Hurts. Hurts a lot.
Atrophy, for those that do not know, can generally be defined as either a ‘wasting away of the body or part of an organ’ or as ‘degeneration, decline, or decrease, as from disuse’. I know, that last definition actually sounds like a good 3 point, alliterative sermon [The 3 D’s of Spiritual Atrophy… if I ever preach again, I’ll try to remember that one]. But for the purposes of this post, we’ll avoid sermonizing.
If you have stumbled across this page & you don’t actually know me… that’s so cool! I love that about the Internet!! I don’t embrace being stalked down like an episode of Criminal Minds, but the providence & apparent randomness required for someone to just happen upon this blog is awesome to think about. So, welcome stranger. I’m Brad. 31, overweight, under tall, bald, & underneath all that is not athletic-in-appearance facade is an athletic frame… if memory serves. I divulge that to you all, because it is important to understand why I struggle with working out. Cardio hurts. Weight-lifting hurts. And it is simply impossible to go to any gym or fitness center without immediately spotting every skinny, fit, or comfortably self-aware attendee, & playing the comparison game.
Flip that profile over to the spiritual realm, & you find similar outcomes. If you have never or, like me, have not been recently practicing your spiritual disciplines, obedience to God’s mandates hurts. Daily study is hard. Scripture memory is arduous at best. Increasing your faith-filled dialogue & trying to avoid mindless conversations is a pain. And praying sincere, heart-centered, honest prayers that extend beyond asking for favors, blessings, forgiveness, mercy, & grace is daunting & exhausting. And it is all of those things because I have become spiritually puny. Whatever I used to lift up in ‘faith weight’ seems impossible to heave today. My Christ-aimed workout regiments of the past overwhelm my thoughts. How did I ever study that much every day? What did I pray about for an hour?!? And how in the world did I find so much joy in going to church every single day?
‘All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way.’ [Isaiah 53:6a]
I am not the first to drop the ball. In fact, I’m one of… every one. Did you read that? Isaiah said that ‘every one’ has turned to his/her own way. I’m not a failure trailblazer. I took the easy road, the path of least resistance, & I quit. I had my reasons, but there is never a good enough reason to check out of this race. And there is only one reason that I am even allowed to run again:
‘And the Lord has laid on [Jesus] the iniquity of us all.’ [Isaiah 53:6b]
Jesus the Christ. That’s all I have to hang my hat on. I am a failure, a quitter, & a whiner. But I am also saved by the sacrifice & bathed in the love of Christ, so I am redeemed. There is no other reason for my recovery, because I cannot get back to where I was on my own. I cannot walk the way that I once walked, of my own desires & effort. But I can pull up the bootstraps for Jesus. I can set my eyes on Him & do exceedingly above all that I ask of Him or think that I am capable of, because it is the power of Christ in me that is working for His glory & my sanctification [Ephesians 3:20]. And that’s more than good news. It’s a mission statement.
Atrophy is a painful digression. And recovery is awful. But I would rather find myself hurting to get back to God, than be found degenerating, declining, & decreasing apart from Him.
May God grant us all the determination & supernatural ability to take any areas of atrophy in our lives & reshape them into vibrant, powerful muscles on the move for God’s sake!