This post is by Jen Stanbro.
“Beautiful Girl, you can do hard things.”
I saw this quote on a blanket in a catalog once, and it has stayed with me.
Until I was about 30 years old, I would’ve considered myself a ‘path of least resistance’ kinda gal. And apparently, that’s not so unusual. According to James Clear, in his book, Atomic Habits, we all possess some internal wiring that causes us to prefer ease and comfort over struggle. Sounds about right.
And when it comes to exercise, I find this to be especially true of me. The thing is, I’ve always had a fast metabolism. That meant I could overeat, binge on sweets daily, not work out, and look fit. Sounds good, right? But as I started approaching 40, my bad habits and sugar addiction began to catch up with me. To the tune of 30 pounds in under two years (and who knows what these habits might be doing to my insides cumulatively). God help me! If I wanted to actually care well for this one body the Lord entrusted to me, this temple of the Holy Spirit, it was going to take work. Hard work. And booo, my ‘flesh’ did not like that one bit.
Over the years, many people have suggested ‘fun’ work-outs. Y’all, I completely respect those who truly find exercise fun. I’m jealous! But for someone such as myself, who just plain hates exercise, no amount of upbeat music, creative movement, or encouraging surroundings could change the fact that my path to physical fitness is simply going to be hard. I know I’m not going to love it, but I will love where it takes me.
At some point along the way, God began opening my eyes to the power and benefit of struggle, the beauty of perseverance and endurance, and the immense rewards of choosing things, not because they’re easy, but because they promise to yield the most incredible fruit.
Perseverance is defined as continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition : steadfastness. Whew, that speaks to me big time as my word for 2021 is Steadfastness. Our family also does this pre-k program called, We Choose Virtues. One of the characters, Penny Jenny, is perseverant. I love her catchphrase: “I can do it even if it’s tough.” Yes, Jenny!! In Jesus’ name!
Now, Endurance (a close cousin of perseverance) is defined as the fact or power of enduring an unpleasant or difficult process or situation without giving way. Yep, exercise checks those boxes: unpleasant and difficult. I need endurance.
Friends, I cannot adequately express how desperately I want these qualities to be said of me. I look to the Lord and cry out, grieving my weakness, knowing His strength and begging Him to kill the old self that keeps me from living fully alive in His power.
In recent years, while I’ve experienced God’s power in big ways in other areas, I’ve seen only glimpses of His power in this area. But they were good glimpses. I started running/jogging a half mile and gradually got up to three miles, feeling my body respond to the good stuff I was making it do. I swim laps with my daughter and do Yoga. I’ve fasted sugar for 21 days a few times, and we eat clean about 75% of the time.
I wish I could be writing this solely from hindsight, having overcome all of my obstacles, standing proudly on top of my mountain. But at 38 years-old, I’ve learned the beauty of the in-between. I can look behind me and see miles of travel from where I was. I can look ahead and see the light at the end of the tunnel, which may seem a ways off, but it grows ever brighter, and I have hope.
If you’re anything like me, finding yourself resisting those hard things (in physical fitness or any area, for that matter), may I say to our hearts today: God has so much for us right in the midst of the hard. His mercies for us are new every morning. His joy is our strength all day long, and through Him, beautiful sisters, we can do hard things.
Jen Stanbro is the singer/songwriter behind the Hello Mornings podcast theme song, “God Day.” She lives in North Carolina with her husband and crew of cuckoo kids. Her heart aches for the oppressed and marginalized, and she seeks to reignite God’s holy fire in the hearts of His people to love courageously like Jesus.
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