Grieving 

(Dedicated to Jonah)

The Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.”  Number 21:8 (NIV)

It feels like I haven’t written in ages.  It feels that way because, frankly, my life has been torn apart by confusion, pain and grief.  The past week has felt like an eternity … in part, because the pain is sometimes such that it literally takes my breath away.  And even when I can breathe, I haven’t much to say.

Pain can be like that.  Whether it’s pain brought on by unfortunate circumstances, by your own bad choices, or by someone else’s wrong-doing, pain can be like that.  Almost overwhelming.  Grieving the loss of what you had or wanted or wished for … wanting to cling onto what isn’t really there, giving you no choice but to let go … wishing you could turn back time and change this course in your history.  Trying not to drown.

But as I sit and wallow in all of this, God speaks.  God, in His goodness and mercy, continues to love and to speak in His still small voice … and He says to me simply “look up.”

Look up, like the Israelites did to the snake on the pole that Moses held as they wandered in the desert.  Look up, like Jesus tells Peter as Peter begins to sink because he’s looking too much at the wind and the waves instead of looking at Jesus.  (See Matthew 14:29-30). Look up, as we all must, to the cross of Calvary and bow and wonder at what the God of heaven has done for us.  Look up.

What does all this have to do with health and fitness?  At first, I wasn’t sure.  But I guess it’s because I must officially acknowledge that our lives and bodies will pass away.  Try as we may (and we should, by the way, try hard to steward our bodies well, just as we steward so many of God’s gifts) … but try as we may, these bodies will suffer and pass away.  We will hurt and experience great pain and much grief.  There will be wind and waves — many scary and seemingly overwhelming waves.  There will be sorrows that “like sea billows roll.”  (It Is Well With My Soul, Horatio Spafford, 1873.)  But even then … especially then … God says, “look up.”

I don’t know what you are going through or where it hurts, but I do know this: God’s loving voice says to you and to me “look up.”  “Look up at Me, and you will live.”

Training 

“I press on ….”  Philippians 3:14(a) (NIV)

Some days are like that.  Seasons in life can be like that.  And sometimes it seems that all of life is like that.  Requiring me simply to press on.

Sports training and conditioning can be like that too.  Whether it’s for a triathlon, marathon, or plain-old health improvement … some days we just need to press on.  We need to make ourselves run the required miles for the day, swim and bike for the day, or simply just get up and go to the gym even when we don’t feel like it.  Why?  Because we know it’s all cumulative. We know that, ultimately, we are in pursuit of a bigger goal and that we might not reach it if we let today’s feelings get in our way.  We press on for the goal (of the triathlon or marathon or whatever it is).

Spiritually, we are in training too.  Life on earth is a training ground for what is to come — a victory that Christ has already won for us, and yet (in some inexplicable way) we partner in and participate in as we journey through life.  We press on … sometimes even when we don’t feel like it … because ultimately we want to prove ourselves grateful and worthy of all He has done for us.  We want to be faithful to the One who created us and gave His all for us.  We keep doing what He has told us is right and good (and avoiding the opposite), because He has told us it pleases Him.  And we want to please Him.

So today, I press on.  I press on, even though it’s hard today.  I press on because I know that one step forward and two steps backward is really one step in the wrong direction.  I press on, as Paul says, “toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

And I hope you press on too.

Death

“Therefore, strengthen your listless hands and your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but be healed.” Hebrews 12:12-13 (NET)

January has brought much death to our family circle.  Thus far, we have lost two people close to us and have two more in the hospital. January has highlighted the frailty and fragility of the human body and the truth that it will, one day, give out on us. In fact, each of the illnesses and deaths we have encountered have been, ultimately, the result of the body ceasing to function properly and giving out.

Which leaves me again to wonder why, as Christians, we don’t hear more about taking care of this amazing body God has gifted to us!? We hear a lot about stewarding our money and our time and our talents … but what about stewarding this gift of the body? If the impact we can have for our Lord in this dark world is limited by how long our bodies hold up, then why don’t we cherish it and care for it and treat it with love and respect?

In Hebrews (above), the writer was speaking in metaphorical terms.  He was encouraging us to keep moving, accepting the Lord’s discipline of us, and using it to make us better and stronger for Him.  But I believe that taking care of our physical bodies and strengthening our them can have both short- and long-term value for the kingdom. How?  In the short-term, it is an act of worship. It is stewarding and caring for one of the most amazing things He has entrusted to us.  In the long-term, it can improve and lengthen the time we have in this world to shine for Jesus.

Yes, our bodies are temporal. But goodness, so is our money, our time and our talents … & we steward those, don’t we? Your body is here for your entire journey, so strengthen the things that remain so that it may not be put out of joint, but rather healed and used by our Lord.