Today has been a “let’s put off everything and do nothing” kind of day. After a long day where I accomplished very little, I grabbed my tennis shoes and put on my athletic clothes with every intention of going on a run. After all, I owed it to myself to do something productive today. But instead of going anywhere, I just sat on my couch and made excuses in my head as to why I shouldn’t exercise. Fed up with myself, I put my head in my hands in disbelief and prayed. I asked God “What is wrong with me? Why do I feel so unmotivated and depressed? I can’t get myself to do anything and it’s so much easier to give in to the laziness then to come against it!”
Then I remembered what happened two weeks ago around this same time.
I was in a fitness class at the local YMCA called Resistance Training. One of the first things we did, (and one of my least favorite things to do) is plank. I don’t like planking for two reasons. For one, it’s kinda painful if you’re out of shape like me. And two, I can only last a couple seconds before I collapse to the ground or submit to doing the knee-version of planking. I hate it when I give up on the plank. A flood of insecurity comes rushing in as soon as my knees hit the yoga mat; I’m a failure. I’m a quitter. I’m not strong enough and never will be. Plus I compare myself to other people who are successfully balancing their weight and sucking in their abs for the whole 30 seconds. Old people last longer than I do! Now that’s embarrassing.
But two weeks ago things were different. For some reason I felt strangely empowered, like I could do it. I shouldn’t say “strangely empowered” because truth is, I’ve been praying for more confidence, courage, and strength lately in all circumstances. I never considered this to be one of those times, but in that moment when our instructor told us to hold the final plank of the class for one whole minute, I felt an urge of motivation and power rush through me. I really think I can do this!
I held that plank for one whole minute, my friends.
And it was one of the most fulfilling, challenging and exciting things I’ve done in my entire athletic life!
Instead of giving in after 10-15 seconds when the pain started kicking in, I told myself not to quit. I sucked in my gut, readjusted my position, and kept on going. At 30 seconds, when I felt myself shaking, I told myself I could do this. I reminded myself that I’m stronger than I let myself believe. At 40 seconds when it started getting painful, I locked my eyes on the ground and didn’t even allow the thought of giving up enter my mind.
At 50 seconds, when the instructor started counting down, I knew I made it. The pain seemed like nothing because the finish line was up ahead. I knew I wasn’t going to quit and I knew victory was no more than seconds away.
And when it was done, I fell gently to the mat, smiled a quick, big smile, and sighed in exuberant relief that I accomplished a goal. I did something hard. I never gave up or made it easier on myself. I did it and I was darn proud.
Isn’t it funny how much exercising can relate to faith?
I have been feeling so unmotivated lately. For one, my body is weak and stressed from the chronic illness I’ve been battling for months now. Because of this, I haven’t felt the need to do, well, anything. Not only am I physically unable to do some things, but being limited on my physical and social activity has made me depressed. Going to work (and being motivated at work) has been hard for me, finances have been quite strained lately, and my to-do list of doctor appointments, monthly payments, errands and household chores has been piling high. Not to mention my spiritual life has been out of sorts in light of all these present issues.
With all these things getting me down, it’s easy for me to just want to forget about everything.
Screw this, I’m going to watch an episode of Friends and worry about it tomorrow! (That seems to be my mantra lately).
Shamefully, this has been the way I’ve been living. But what if I just sucked it up and decided not to throw in the towel? What if I told myself I was stronger than the laziness and lack of discipline I’ve been allowing to control me? What if I reminded myself that sickness has no power over me (1 Peter 2:24) and that God has given me a spirit of joy? (Galatians 5:22) If I could just keep my eyes fixed on Jesus and believed him when he said that he has given me a spirit of power, love and self-discipline 2 Timothy 1:7), then maybe that same urge of power that got me through the plank can also keep me going when times get tough.
It takes willpower.
It takes discipline.
It takes trusting in a God who strengthens you when you are weak. (2nd Corinthians 12:9)
An evangelist at my church this past Sunday said it best: happiness is circumstantial but joy is an everlasting gift from God. He reminded me that it’s possible to be joyful in all circumstances because it’s the will of God to do so. When you lift your head up from the hazy cloud of doubt, insecurity and pain and instead look toward the Son…there you will find clarity, purpose, joy and strength. You find strength to endure the unthinkable – even a minute-long plank.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.
– 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
*image found on pinterest :)