Authored by Steve Hearts
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—the Lord. 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. The Lord exercises the faith of each person in the way He sees fit. He also promises us right after that in Matthew 11:30 that “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
I have discovered that it’s possible to get involved in weightlifting that isn’t healthy to my spiritual life—carrying heavy loads and burdens that are unnecessary, that weigh me down instead of strengthening me. These can take the form of unnecessary demands I place on myself, or worries and anxieties that I fail to give over to the Lord. And these unnecessary burdens can affect me not only spiritually, but also physically if given the chance.
When I was 18, my mother was diagnosed with cancer for the first time. Never before had anything like this happened in our family, and we were all deeply affected by it. Despite my best efforts to remain strong and full of faith on the outside, I was a mess of worry on the inside. I constantly played the “what if” game. What if complications arose and Mom did not survive? How would we survive her loss? On and on it went.
I worried so much that it wasn’t long before I got sick. I caught the flu and my temperature went up and down for several days. Eventually, I had a febrile seizure (this is a seizure brought on by a fever). I fell down, hit my head, and passed out for several minutes. Fortunately, besides a big bruise to my head, I was not 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 than usual in bed. This was when I heard the voice of the Lord say, “You’re carrying a weight of worry that’s making you sick and weighing you down,” He gently told me. “You need to surrender it to Me and trust Me.”
Only days later, while reading a braille magazine, I came across the story of a boy who had an accident from which recovery was not guaranteed. When his grandfather came to visit him and his family at the hospital, he told his father, “You’re a great daddy. But sometimes the best thing you can do for your kids is trust and surrender.” The father did, and in the end, the boy fully recovered.
Trust and surrender? That sounded a lot like what the Lord had just told me. Without further hesitation or contemplation, I totally surrendered my worries and fears to Jesus. As He took them, relief flooded my heart. I felt light as a feather inside. I was now fully ready and able to help Mom fight the battle for her health to the finish.
Hebrews 12:1 advises, “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”1 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.
More recently, this lesson about spiritual weightlifting was once again brought to my attention. About a year ago, I became aware of the Lord’s voice telling me that changes were on the horizon—and that I needed to prepare. Not knowing the details of what was ahead, I soon became anxious. This anxiety soon became an unhealthy weight. It stunted my spiritual growth and began to hinder my service for the Lord.
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.”2
There it was, clear as crystal. I was to surrender all anxiety and wait for the “appointed time” when everything would be revealed. Anxiety wouldn’t speed along the revelation. Sure, I was making an effort to surrender all desires and wishes to the Lord in an effort to know His will. But that was only part of the weight I carried. More than simply asking Him for a revelation, I needed to leave the timing of it in His hands.
By nature, when I want something, I want it right away. It’s hard to wait around for it. But in this case, my anxiety and unwillingness to wait was becoming a burdensome weight (pun intended).
There’s a story of a man who approached a watchmaker with some hands that he wanted repaired. “What’s the matter with them?” the watchmaker asked. “Are they rusty? Are they bent?”
“They just won’t tell me the right time when I look at my clock.”
“I’ll be glad to fix them for you,” the watchmaker replied, “but where’s the clock?”
“Why, the clock’s back home. There’s nothing wrong with the clock. The problem’s with the hands.”
The watchmaker said, “Well, you see, what makes the hands work is inside the clock.”
The man took the clock’s hands and left in a huff, vowing to find a reasonable watchmaker who wouldn’t tinker around with his clock and charge a big price—someone who would just fix the hands for him. As he left, the watchmaker could only chuckle as he thought of what a hard time he would have finding such a watchmaker.
The surrendering of our anxieties, worries, and other unhealthy weights can seem like a tough road to travel in the beginning, but the price of not surrendering these things to the Lord is even steeper.
I now strive 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.”3
Do you find yourself involved in any unhealthy “weightlifting”? Surrender the entire load to the Lord and let Him straighten things out as only He is able. Finally, stay faithful to His workout program and let Him train and strengthen you so you can be healthy and fit.
1 New King James Version
2 New International Version
3 New International Version
Read by Stephen Larriva. Music by sindustry(CC). Copyright© 2015 by The Family International