I’ll start this article off with a quick confession. I’m a 25-year-old stuck in an 85 year old body. I am chronically unfit, unimaginably uncoordinated, and as achy as a geriatric. Now, I don’t wear these as badges of honour, it is the life that I chose based on a myopic view of my future. So, now I’m facing the consequences of deliberately losing my “physical education gear”, and dodging every opportunity to exercise. Recently, the Lord convicted me about my unhealthy lifestyle and drew a revelatory parallel with exercise and my walk with Him.
God has a way of working on several things in us simultaneously, because He has the privilege of not being restrained by time. I have struggled with obeying God in a few matters that I consider “big”, and so I felt led to fast. The fast revealed that it wasn’t just the “big” things; it was also the minute things that caused discomfort and inconvenience. At the root of it was my flesh feeling entitled to comfort and ease. During this fast I felt as if He also wanted me to start a daily exercise routine. The core of my being abhorred these instructions, but I was fasting for grace to obey and so I began. It was as rough as I expected, as the accumulation of my years of inactivity manifested itself in soreness after a few minutes.
Lessons from exercise
One of my favourite gems from the Scriptures is, 2 Corinthians chapter 4 verse 17 “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” The direct context here might have been persecution, but I believe it articulates so well a principle we see throughout scripture. The principle is that, it is through suffering, discomfort and hardship that God works out His character in us.
Though the process feels unbearable, He sees the beauty at the end and is determined for that to be our reality. The description for the word affliction in the verse is “light” while the description for glory is “greater weight.” I find this very telling and exercise has taught me how to appropriately weigh hardship- and that seems to be against the weight of the results or returns. A simple truth that many athletes live by is: enduring the pain, because they see the figurative and literal finish line. However, the revelation just hit like a ton of bricks on my unathletic frame. This was a necessary lesson for me as I am conditioned for quick results with little effort, and this fundamental error seeped into my pursuit of God.
Discomfort as a tool
God has fashioned the world in such a way that hardship and discomfort produce beneficial outcomes. Not hardship and discomfort that are self-inflicted, but which arise from a place of obedience to Him. In His sovereignty He saw it fit to use them to refine and prepare us for a greater weight of glory. The Scriptures use imagery like the potter and the clay, or the refiner and gold to underscore that for Christ to be fully formed in us there needs to be less of us and thus the molding and fire though uncomfortable are incredibly necessary. Therefore, whatever it takes to remove the impurities He will do, because He sees the end, He is not shortsighted like us.
Suffering is Necessary
The book of Hebrews in a few chapters articulates the necessity of suffering for Jesus and the implications that it has on us. In chapter 2 it says that it was only right for God to make Jesus through His suffering a perfect leader, fit to bring us into our salvation. In chapter 9 it says Jesus learned obedience through the things He suffered. It therefore seems, that suffering is indeed a tool that God uses to work His purposes through the course of history. I grappled with this for a bit, like, “You’re God, I’m sure there were other ways to do this”, but I was gently reminded that yes there might have been other ways, but He always chooses what is best. I recalled the story of Job and one of his utterances has been reassuring, it says in Job chapter 23 verse 10, “but He knows the way that I take; when He has tried me, I shall come out as pure gold.” Endurance, long suffering and obedience are things that I got theoretically, but through this fast and my exercise routine God saw it fit to bring overwhelmingly clear revelations into these subjects, and for that I am grateful.
Jhonelle is a Jesus enthusiast and Christian youth leader. She’s a lover of all things related to discipleship and a freelance writer.