In my own personal journey toward spiritual fitness, I feel like God has been a sort of personal trainer to me – constantly pushing me past what I thought were my limits, only to discover how much more I was capable of than I thought. It hasn’t been easy, but it has been incredibly good. (Read more of my story here and here.)
This journey has been going on for well over 15 years now and I believe I have been called to pay it forward in a certain way. He is asking me to be also a sort of personal trainer for the spiritual life. I am to encourage people to step out of their comfort zones and grow deeper in their relationship with God.
My goal too is to meet you where you are and push you to your limits with God. You might be “sore” the next day, but proud and strong. You will be everyday more at peace, more joyful, and more fulfilled.
Why Spiritual Fitness?
This life is a battle. It is a marathon. It is a dance. It requires strength, persistence, perseverance.
At the end of it, we want to be able to say with St. Paul:
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. – 2 Timothy 4:7
2 Parts to Spiritual Fitness
Just the same as in ordinary fitness, we need to focus on 2 different aspects:
DIET AND EXERCISE
We cannot attain spiritual fitness without both parts working together.
What are some examples of spiritual “exercise”?
Some examples of spiritual “exercises” might be the following:
- Good works
- Faith, Trust
- Self-offering (giving our worries, plans, prospects and desires to God trusting that He will do great work in us)
These may seem “hard”, but they are actually the easy part. Just as in everyday fitness challenges it is (relatively) easy to occasionally motivate ourselves with a sudden burst of energy to go for that walk, to hit the gym, or to put in a workout video. It is (relatively) easy to go through the motions or put in the time, if we convince ourselves of how important it is.
true results cannot happen without proper nutrition!
Spiritual nutrition fuels our muscles and prevent the “cravings” that neutralize all our hard work.
We can do all the exercise we want, but until we start truly giving our souls the nutrition they need, we cannot ever truly change.
[tweetshare tweet=”We can do all the exercise we want, but until we start truly giving our souls the nutrition they need, we cannot ever truly change.” username=”CarolynMPereira”]
What is good spiritual “nutrition”?
Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. – Matthew 4:4
Do not work for food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life…. – John 6:27
I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to Me will never hunger, and whoever believes in Me will never thirst….Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you shall not have life within you. – John 6:35, 53
Want some examples of Good Spiritual Nutrition?
- Bible (especially the gospels) study, reflection, and contemplation
- True LISTENING in prayer, practicing quiet in the presence of God
- Other spiritual reading and personal study (this includes: challenges, courses, sermons, books, or other writings of spiritual mentors – whether they be canonized saints or modern bloggers)
- Finding “spiritually fit” friends (much like running buddies) who can encourage you to keep going when you start to feel tired
- True seeking of Christ with the same (or greater) diligence, persistence, and urgency with which we pursue normal, physical food.
Did you know that there are Spiritual “eating disorders”??
We are Picky Eaters
Naturally, we think we only want to eat what tastes good and is easily stomached. This makes us tend to reject much of what is good for us. (If you look at the purely physical realm, this also holds true. How many people do you know who live only on quinoa and kale?)
You are looking for me …because you ate the loaves and had your fill – John 6:26
He was rebuking them for the superficial reasons why they sought Him out. He didn’t want them to only look for miracles, or simply to satiate their ever recurring bodily hunger. He wanted them to seek the true food that “endures to eternal life” (John 6:27).
So too we are called!. Called to overcome our natural inclination to reject what is good for us only because something else is more initially appealing or gratifying. The enemy likes to sugarcoat what isn’t good for us to make it more tempting.
Over indulging on junk food
Yes, junk food is still food, but it’s like only eating dessert without ever touching your meat and vegetables.
Yes, it is ok to enjoy frosting on your cake and french fries with your burger.
It does not satiate us. The reason we are still hungry after a giant bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch or a huge bag of potato chips is because they are completely devoid of all nutrients. Our bodies inform us that we need “more” because the nutrient content of the food is what matters, not the number of empty calories we consume.
Both of these common problems cause spiritual eating disorders
The sad part is, because these only show up in the spiritual realm and don’t visibly manifest themselves (like physical obesity or anorexia, for example) we often go through life without knowing we even have a problem!
That is the REAL problem!
We cannot address a problem that we do not even know exists!
Marks of Spiritual obesity
Then many of his disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” … As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” – John 6: 60,66-67
Those who suffer from Spiritual obesity often:
- Claim faith and “being Christian”, but accept from God, the Bible, or Religion, only what they like and what they think they want.
- Constantly complain at God for not making things easier for them (more miracles, less struggles, more signs, etc)
- Commonly follow what is known as the prosperity gospel. Love to quote the gospel to justify laziness or ostentatious living.
- Often characterized by their lack of humility. Typically coming off as “Holier than thou”, “High and mighty” or “know it all”. (Read also: 2 prayers to keep us Humble)
- Experience sluggishness and exhaustion at the mere thought of actively pursuing God more vigorously (Usually exhibiting a complete rejection of the idea of leaving their comfort zone)
- Are unwilling to accept better, more complete nutrition in place of the junk food (love entails sacrifice, etc)
- Physical nourishment (real food) more important than spiritual health
Marks of Spiritual Anorexia
“Unless I see the nail marks in His hands, and put my finger where the nails have been, and put my hand into His side, I will never believe.” […] Then Jesus said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and look at My hands. Reach out your hand and put it into My side. Be not unbelieving but believe.” […] “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” – John 20:25-29
- Shaky, weak, or non-existent faith
- Fear of challenge or confrontation
- Avoidance of faith all together
- Rotund rejection of all things ___[name your prejudice]___ (ex. Catholic, protestant, charismatic, traditional, spiritual, unknown, etc)
- Utter lack of knowledge of God and/or the Bible (especially the Gospels)
- Complete refusal to recognize God as supreme, valuable or necessary in their life
Marks of Spiritual Bulimia
Some [seeds] fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil. They sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun rose, the seedlings were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. – Matthew 13:5-6
Pretty much the same symptoms as the Spiritually Anorexic… only with the addition of:
- Seeking out spiritual food and indulging in it because they know they need it (and even want it). Except instead of allowing their souls to fully embrace it and live it, they superficially enjoy it and, just as quickly, choose to reject it (especially when it is hard).
Marks of a spiritually fit Christian (diet + exercise)
- Actively pursuing a deeper relationship with God (with at least the same or greater urgency with which we pursue food/our daily sustenance)
- Daily re-offering of self, life, desires, outcomes and worries to Christ
- Daily gospel/bible reflection of some kind (resources)
- Daily recognition of what we have to be grateful for
- Forgiveness of others and asking pardon for wrongs committed (humility)
- Participation in church / faith community (Read also: The Role of Religion in the Battle for your Soul)
- Other spiritual reading, learning, growth – interest and perusal as much and as often as possible
How spiritually fit are you?
If you want to know exactly how spiritually fit you are and want actionable steps toward improvement, you should definitely sign up for the free quiz below!!
What kills spiritual fitness?
Death by comparison
When we watch exercise videos or infomercials, even when we see other “fit” people at the gym or running in the park. we tend to focus on their “perfection”. We beat ourselves up if we can’t do as much as them, or if we aren’t as strong, or our bodies as “beautiful” as theirs from day one. This is HORRIBLE!!! It kills our motivation and our joy in this process (and it IS a process).
We must start to recognize those people as examples of the goal, not the beginning of the journey. Those people practiced for that. They have trained, sometimes BEEN TRAINING for years! The people on videos and infomercials were hand selected by the trainers to be good examples of endurance and form so that they could TEACH those of us who don’t have good form or endurance. If someone put weak people in the spotlight, those of us who are watching them might think it is ok to give up, or to quit, or to let our form “break”. We would use their weakness to justify our own. Our comparison again would hold us back!
The beauty of a personal trainer
The goal of a personal trainer is not to make you feel bad about your imperfections! Rather, it is to meet you where you are and encourage you to get stronger. It is their job to see your potential and to help you see it too! It is their job to help you visualize your ideal, recognize that it is possible, and to show you how to take the steps to get there. Think about “modifiers” in different videos – they show you how to do the same workout from a lower fitness level to show you what you can do without sacrificing form, and without sacrificing nutrition.
Where to begin your spiritual fitness journey
First of all, don’t think that you have to be perfect over night!!! This is the journey of a lifetime. You might have recognized a “spiritual eating disorder” in yourself today, but that’s ok! Just take it one day at a time and, remember – The recognition of the problem is the beginning of the solution.
Second, maybe you’re a natural and you’ve been truly seeking God most of your life. Good for you! Just don’t get all high and mighty :). Continue to recognize that there is always further to go. We can always be faster, stronger, more capable, more consistent. There is always SOME area we need to work on. God is infinite and YOU are infinitely more than you know! Your job is to not get complacent – because muscles that are not used grow weak.
Want to know exactly how spiritually fit you are??? Take the quiz and find out!
- Called to be Fit at Life – Spiritual Life lessons you can learn just from Working Out
- Seeing God as a Personal Trainer – How do I know if God wants me to be happy?
- Are you truly seeking God in your Life?