don’t do them. They always end up taking you away from what you really want – strength. Shortcuts also lure you when strengthening your faith. They come in the form of temptations. Temptation is the “opportunity” to cross your conscience or to do the thing you know is wrong.
Life is funny. And by funny, I don’t mean “ha-ha.” You just never know when a decision will come back and bite you in the butt. Yet, at the same time, you don’t necessarily know how everything you’ve done up to that point will prepare you for what you are about to face.
A couple of years ago, my marriage was in trouble, but I ignored the warning signs until it was almost too late. I found myself in an emotionally vulnerable, dangerous, and highly charged situation. Unfortunately, due to the circumstances, it wasn’t easy to get immediately out of danger. My marriage was falling apart and my heart had strayed far from my wife. And I had to do something drastic about it.
This was a whole different kind of tension – a whole different kind of stress. I could’ve followed the footsteps of many a man and left my wife – forsaken the vows I made to her and to God the day we got married. But I didn’t. I was encouraged by a verse in the Bible that says, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”
The temptation to walk away from my marriage was great. I thought I had reached my breaking point. But I never broke – I just kept bearing up under the stress. The years of struggling, suffering, and striving under the heavy loads in the weight room enabled me to do this – that and knowing that God would rescue me from my stupid decisions.
And that’s what true strength is – the ability to stand up under seemingly impossible circumstances. In my opinion that is one of the reasons you should exercise routinely. It enables you to discipline your body through your mind and your spirit. And it has the ability to draw you closer to God.
Doing those things prepare you for the struggles and the temptations that will come. They give you the strength to overcome. Be warned, they WILL come. No one escapes them. Every one is tempted. Temptation is common – every single one of them. They are stressors to your faith. They come to make your faith in God stronger – to draw you closer to Him.
Temptations give you the opportunity to trust God at His word and to watch Him come through for you: “And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.” If you can only bear a little, you will only be allowed to be tempted a little. It’s just like exercise. When you first get started, you can only tolerate so much. But as you get stronger and fitter, you can tolerate more work, and do more things at higher intensity levels.
Just like exercise makes the body stronger, no matter how unpleasant at the time, temptation is a necessary tension, a necessary stress in strengthening your faith: “But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” You can’t hide from it you can only resist it. Just like physical challenges. They will come and you can’t hide from them. They may be as mundane as changing a flat tire or playing catch in the yard with your son, or they may be of the utmost urgency like having to save someone’s life. But come they will.
God, will provide a way out of the temptation. But notice why he does so – “…so you can stand up under it.” So you will not crumple and fall. So you will be strengthened. Temptation is to your spirit what exercise is to your body. Exercise strengthens your body and prepares it for the rigors of life. And more importantly, it gives you energy. Temptation is similar – it strengthens your faith and is necessary to make your faith in God and your relationship with Him closer.
Back to my “funny” story. It took almost six months to get out from under the temptation. The last three months were unbearable. I lost weight. My stomach hurt all the time. My hair got grayer. But I stood. God was faithful and provided a way out. Today, my faith is stronger and as a result of this experience, one of my prayers I had been praying for about 15 years was answered.
I would never want to willingly go through that stress again. But I can say emphatically that the amount of time I spent struggling under a heavy bar over the last 20 years helped me stand up under this temptation. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have made it without all that exposure to tension.
Here are some take away points for you.
Exercise is a physical and emotional stressor. In the short term it can be difficult and demanding. In the long run, it will make you physically and emotionally stronger, rewarding you with energy and enabling you to cope with life’s physical demands.
Temptation always faces everyone. God allows it to give you the opportunity to make your faith stronger. And He will provide a way out from that temptation, you just have to look for it.
Exercise, and the routine practice thereof, has immense benefits to your spiritual life. It allows you to face and overcome temptation without giving in and making mistakes you will regret.
I will even go so far as to say that you are sabotaging your spiritual life if you fail to exercise. You just won’t have the energy to devote yourself to God in the midst of your daily stressors, your daily grind. Your faith in God will suffer. And so will your joy and passion for life.
So, strengthen your body, mind, and spirit by committing to and embracing a rigorous exercise routine and watch your life and your faith blossom.
has been a fitness professional for more than 16 years and has helped many people transform their lives through exercise. He has a passion for kettlebell training and lifting heavy stuff and ruminates on strength training and it’s application to life at his Chasing Strength Blog