“Exercise”. There it is again, the dreaded word.
Often relegated to the bottom of our to-do lists, exercise is a necessary evil to many, and often put off as a last priority. Have you ever thought, though, that a daily gym routine can actually be about far more than vanity or even health? Many areas of our spiritual, emotional, and mental lives mimic our physical lives. Have you ever looked at it as an opportunity to learn, and even grow spiritually? If not, maybe it’s time to take another look. It may just help move your daily gym routine to the top of your get-to-do’s!
How Exercise Can Improve your Spiritual and Emotional Life
Here are 3 lessons you can take from your physical life to transform your spiritual/emotional life at the same time:
1. Understanding Faith and Transformation
Physical: Dragging yourself out of bed early in the morning to spend an hour walking on a machine that takes you nowhere, and lifting heavy items repeatedly is fairly ridiculous at face value. Unless it’s with the belief that eventually you’re going to arrive at a better place, that you will eventually reap the benefits of the sweat and energy you’re sowing now.
I go to the gym each day with a picture in my head of how I want to look and how I want to feel. My “faith” that my work is changing my body even if I don’t see it immediately fuels me to work hard every time I’m there, and motivates me when I’m tired.
Spiritual: As a Christian, when life gets hard, it’s a great reminder that what we sow now, we will eventually reap. If you can challenge your physical body daily for something you hope to see, you can do the same in your spiritual life.
We live by faith in what we cannot yet see, believing in the rewards here on earth and in Heaven. It makes no logical sense to offer grace when we’re offended, love our enemies, or pray to someone we cannot see if it’s not for a greater purpose. If we have faith in a God with whom we get to spend eternity, and that we can become more like Him, then we persevere in what seems foolish at face value.
Lesson: Trust that if you can work toward the unseen, both physically and spiritually, that you will eventually obtain the prize for which you’re working.
2. Learning to Trust the Process
Physical: A lifestyle of fitness teaches us to trust the process.
It’s easy to get motivated when we read magazine headlines like “Get a six pack in 2 weeks!”
It’s just as easy to give up and return to our old, unhealthy habits two weeks later when we’re still having trouble seeing even one abdominal muscle.
That’s because true, lasting transformation doesn’t happen overnight, or even in two weeks. When you get frustrated by slow results, remind yourself that it takes time. The work you’re doing now is part of a process, and if you stick with it, you’ll see the results. The time and effort are never wasted – they’re building a foundation.
But you may have to wait one, three, or even six months.
Spiritual: It’s just as easy to get inspired by a sermon or passage in scripture and decide to pray more consistently. Maybe it’s prayer for a family member, or for an addiction to be broken, or to have more patience with your spouse. But when the problem isn’t solved after a week of daily prayer, you give up, feeling it’s never going to happen.
God says he is faithful to complete the good work he has started in you, in me, and in our loved ones. But he didn’t say he’d do it all today, or tomorrow. Spiritual growth, healing, and change are a journey, just as much as losing weight is a process. It takes time, commitment, and an understanding that even when we can’t immediately see the change, it’s happening below the surface.
Lesson: Breakthrough is possible. If I’m able to get myself to the gym every day, I know I can also pray every day for whatever area needs breakthrough. Obey and persevere, until the results come.
3. Digging Deeper
Physical: Working out regularly and eating healthy allows us to experience more of life with less limitations. It feels good to be strong. It feels good to have energy for a hike with friends, or a long family bike ride on a warm summer night, or have strength to pick your kids up and down…and up again.
But getting to that place requires dedication. If I’m doing a leg press and feel like I can’t do one more rep, I can usually dig down deep and find the energy for one more when I’d rather just quit.
Spiritual: Sometimes, the discipline to spend quiet time with God is no more appealing than getting up early to go to the gym. The way I press on toward goals when I’m at the gym has taught me that I can dig just as deep for intimacy with God. I want to experience more of God; I want to see prayers answered, hear God’s voice more often, and know His love so profoundly that fear, envy, and confusion fall away from my life.
But that type of spiritual strength without limitations requires dedication and time.
We can apply those physical principles at home with God. When we want to turn on the TV and turn off our minds, we can choose to get on our knees instead. I often have to find focus the same way I do at the gym, remembering that what I’m about to experience will be worth the sacrifice.
When I can discipline myself to dive into worship, prayer, and listening to God, I experience Him in new ways. I see the growth in all areas of my life – I come out more loving, more joyful, and more discerning.
Lesson: If you’re willing to press in and dig deep, you will not remain unchanged.
If you struggle with regular exercise and staying healthy, I hope this helps you view it through new lenses. And if this is helpful to you, or you think it may be for someone else, please share! Also, if you need help keeping these things in mind and getting into a workout routine, contact me! I love to help create programs, but I enjoy even more getting to encourage and come alongside women who are trying to renew their lives. I’d be so happy to help you create these healthy habits!