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Here’s a sentence you’ll never hear: “Abby is so graceful. She moves like a feather floating on a breeze.” I can hurt myself just walking down the stairs, but when you add complicated workout machines and the synchronized hefting of heavy weights to the equation, my clumsiness multiplies exponentially.

I have managed to fall off of and/or hurt myself on almost every exercise machine at my gym: I was brought to my knees by a moving treadmill. I nearly lost a toe in the stair climber. I hit myself in the face with the bar of the rowing machine.

To add insult to injury (literally), I actually pay someone to tell me to do these painful exercises. When I want to quit running or lunging or lifting, my workout coach pushes me to keep going and I do, knowing full well I won’t be able to move my arms or legs the next day.

So why do I submit myself to such torture? It’s about losing weight and gaining muscle and feeling energized, of course. It would be oh-so much simpler if I could just pay the monthly fee and see the desired results without showing up to exercise, but that’s not how it works.

For many of us—especially those of us with a bit of a stubborn streak—this “No Pain, No Gain” exchange can apply to our quest to transform into the people of character we’re striving to be. When I ask God to make me more patient, He doesn’t just hand over a big plate of patience. He allows me to suffer trials to develop it. When I ask God to help me trust Him with every part of my life, He doesn’t automatically make me a person fully reliant on Him. Instead, He gives me painful opportunities to stretch the muscle of my faith. The soreness and discomfort have a purpose.

After exercising, my workout coach suggests that we eat or drink protein to help those exhausted muscles repair and grow stronger. There have been times in my journey of faith where I need the same kind of post-workout treatment. My faith has been stretched with waiting on unanswered prayers and exposure to fresh examples of misery and despair. At the point of spiritual exhaustion, I need the reassurance of friends and the embrace of my kids. I need a quiet conversation with my husband just before bedtime. I need to sit with my Bible and my notebook behind a closed door. It’s time to reflect and repair and, hopefully, take a step closer to being the woman I’m meant to become.


No Pain, No Gain


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