One of my favorite forms of exercise is weightlifting. I’m no bodybuilder; I just do it to stay toned and keep in shape. I also find it interesting how akin weightlifting can be to our spiritual growth.
In our “spiritual weightlifting,” we have a truly awesome trainer. In Matthew 11:29, Jesus tells us, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me.” To me, the “yoke” is symbolic of anything that strengthens and exercises our faith and Christian walk. Jesus goes on to promise right after that, “My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”1
I grew up around creeks, lakes, and rivers, but when I was sixteen I went to Atlantic City, New Jersey, and saw the ocean for the first time. At the boardwalk the night we arrived, I walked out on a wooden pier. As the first thunderous waves crashed beneath my feet, I grabbed the railing, terrified. Since then I have had a cautious fondness for the ocean. I’ve never been a strong swimmer, but I love the look of the ocean, the feel of sand between my toes, and even the weightless feeling of being lifted from my feet and carried about by gentle waves—as long as I have something buoyant to hang onto.
I thought I had my life together. I had a loving husband, four wonderful children, and a fulfilling life as an aid worker. We had moved to Indonesia to work with a sheltered workshop for disabled children under the sponsorship of the International Council on Social Welfare and were truly enjoying our experiences.
However, after the birth of my fifth child, things took a different turn. I began struggling with nightmares and depression that overshadowed every aspect of my life. Then my marriage fell apart.
My worst fears came upon me the day I landed in the hospital. I dreaded entering the huge, ominous health factory, where impersonal doctors would study my symptoms with a distant professional look, and nurses would appear at my bedside at the strangest hours to stick me with a thermometer, an injection, or a cup of weak coffee.
God, get me out of here!
Do not give up! Do not let go! Hold on to Me, because I love you. Hold on to My Word, which gives courage, strength, faith, hope, life, and power, even where there is none. I have so much more to give you, to show you, and to work through your life. There’s so much ahead for you!
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified … for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.
—Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV
If you wait for perfect weather, you will never plant your seeds. If you are afraid that every cloud will bring rain, you will never harvest your crops.
—Ecclesiastes 11:4 ERV
Throughout our lives, we encounter situations and opportunities that have potential to open new doors for our future. Sometimes, it’s very clear that God is opening a door; other times, we simply have a sense in our heart. There’s often an accompanying feeling of excitement and positive anticipation that calls us to advance into unfamiliar territory.
Quite a few years ago, when I had barely begun my journey as a volunteer missionary, I was faced with a big decision. I was fretting and fearful and ended up struggling for days with this decision. God eventually answered by giving me a simple illustration.
Starting a new year is a bit like starting a new project. For some time now, I have been working steadily toward a dream of mine: creating a business that gives me the opportunity to earn an income doing something I love, while making a difference in the world. It’s been a step-by-step process that has included a lot of learning and several things that felt like stepping off the deep end—like investing in some training, making a big move with my daughter, starting my own business, and so on.
“To have faith is to trust yourself to the water. When you swim you don’t grab hold of the water, because if you do you will sink and drown. Instead you relax, and float.”—Alan Watts (1915–1973)
Comparing our relationship with God to swimming isn’t a bad analogy. When you swim, you’re surrounded by water; it’s the element in which you move and survive. “In Him we live and move and have our being,” Paul proclaimed.1