Pumping Iron

“New light” comes and goes.  The newest and shiniest fad, whether it be political, dietary, religious, in music or fashion sets people’s adrenalin pumping either negatively or positively.   My “new light” came when I was at my lowest point emotionally, physically, and spiritually.  I’d temporarily lost my joy, my hope, my peace, yes, even my Jesus.  But He hadn’t lost sight of me.  On the contrary He waited as I raved and ranted and sulked my way through my despondency.  And when I finally turned to Him He wrapped His muscular, tanned arms around me and drew me close to His side.  But He didn’t stop there.  My Savior, my Friend, revealed two truths that have seen me through some of life’s most difficult times– the power available in praise and thanksgiving.  (Matthew 16:19)  These keys opened heaven’s treasures in my life.  As a result my joy recharged my strength. (Neh. 8:10)

When I shared my discovery with a friend, he lamented, “Yeah, sounds good, but it’s just another temporary tangent, a spiritual kick.  In a few months you’ll slip back into your old patterns…”  My dear friend was so, so wrong.  The keys my Jesus gave me at 3:00 one foggy morning when I was drowning in my depression would change my life forever.  I’ve learned the habit of giving praise and gratitude builds faith muscles.  It’s like pumping iron in the gym.

Day by day my faith muscles have grown more than I ever imagined in the 20+ years since I began this new daily regimen.  At times I’ve persisted praising through a flood of tears.  At times I’ve determinedly sweated through the process.  At times I’ve shaken my fists and stomped my feet, yet like King David, I continued to praise.  At times laughter and delight have accompanied my muscle building routine.

Recently Richard and I went through a disappointing experience, a broken promise by a brother-in-Christ, that set us financially back thousands of dollars.  (When you’re on a semi-fixed income that can be quite disconcerting.)  BP, as I call the years “before praise,” I would have been devastated.  Sure enough, the temptation to scream and vent my frustration returned, and perhaps, to send a few e-mail protest zingers about how shabbily we’d been treated. Fortunately my formerly wimpish faith muscles have developed over time.  I chose–notice the word chose–instead to employ my faith muscles and praise God who promises to never leave me or forsake me (Heb. 13:5).  My joy returned.  We survived, no, we thrived!  We had food enough, clothes enough, an air-conditioned house to protect us, an operable car with enough fuel to take us wherever we desired to go.  Best of all, are the children and grand children who love us and are eager to see us when we visit.  How good is that?

So how does it work?  Like a body builder at the gym, faith muscles develop by exercising praise and gratitude through the little discomforts of life–the aches and pains of living. So when the big troubles come, I can be equipped (through the power of our Heavenly Muscle Man, the Holy Spirit) to bench press even the worst of disappointments, to cut life’s worst tragedies down to size, to wage war on the ever-increasing fat of complacency.  More than just another spiritual tangent!   Praise and gratitude is a faith workout where the rewards are experienced every day, but truly evident under the hot glare of life’s worst trials.

Does this guarantee that the next time trouble comes I won’t fall flat on my face?  Hardly! The only way I can maintain my faith muscles is by choosing to praise every morning, noon and night, and by trusting God  who keeps His word in my life.  But the perks are worth it, I assure you.

If your day is overcast; if your future seems foggy; if your bank account appears to be a sickly green, pump some iron–praise God.  Listed below are a few of the perks to living a healthy praise-filled life:  (lyrics recorded by Dallas Holm)

“I have joy in the time of sorrow
I have peace in the raging storm
I have faith that Jesus holds tomorrow
I have hope, I’m resting in His arms.”

 

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