I lace up the shoes and pull my hair back into a pony tail. The hand weights don’t feel heavy in my hands right now, but then I start moving them, raising them above my head and out in front of me. I lunge, lift, repeat, never resting, trying to work as hard as I can within 20 minutes to achieve the results of a leaner, toned, healthy body. At first, it feels okay, but once I’m halfway through, my muscles are burning, they’re screaming and I want it to be done, I want to quit. All I can think about is sitting my butt on the couch, and how nice it is to not be sweating, to not have a beat red (or purple) face.
If you’ve ever done a Jillian Michaels workout DVD then you know that “TV’s toughest trainer” doesn’t let you phone it in, she makes you work, but she promises results. And when I’m feeling like I’d rather be dead, or at least just give up and turn off that DVD she chimes in with encouragement like this:
- “…we want your body to change as quickly as possible and in order to do that, we gotta put stress on it. That’s how things change. Put some stress on your body, it’s gonna adapt.”
- “And if you guys want those results, you gotta hang with us, and fight for it. Stick with it. When it starts to get uncomfortable, those are the ones that count the most. That’s when I want you to push through, that’s when change is gonna happen.”
- “You gotta fight for this. I don’t want you guys to stop. PUSH through this.”
- “I know you’re tired, I know you just wanna stop right now and shut off this DVD. Don’t even think about it. Keep pushing! We don’t quit at the end! This is when we finish strong. We don’t get to the finish line and stop, that’s when we give it even more than we started with.”
- “Do not quit on me. I know you feel that little knot in your stomach. That is your body getting stronger, that is fear leaving the body right there. Stick with it.”
I’ve never turned off the DVD. I believe Jillian, I trust her. I do what she says.
I can’t help but think of the spiritual parallel to all of the encouragement she gives on pushing through the difficult times. The times when you want to quit and you forget why you even started in the first place. When you give yourself to God and then you find yourself in situations that are so uncomfortable for you and you wonder “What was I thinking? What is God doing with me?” Times when you are so stressed out and you think, “Where is that peace I was supposed to have? I thought God loved me, why is he doing this to me?”
You want to be more like God? You want to be patient, good, kind, loving, gentle, faithful, self-controlled? There isn’t really a way to show these qualities without being in situations that require their display. One time, while traveling through Europe, I prayed something along the lines that God would change my heart’s focus from being on material posessions, and that I would be more self-less and more like him. A few night later while on a train from Rome to Venice, my backpack containing approximately $3000 worth of electronics and other valuables was stolen. It’s like God was saying, “Really? You want to be less materialistic? Okay, here’s an opportunity!”
I have also experienced God working Himself through me when he puts me in situations where I completely cannot handle them and he “makes his power perfect in my weakness” by having the Holy Spirit work through me to complete the task. When I find myself in those situations, I am extremely uncomfortable, I don’t want to do the task that God has asked me to do, I am stressed, I may have a knot in my stomach, and I just want to quit. All it takes is for me to take that first step out of my comfort zone (which is a big heavy step at times!) and God takes over, and I am changed. The whole experience changes me, and I see the glory of God and it is worth it.
And other times, I simply do not want to do the daily exercises of coming to God in prayer and studying his word. I am tired of it, it seems boring, or there is just something else I want to do. Then I hear the holy spirit tell me, like Jillian, “You want to be close to God? You’ve gotta push through this, you’ve gotta fight for this. You’re getting stronger, don’t give up now.”
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. – James 1:2-3
Every trial I’ve endured since becoming a Christian has been uncomfortable, stressful, and usually, it makes me want to quit. But James reminds me that the testing of my faith develops perseverance, and when we persevere we become mature. And slowly, but surely, the more I come to God and the closer I am to him, He helps me to see the joy in all of my trials and to trust Him in everything.
I believe Him, I trust Him. I do what He says.
So those hard things you’re going through right now? Try to see them as weights in your hands that God is using to change you, adapt you, mold and shape you for the spiritual result of being more like Him. Don’t give up, keep going! You’ve gotta fight for this! PUSH through this! You’re getting stronger, fear is leaving the body. God is with you the whole way, and once you’re through it, you’ll see those results you were wanting, you’ll be more like your heavenly father, and you’ll be more complete. Just keep going to Him, leaning on Him, seeking and searching for Him. Don’t ever give up.
This post is a part of a 31 day series in which I write about the extraordinary in my ordinary moments. To see a list of all the other posts, click here.