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Life’s Challenges and Spiritual Exercise

Does anyone else out there get frustrated by repeated encounters with “If only”? “If only my wife understood me better, we wouldn’t have to deal with all this tension between us.” “If only my kids were more obedient and well behaved, my home life would be happier and less stressful.” “If only my boss had more reasonable expectations, I would finally be able to get ahead.” If only _________(fill the blank).”

Although circumstance around us often contribute to our struggles, they are typically less important in the greater scheme of things than factors much closer to home. In fact very commonly, our difficulties in life reflect issues or weaknesses that we need to deal with ourselves. Playing the blame game is never an effective solution and just leaves us blinded and stuck. Our growth areas naturally tend to bring out and/or magnify events going on around us. So, these situations can provide valuable clues to what we need to be working on personally. Also, God can and frequently does use what is going on around us as a way to strengthen us. Spiritual exercise if you will.

An exercise analogy can actually be very helpful here. Unused muscles will weaken and waste away. If we want to build strength, we have to stress the muscle with exercise. This signals the body to increase the size, number, and efficiency of the muscle fibers which gives us more power.

We can intentionally do the same thing to our life skills muscles by engaging in activities that stretch us and challenge us. Taking the easy route or playing it safe is not conducive to personal growth. We can also talk with experts or others who have been through what we are going through in order to discover and practice new ways of dealing with life. Implementing these discoveries can and will help to strengthen us. It is also important to choose to have a positive attitude in the midst of our struggles as well. This makes us more moldable and usable as we become part of the solution.

I also believe that God can and does allow us to go through difficulties with the express purpose of targeting our weakness. He doesn’t do this to punish us or take advantage of us, but to make us stronger. Even the things our enemies use to try to hurt us can be used by God for our ultimate good if we let Him.

One last exercise analogy. Muscle building is not just purely a matter of growth and improved efficiency. It also, like many renovation projects, includes a certain amount of demolition. Some muscle fibers sustain damage and even die in order to stimulate the body to repair and rebuild. In the same way, we often need to die to self and cast off weaker parts of ourselves during the process. This allows God to rebuild us and make us stronger. This can be painful and unpleasant, but it is ultimately for our good.

I would love to hear from you! Please take a moment or two to share how spiritual exercise has played out in your journey. And if there is a way I can be praying for you, feel free to let me know. Share in the comments or reach out using the Hope Recovered e-mail,

Christianity: Life WITH God

I have been spending a fair amount of time recently contemplating my “Christianity”. I have believed for a long time that Christianity is about a relationship with God and not just a bunch of beliefs, rituals, ceremonies, and rules. If I study up on marriage, find a perfect bride, buy the ideal ring, invoke a powerful wedding ceremony, sign all the paperwork, pay all the fees, but then casually go about my business as usual, would anyone consider that a proper marriage? Of course not. A true marriage relationship is manifested by loving communication and interaction that leads to personal growth and an ever increasing bond between the participants. This applies to true Christianity as well.

The Christian experience can and should be more than weekly observances and token shows of affection. The God who created the universe and who loved us enough to suffer and die to reestablish a relationship with us is worthy of so much more.

Romans 12:1 “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”

New International Version

Worship doesn’t just happen for an hour on Sunday mornings. It’s rises above a weekly diversion from our hectic lives. Every aspect of our lives can and should be acts of worship. We don’t simply recharge occasionally to make it through then rest of the week. Ideally, we connect with and experience God 24/7. We live life WITH God!

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

New International Version

Prayer is also often thought of as an episodic activity. But, it is also quite possible to live our lives prayerfully similar to the living worship mentioned above. To do this we need to move beyond the concept of prayer as intermittent communication and embrace prayer as a means of experiencing God’s presence all the time. Again, living life WITH God.

An important first step toward this life WITH God is treasuring God above all else. We must want relationship with Him more than we want blessing, forgiveness, salvation, heaven, healing, or anything. He needs to be our most important and most desired. Unless it is Him we truly want, then our religion becomes more about what He can give us than about true relationship and life WITH Him.

I have been reading a book, “WITH” by Skye Jethani, which explores these concepts more deeply. Then today, two songs came on the radio that drove the points home. Talk about God getting my attention! Check out the choruses:

“I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone”

“Even If” by Mercy Me

“Help me want the Healer more than the healing
Help me want the Savior more than the saving
Help me want the Giver more than the giving
Help me want you Jesus more than anything”

“More Than Anything” by Natalie Grant

I have heard Him, now I need to seek Him and His power to live this out to His glory. Exciting and a bit scary, but I trust that where He calls me to go He will be with me. And there can be no better place than with Him.

The enemy seeks to divide and isolate us. God desires unity and peace. Please take a few moments to share your thoughts. Let’s explore and grow together. Share this post and our blog with others as well.

Please take a moment to share this post with someone else who needs encouragement.  It would also be great to hear from you.  So, leave a comment and let me know your thoughts.

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