“I’m sexy and I know it. I work out!” These lyrics by the oh-so-appropriately named (even if a little inappropriate) LMFAO are rolling around in my head. I got myself back to the gym this week, after a little workout sabbatical (read: been waaaay too busy for that) so I think that now qualifies me as “working out”. The’ sexy and I know it’ part- well -I’m laughing something off! So that little voice in my head and the screaming button on my jeans guilted me into finding time for the gym. And for the record I would just like to say that I have not missed going to the gym at all. Really. Not at all. I don’t enjoy exercising in a forced and contrived environment, though I’ve done it out of necessity for years.
I went back full steam and did a class and some cardio and some weight training. It was difficult because the whole time my mind was whirling with the lists and responsibilities just waiting….lurking in my mind. But as I said, necessity drove me and I moved from machine to machine working each muscle group thoroughly. Despite the weight of duty calling and a slight boredom, I persevered knowing that I would be thankful later that I accomplished a worthy and healthy thing for myself.
Two days later I realized some of the fruit of that worthy and healthy thing…. Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) to be precise. Apparently it does require muscle use to move fingers on a keyboard. Still I was proud of myself and willing to endure a little pain for the sake of the greater good. Until the third day when I moved from tight and sore into full-out robot maneuvers because it just plain hurt too much to bend. Anything. I vaguely remember crying out to the universe, “I take it back! I un-workout!” There just isn’t enough healthy and good, and definitely not enough sexy, that could or should justify that pain and suffering!
The crosses we bear in our lives often feel similar, whether of our own making or not. They are sometimes painful and heavy, sometimes tedious and aggravating and often we can’t really see the point even if we have a vague sense that somehow they are for our good. How often do we cry out in distress to make it stop or change or go away or improve? How often do we seem to get no response and see no change? Or how often do we come through hardship the better and stronger for it? In every case, God asks us to persevere and trust in Him because He knows exactly what the point is.
We can look at the example of the Israelites coming out of slavery. They were in the desert waiting on the Lord for 40 years! They cried out and prayed and begged, and in spite of manna raining down from heaven to feed them daily, they ultimately failed to trust. Moses went up Mt Sinai for 40 days and by the time he came back down God’s chosen people were worshipping idols. (Ex. 32) These were a people that had walked through the Red Sea on dry ground! They experienced miracles directly from God but how easily they gave up when the waiting didn’t seem to make sense.
We can ask, about the Israelites, and about our own lives, what is the point of the suffering God allows? I certainly can’t pretend to have the answer to that profound question; who can know the mind of God after all? But it is not difficult to look back at the Israelites on their way to Canaan and see where they might have gone wrong. They certainly lost patience, and failed to obey and trust in God’s promise to lead them to the promised land. They questioned and tested God when they were hungry and thirsty (Ex 16-17). The minute the going got tough they decided they had a better way.
What they missed was the point that our sufferings are an opportunity for purification. They provide an opportunity to rely totally on our sovereign God and believe wholeheartedly that there is a point and a plan and that He is providing all the grace we need to be victorious for eternal rewards.
When we look at our crosses from this perspective they become easier to bear. When we open our hearts to God in total trust and abandonment, He fills them with Grace to bear up in our circumstances. He teaches not only the bearer of the cross but sometimes those who come into contact with another’s cross, how to trust and rely on Him in all circumstances. He fills our hearts with Himself, thereby assuring us of victory.
My muscles are no longer screaming at me in killing pain. I’m not even sure what was accomplished by those few little workouts, but somehow I know it was good and I’m glad that I have the first and most difficult week under my belt. Even if it’s on a very small scale, I am stronger and better off and more prepared to take on bigger and better workout challenges that will lead to a healthier and happier physical me! Most importantly I’ve opened up an opportunity for myself to grow and to change.
If those Israelites had known then what we know now, if they had the knowledge of hindsight, imagine how obedient and full of Love for self and neighbor and how faithful in trusting and worshiping the one true God they would have been.
After all the land of milk and honey awaits.