When I was coaching boys soccer I had a catch phrase that I used almost every practice. Whenever I told my players to run an extra lap, chase down a ball that was kicked over the fence, or do push ups for a mistake I would say, “Fitness Opportunity!”. Every opportunity to get in better shape only benefited the player. I was always up front at the beginning of the season about how physically demanding the season of soccer was going to be. Throughout the season we did fitness any way possible even when I could see their worn out bodies and snarly glances. We pushed forward knowing that it would only make us stronger.

One of the hardest things for me to wrestle with is suffering. I don’t like pushing through the emotional, spiritual, or physical toll that comes from living in this broken world. Some difficulties in my life are of my own making but most of the pressures and tensions just come at me without invitation. My most common prayer lately has been for relief and it’s easy to feel like God doesn’t always have my best interest in mind. Why would He allow so much hardship in our lives?

Fitness opportunities.

storms quoteRead this perspective from Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of scripture: “There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next.” (Rom. 5:3-4) Suffering produces perseverance, and perseverance produces the character of hope.

Perhaps the trouble and the hardship that comes your way is no mere accident but rather a fitness opportunity for your faith. It’s a grow moment. A time where you and I can actually become stronger through the hardship. Listen, just like I was always up front with my players at the beginning of the season about how hard it was going to be, Jesus is equally up front about the difficulties of this world. “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (Jn. 16:33b) This world is full of trouble. In fact when you decide to follow Jesus your life-trouble will take on a whole new meaning. Jesus said that just as the world hated him and rejected Him we must brace ourselves for rough treatment.

But take heart!! Because Jesus has overcome all trouble, pain, suffering, and even death! He has the position and the power to build in us the strength and endurance that we need. He knows that real growth – REAL growth – only takes place through the refining of hardship. Think back to those circumstances or seasons in your life that God led you through and how you are so much stronger now. The hardship in my life has made me who I am today. God doesn’t want to carry us as an infant throughout our life but rather build our character and empower us with hope. He wants to do the work of building us into the likeness of Jesus. That journey will never be easy.

What circumstances in your life right now could you see as God’s fitness opportunities for your faith?

heb-12.7Becoming physically stronger depends on your efforts but becoming stronger spiritually is the work of God in your life. For every “fitness opportunity” that God places into your life He promises to be your strength. He promises to be your endurance. He promises to be your hope. I ask my son all the time to trust me even when things are hard for him and when he doesn’t understand. God is asking you if you trust Him that these things will make you stronger and grow your faith even when you don’t understand.

Next time something difficult springs up in your life may you take a deep breath, trust your heavenly Father, and say, “Alright, it’s just another fitness opportunity.”

-Josh