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
In my spiritual life, some forms of weightlifting aren’t healthy—carrying loads and burdens that are unnecessary, that weigh me down instead of strengthening me. These can take the form of needless demands I place on myself or worries and anxieties that I fail to give over to God. These burdens can affect me not only spiritually, but also physically if given the chance.
I was 18 when my mother was first diagnosed with cancer. Nothing like that had ever happened in our family, and we were all deeply affected by it. Despite my best efforts to remain strong on the outside, I was a mess of worry on the inside. I constantly played the “what if” game. What if complications arise and Mom doesn’t survive? How will we go on if she leaves us? On and on it went.
I worried so much that it wasn’t long before I got sick myself. I caught the flu, and my temperature went up and down for several days. Eventually, I had a febrile seizure. I fell down, hit my head, and passed out for several minutes. Fortunately, besides a big bruise on my head, I wasn’t seriously injured, though I did spend one night in the hospital under observation.
Before I was released, I was told to take seizure medicine for a time. The medication made me very tired—causing me to spend more time in bed than usual. This was when I heard God’s voice say, “You’re carrying a weight of worry that’s making you sick and weighing you down. You need to surrender it to Me and trust Me.”
When I was able to totally surrender my worries and fears to Jesus, relief flooded my heart, and I felt lighter inside.
Hebrews 12:1 advises, “Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.”2 I always believed the “weight” mentioned here referred to a weight of sin or disobedience. Granted, this type of weight does exist. But I began to realize that even the more subtle and seemingly justifiable things like stress and worry can ensnare and weigh us down.
One morning during my devotional reading, I came across Habakkuk 2:3—a verse I’d never previously paid much attention to. Now it seemed to come alive—as if it had been written just for me. “The revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come.”3
There it was, clear as crystal. I was to surrender my anxiety and wait for the “appointed time” when everything would be revealed.
I now try to follow the advice in Philippians 4:6–7: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”4
Faith isn’t the ability to believe long and far into the misty future. It’s simply taking God at His Word and taking the next step.—Joni Eareckson Tada (b. 1949)
I believe God is managing affairs and that He doesn’t need any advice from me. With God in charge, I believe everything will work out for the best in the end. So what is there to worry about?—Henry Ford (1863–1947)
Trust the past to God’s mercy, the present to God’s love and the future to God’s providence.—Saint Augustine (354–430)
Do not be anxious about what may happen tomorrow; the same everlasting Father who cares for you today will take care of you tomorrow and every day. Either He will shield you from suffering, or He will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace, then, put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations. —Saint Francis de Sales (1567–1622)
1. Matthew 11:30