hard love


The last two and a half weeks I have been pushing myself a lot harder in my workouts. I’ve noticed I’ve gotten a lot stronger.

I had been experiencing some physical pain in some of my leg tendons/muscles/ligaments and knee joints. And while I had been told years ago by a physical therapist that I needed to strengthen my glutes after a bad quad muscle tear, I just hadn’t really ever gotten around to it.

But after more pain over more time and having another physical therapist who is a friend tell me {surprise!} exactly what the other one had told me, I decided to get more serious about my workouts. To be more intentional. To focus on these areas that need strengthening. And just to push myself harder overall.

And since then I’ve had less pain, and like I said have noticed an increase in my physical strength.

• • •

I got to thinking at the gym today about the similarities between working out our physical bodies and working out our spiritual selves.

We work out our physical bodies, but do we work out our spiritual selves? We remember to go to the gym, but do we remember to go to God?

Pretty much every time we are driving to the gym I tell Clay some version of, “I don’t know if I should have come. / I’m feeling pretty tired. / I maybe should have just stayed home to write. / I think I might be getting sick.” It’s really quite comical.

The other day when I tried pulling this card {or one of those cards}, he totally called me out. “Babe,” he said, “every time we are on our way to the gym, you make up some excuse as to why you don’t want to go, and yet every time, without fail, when we leave what do you say?”

Ouch. Called. Out.

I sheepishly responded, “I always say that I feel amazing and I’m so glad I went.”

Do I always like going to the gym? No. Do I always like setting aside time to be with God? No. Do I often make excuses to not to do both? Yes.

And yet, there is such a payoff for each. After all, what they say is true: No pain, no gain.

• • •

I was listening to Needtobreathe’s Hard Love while I did pendulum pushups this morning. Each time my hands came together they created this upside down heart shape, all the while the lyrics of this song playing in my ears:

“Hold on tight a little longer; what don’t kill you makes you stronger. Get back up ’cause it’s a hard love.”

I’ve heard it said, “If working out were easy it would be called laying out.” We work out to get stronger physically. We work out to grow healthier physically. And we spend time with God to get stronger and grow healthier spiritually. And neither are easy. In fact, both can be hard.

“Tough love.” You’ve heard about it. “Life’s tough; get a helmet.” You’ve seen the tshirt. Well, God’s love is a “hard love.” If we want to see the results, we’ve got to put in the work. If we want to reap the benefits, we’ve got to sew the sacrifice.

God made the ultimate sacrifice for us. Jesus put in the ultimate hard work for us. The least we can do is train for and with Him.

Another line in that song stood out to me:

“A part of you has got to die to change.”

Just as we push ourselves at the gym to bring about physical change-to build muscle, to increase stamina, and to gain strength, we must push ourselves in our time with God to bring about spiritual change-to build character, to increase stamina, and to gain strength.

And as our increased physical health helps us to ward off physical attacks of illness, injury and pain, our increased spiritual health helps us to ward off spiritual attacks of temptation, sin, and trials.

Not to mention I just feel dang amazing after a “spiritual workout” aka intense quiet time with the Lord.

• • •

Sometimes a tough workout at the gym “feels like you are dying.” Sometimes learning God’s heart and pushing yourself to be more like Him is crazy hard work as we literally have to “die to self” {Galatians 2:20; Luke 9:23}. But there is payoff in the end.

Would this be true for our spiritual selves as we work hard to strengthen our spirit in Christ and grow to understand and be transformed by and live lives that proclaim His love:

“When the wolves come and hunt me down
I will face them all and stand my ground
‘Cause there’s a fire burnin’ in me
They will see my strength in this love I found.”

It’s a hard love. But it’s a good love. In fact, it’s the very best love.

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