This principle may sound disheartening, but I love the concept. And it applies to both the body and the soul.

Anyone making resolutions for the new year that revolve around spiritual and physical fitness? If so, you aren’t alone. Most of us do. And yet, how many of us fulfilled the same resolutions we made a year ago?

Don’t answer that out loud. The way the pages of your Bible stick together is answering it for you. No judgment here. I’ve been there too.

While many of us have good intentions when we set goals at the beginning of the year, we quickly fall off the wagon. It’s because these changes are so stinking hard. And normal life is hard enough without them. Then we get the insane idea to set our alarms an hour earlier, loose precious sleep, and go for a jog on the dark, 30 degree morning. To top it off, we further torture ourselves by removing Coke and eating nothing but vegetables for every meal. No wonder our resolutions last a whooping 3 or 4 days! A lifestyle of health and fitness requires an incredible amount of self-discipline.  And it’s painful.

I’m a sleep-loving, queso-eating girl from Kansas. When I start these annual health changes, I start feeling tired, weak and icky. Perhaps its because I’m an extremist and I often swing between a perfect diet or no diet at all. But I think God’s design is somewhere in the middle, both for our bodies and our souls.

Spiritual and physical health require rhythm. When you exercise, you need to recover. You need rest. Your diet should be abundant in nutrient dense foods–whole foods–foods that God naturally provides. But you better believe that if you there isn’t an allowance for that occasional pizza slice or scoop of cookie dough ice cream, you have missed the point and the pressure won’t strengthen you, it will break you.

Find a healthy balance.

On a spiritual level, God has created many things for your enjoyment. You like creating art? Hiking off-road paths? Singing? Watching a Netflix show? Decorating your home or meeting friends for coffee? Do it! God created us to flourish in our passions and gifting, enjoying His creation and the abundance that His grace and mercy allow. But don’t rely on these things to satisfy you. They won’t. These blessings are like bread.  And bread is amazing. Just ask Panera. But you can’t live on bread alone. You need Jesus. And you need the message that He inspired to be in you and over you every single day.

Remember that you are aiming for progress, not perfection. You will make mistakes. You will take your eyes off of Jesus. You’ll have days that the only exercise you get is the multiple reps of raising cake to your mouth. But don’t stop pursuing the path that leads to life just because you got caught with frosting on your lips.

Stamina is a thing. A very important thing. I have avoided the healthy lifestyle for periods of time in pursuit of more “eternally significant” activities, but I’ve learned that I absolutely can not be the mom, wife and friend I desire when I am not physically taking care of myself. I don’t think we are all called to be olympic athletes or to model for Lululemon, but I believe we should do what we can, make a great effort to take care of our temples, and be good stewards of our health.

You may be in a challenging season with a tiny baby, the stress of working two jobs or chronic pain. You are not a failure if you can’t make it to cross-fit or spend an hour in the Word. God is gracious and will meet our needs when we do our best and rely on Him to accomplish what we can’t.

Our bodies were made to move. Our minds were made to think. Our souls were made to find rest in Jesus.

All aspects of our being require us to experience a bit of discomfort. Pressure is what is needed for change and growth. God doesn’t allow our lives to be easy and comfortable all the time because He’s polishing us, molding us and sharpening us.  And it requires some discomfort. There is no such thing as remaining stagnant. Atrophy begins when a muscle fails to move. Bone loss starts when pressure is taken off of it. Results are dependent upon resistance, grit and perseverance.

Comfort and complacency produce steady decline in the body and soul. You’re either moving forward, becoming more like Christ, more surrendered, more obedient and more alive in the freedom and abundance He provides or you are becoming spiritually unfit. Our bodies are a representation of what happens in our soul.

The discipline to be in God’s Word daily and seek Him faithfully in prayer, builds spiritual muscle. And spiritual muscles lifts heavy eternal weight. Start there. This is what you need the most.

“For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”  1 Timothy 4:8

Don’t neglect the physical body. It isn’t nearly as significant as the spiritual soul, but it’s God chosen vessel to carry out His will, fulfill His calling and produce worship in our lives. Yes, our bodies eventually wear down, but as long we have functioning hearts and minds, we should try to take care of them.

Pressure is a good thing. It not only makes our bones and muscles grow, but it also catalyzes transformation in our mind and soul. Those valleys, those difficult seasons and challenging days are meant to produce change. Embrace them. Push through them. Give yourself grace and move on, even in failure. Don’t let it stop you.

You were made to do hard things.

As we head into a new year with fresh hopes and ambitious dreams, let’s embrace the pressure we will experience. God often uses the hardest times to refine us. And then we become more usable, more dependent and more aware of His ability to see us through.

Growth is on the horizon.

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