Spiritual Training for Weary Souls
I walk hand in hand with the man I love. Golden evening sun warms the flowing barley field, and we circle around it in contented quiet. My husband knows me well. My sensitive nature has been bruised, and I still feel the effects of it. Sometimes I wish I had thicker skin, but I'm reluctant to form calluses that shut people out. What I really want is to be able to forgive when people hurt me. But I'm weary, and it feels hard.
"It's like a muscle you have to train," he said gently. "You just keep practicing until it becomes easier."
His comment got me thinking more about training for godliness. Each choice—no matter how small—is like flexing a muscle. The apostle Paul encouraged his spiritual son, Timothy, to "train yourself for godliness" (1 Tim. 4:7). And I wonder if training looks more ordinary than we imagine.
As strange as it sounds, sometimes we need to think smaller. Our longings for extraordinary experiences can blind us to the opportunity right in front of us. Even good ambitions require little steps first. Before you climb a mountain, you have to do your push-ups. And sometimes finding the motivation to "train yourself" is harder than you imagined.
God's Grace Is More Than a One-Time Blessing
Do athletic metaphors for spirituality make you feel deflated? Maybe you are struggling in your spiritual life and can't imagine how you could run harder.
Christians feel the pull of sin because we live in tension between what is sometimes called "the now and not yet." Christ's sacrifice for our sin has made us "perfect" and yet we are "being sanctified" (Heb. 10:12–14). Our position before God is holy, and yet in practice we still struggle with sin—both our own and also the sins of others.
Paul describes it by saying, "For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. . . . Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" (Rom. 7:19, 24).
We all feel this tension of not being good enough and a frustration with struggles that we can't seem to conquer. Remember there is grace for this moment. God's grace is not exhausted by justification, but overflows into sanctification. So we can respond with Paul, "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Rom. 7:25).
Where Do You Find Hope?
Scottish pastor, Robert Murray M'Cheyne, once said, "For every look at self, take ten looks at Christ." In other words, however long we analyze our struggles, we need to spend that amount of time—times ten—meditating on Christ and His promises. When we read God's Word, listen to preaching, and pray, our minds are transformed and our spirits are renewed. These disciplines feel ordinary, and even boring at times, but God uses these ordinary means of grace to do an extraordinary transformation in our hearts.
Far too often our struggles blind us to the hope in front of us. Like a millionaire who acts homeless, we have a wealth of resources in Christ but can't see past our circumstances to take hold of it. But when we look to Christ, we find hope, because in Him we have everything we need for life and godliness ( 2 Peter 1:3).
Does godliness seem like an intimidating goal? Do you know that there is hope in Christ when your heart feels weary?
By Christel Humfrey
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