Spiritual Training Cycle: Presence (week 12/13)
In our gym, we have a few mantras. These are the go-to statements defining the culture and setting the tone for our athletes. After any given WOD, you’re guaranteed to hear our mantra on encouragement, because let’s face it, we all need it. When an athlete makes a solid attempt but fails, it’s almost second nature to remind them we’re all working on something. But my favorite mantra in our gym not only resides in the hearts of our coaches, but it also sits on the back of one of our t-shirts – Strength is a choice. You don’t just think your way to strength, you choose it. And one of the biggest reasons athletes stumble along the way is fear. Whether it’s the fear of pain or the fear of failure, the reason strength is a choice is because you must choose to overcome your fears. Both in and out of the gym, it may be time for some new choices.
The core component of fear is anxiety. In her WebMD article How Worrying Affects the Body, Dr. Debra Bruce writes, “Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress.” In other words, when you’re facing a stressful task in any aspect of life, anxiety is a normal response. It’s ok to get butterflies in your stomach before your presentation. It’s ok to wonder why Murph isn’t half as long. Your body is responding to stress with a little excitement, a little wonder, and a little concern. Think of this as healthy fear.
But when anxiety becomes excessive, it is no longer healthy or productive. This is where good old worry moves in and sets up shop. When my oldest son was two years old, his mother and I went through a divorce. As part of our arrangement, he got to spend a good amount of time with me, which I will always be grateful for. But as a newly divorced, rookie dad, I was riddled with worry. I became terrified that while my son was with me, something catastrophic would happen. So, I became a helicopter dad, both physically and mentally. I worried about everything, to the point that I limited his ability to develop independence for fear he would get hurt and his mom would get mad at me. I doubt you’ll be surprised to hear this, but he still fell down. He still got hurt. And not one moment of my worry added to my life or his.
Worry not only affects you physically, it also affects you spiritually. Worry makes it difficult to trust God. In fact, most times when we worry, it’s because we’ve tried to put our trust in any solution other than our Savior. New Testament scholar Robert Mounce describes worry as “practical atheism.” When I say strength is a choice, I mean that spiritually as well. People with true spiritual strength respond to the world differently. The reason is they’ve learned to overcome their worries by trusting them to the strength of Jesus. True richness and fullness in life are the opposite of excessive worry and anxiety. The great news is God has a plan for you. You just need to make some new choices.
First, choose to give it to God. This might be praying and asking for strength to trust Him. It might be connecting with a close friend and sharing your struggle to trust God at all. Choose not to dwell. If you sit on a thought too long in your brain, it starts to become a reality, even though it isn’t. Replace your anxious thoughts with key Scriptures or mantras of your own. Choose to let go. My oldest is now sixteen and driving so there’s no more helicopter dad for me. It’s time to let go and realize God was there the whole time. Finally, choose to have compassion. Compassion is like the healthy cousin of worry. When we have compassion, we’re prompted not just to think about it, but to do something about it. Strength is not just one choice, it’s the result of many choices. Which new choice do you need to make?
Questions for Reflection:
Is it more practical to try and worry less or to trust God more?
Do you think compassion is a healthier expression of worry? Why or why not?