Trained by hardship and discipline

Trained by hardship and discipline
There is no greater training than enduring the hardships we face knowing God does this in love.

As someone who’s done all kinds of fitness workouts and routines, nothing has been more difficult and beneficial than being trained by hardship and discipline. It’s not an actual workout anyone sets out to do either. At least I didn’t. I literally stumbled upon it in my Christian walk–pun intended. I, like many others, thought I was living a good, decent life and that by going to church and having my awesome worship experiences, I was locked in and entitled to the finer things of life. I mean, my Father does own the cattle on a thousand hills, so my life should be good. Smooth sailing.

Not!

There’s been nothing smooth about my sailing; in fact, I’ve been on murky, turbulent waters and storms, and really thought my “boat” would capsize, and I would just drown at sea.  And yet, I’m still alive.

I like to call my experience “The Riptide Effect” because that’s exactly what this journey has been like.

It was as if my life was a beautiful summer day at the beach and I was building sand castles to the sky. I was laying back, just chill-axing if you will. My life seemed to have gotten to a calm place and it was as if the sky was blue, the water was clear, and I had not a care in the world. I love to swim, so it was nothing for me to go on in and take a dip. The water looked serene, intriguing, and peaceful. I would just float and listen to the hum of my breath in my ear and watch the big fat cumulous clouds float by overhead. Nothing to fear.

Until the riptide seized me and dragged me faster and further than I wanted to go and the only thing I could do was surrender and go with the flow. Fighting was futile. I was in the current of change.

The safety and serenity of my built-up beach was dragged away. I could see it in the distance but I would not be returning there. I was being sucked, forced, led, and propelled to new territory. And these were no shallow waters either. I was out in the deep, dark blue abyss of the unknown. It was either tread to stay alive or stop moving and drown. My strength came from somewhere and I just kept hanging on for dear life. I saw a new island in the distance. Unchartered territory. A place I’d never been before. I had no idea what new adventure was before me. My choices: sink or swim. I swam. And now I’m here. I have made it to the other side.

But this whole process has not been easy. In many ways, although I deeply desired new relationships and experiences, I came to learn that I felt safe on my little beach where I knew everything and everybody. I thought I would be able to take my talent, skill, and tenacity and build the biggest, most fabulous castles this world ever saw, and yet, God completely annihilated my beach and haven of safety and did a completely new thing within me.

There are times I look at myself in amazement because my body looks the same, give or take a few pounds, but the thing is, I am completely different on the inside. And it’s because when trained by hardship and discipline you come to know the ugly truth about yourself, and you also come to learn the grace and mercy of God. I have learned during this process that God disciplines those He loves, and since that is the case, God truly loves me because, like Paul, I have learned to the secret of being content in any situation. We have a lot. Hallelujah! We’re down to our last cent. Hallelujah!

That’s not how I’ve always been though. I realize from this process that I thought that because I confessed Jesus as my Lord that somehow I was entitled to special privileges, as if being Christian meant I was absolved of hardship or lack. Yet, I’ve come to learn the heart of God now. I’ve learned that in this world there will be many trials, hardships, persecutions, and all sorts of things that will be painful and cause us to feel despair. But the good news is that we need not! You see, the gift of the cross is that even though all those may happen, none of them can separate us from the love that God has for us.

Do you know, I never got that until I was trained by hardship and discipline?

Can you imagine, spending hours, days, weeks, months, and years upset that God would allow me to have hardship and crying out in desperation for Him to take it away when all along He was simply waiting on me to say two very simple words: “THANK YOU.”

I’ve learned that if I can say “thank you” for the bad times, all of a sudden I don’t have as many of them because my entire perspective about “good” and “bad” has now changed. The thing of it is, God called out light from the darkness. He separated the sky and the water. He gave us day and night. But we wouldn’t know the one without the other. These are mere dichotomies and parallels to show us, teach us, confirm for us that He is the Alpha AND the Omega. He is THE Beginning and THE End. Everybody loves a happy ending but it’s the problems and conflict in the middle that give the story the flair. The story would be blah and mundane without it! And so it is with life.

Who would’ve thunk it?

So you mean to tell me I couldn’t have just been informed about this by God and politely receive my ticket to go from one place to another? Wouldn’t that be a hoot if that were so! I’m sure the Israelites would have much preferred having God just magically poof away Pharoah, change the land, forget the plagues and famine and all that, and just tell God, “Do what you do. Away with them!” But that is not His heart.

Why?

Please. I am not about to sign up for that class! God is and God does what He chooses because He is. Believe you me. Tread water for two years and you come to realize that asking God to explain things is not something do. A much better use of time is making the effort to get ourselves aligned to His will and His heart. One of the biggest lies of the enemy is that God has left us and is not working in our lives. The fact is: God is ALWAYS working and is ALWAYS with us. We have to have eyes to see and ears to Him though, because when we don’t, God loves us so much that He will shut EVERYTHING down so that we can see and hear, as in my “riptide effect.”

I couldn’t be distracted by my job and the pressures of work if I had no job. So, He took that. I could not and did not completely rely on God because something inside of me was reserved and off limits to Him because I had my bi-monthly paycheck. Well, that can’t be an issue if you don’t have that money coming in. And so, He took that. Why should I submit to my husband, trust him, or deal with unresolved issues if I had my own safety net. Yank!!! Gone!!! You name it. He purged, pruned, and removed it. He trained me by hardship, but the most important part about all of this, is that He did it in love. God loves me so much that He would go through all the trouble to knock each and every sand castle I’d created thinking I was the bomb.com to ensure my place with Him for eternity.

And He does the same for you too.

Just like physical training of the body, it hurts. Lifting those weights and overloading the muscle is the only way you are going to create any change in musculature. But can you imagine lifting a pencil thinking you’re going to bulk up like Hulk Hogan? Well that’s what we do sometimes as Christians. We think we’re spiritual giants but we don’t have the acuity to fight a feather.

I’m on the other side of the ocean now, and there were times I thought I was not going to make it. I even felt like Tom Hanks when he was Cast Away, but what’s even sadder is there were times I didn’t even have a friend like Wilson to entertain me. At least so I thought. But that’s not true either, because I came to know that there is friend who sticks closer than a brother. Always loving me. Always caring for me. Always interceding on my behalf.

I am so awed and grateful that God loves me. He is the vine and I am the branch and I am going to do everything I can to remain in Him so that I bear much fruit. I plan to share with the world all I know about health and fitness, but the ultimate workout I plan to take all over this planet is the one where you get trained by hardship and discipline, for that is the one where you will get the greatest physical and spiritual transformation. I’m a witness!

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I would LOVE to hear your from YOU! Be sure to scroll down and post your comments so that we can keep this discussion going. And, if you would like to speak with me personally, fill out the email link on the right hand side of the page so that I can make sure my latest blogs go directly to your email. Thank you for your support, and remember, vow to live your life “In FITNESS and In Health.”

 

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    Elana Anthony

    I am a wife and mother blessed to have six daughters who fill my home with love and laughter. My passion is writing and teaching, but most especially inspiring people to live healthy lives in my faith-filled fitness classes. My dream is to have my own faith and fitness TV show where people from all the world collectively join together on our "temple" building project of enjoying optimal health. I am a certified group fitness instructor by the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA), and earned graduate degrees in Writing from DePaul University, in addition to a degree in Exercise Science and Health Promotion from the California University of Pennsylvania. I have seen and experienced the hand of God work and move in my life, and consider it an honor and blessing to be saved to serve.

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