Last month I was working out in my friend’s gym, having one of those days. You know, the ones where every exercise seems painful and hard? Some days exercise is fun and energizing for me, but other days it feels like the weights are extra heavy, the treadmill is extra fast and my whole body just lacks the umph it needs to keep going.
As I finished my first set of reps (I usually do five activities two or three times, then do a different set of five activities, two or three times, for a total of ten activities in a regular workout), I thought, “Ok, today I’m only going to get through 2 reps” and I felt a little energy boost knowing that I was already half way done.
I stood up on the gym floor, faced the mirror to do a set of dumbbell curls, and that’s when I noticed the verse my friend had stenciled on the wall opposite the mirror: “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.” It’s from Isaiah 40 and the whole passage reads like this:
“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow weary, and His understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young me stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:28-31).
As I reflected on the passage from Isaiah 40, that line really struck me: “...will renew their strength.”
When I think back to my youth, I can think of just a few times when I was one of the “young men” who “stumble and fall...” In fact, I can vividly remember a time when my youthful energy totally betrayed me and I had nothing left to give.
I played basketball my freshman year of high school, and we played for a tough, but very good basketball coach. Coach Miller had a very important philosophy about practice and it was very simple: “We are always going to accomplish something. And if we can’t accomplish anything else, we will get better conditioned.” That was code for running our butts off.
One particular torturous conditioning drill was called a mop-up. When doing a mop-up, you took your practice jersey off and placed it on the floor. You then grabbed it with your hands and ran a basic line drill. There were only three rules: The jersey had to stay on the ground. Your hands had to keep in constant contact with the jersey. And you could never sit down.
One mop-up was painful, but doable. Two mop-ups was excruciating, and required breaking through a pain threshold most of us had never approached. But the day we screwed up in a basketball game so badly that coach gave us three mop-ups, I found muscle groups in my body that I used that day, that have never been exercised before or since!
Coach walked in with a stack of papers and said, “Well boys, you know what we have today. So all we’re doing is three mop-ups, and when you’ve done your three, you can go home.” Then he sat down and started grading papers he was behind on. The fastest of us took the better part of an hour; our slowest teammate took almost two.
There was a point in which my legs burned so badly! I honestly have never hurt that much in my life, and that was after I had completed two full mop-ups, with on full one left to do. I kept praying that coach would just tell us to stop, but he didn’t. I knew that if I stood up I wouldn’t be playing in next week’s games. I pressed on through the pain and after about 75 minutes, I had completed my third mop-up. I waited in the gym until our whole team had finished then we hobbled to the showers together and committed to never, EVER, play in such a way as to need a mop-up as torture. If I remember right, we didn’t do a single mop-up the rest of the year.
I hate hitting walls. I always wish my walls were further from the starting line, but it seems like any time I get going on a new project, new workout plan, new eating goals or a better morning routine...SMACK! I run right into some personal, internal opposition. And all-too-often, the wall wins.
When living the Overboard Life, we are bound to hit some walls. That’s when the words of Isaiah 40 have to be embraced. We have to hold on to the truth that God will provide strength when we have only pain and weakness. He will give energy when we are weary and exhausted. He will restore power when we are faint and feel out of control. He will move our standing to walking and our walking to running. He will always give us what we need to get through the next wall.
Have you recently hit a wall? Are you staring at one right now, exhausted, weary and feeling defeated? Have you smacked your head one too many times, and certain that you’ll never get through, over, under or around?
Then you’re in Isaiah 40 country. You need to remember that God doesn’t grow weary and He is always working on behalf of His children. “Since God is for us” wrote the Apostle Paul, “who can stand against us?” And the answer is “No One!” Will you lean on Him again today as you face your wall?
14 down, 26 to go!
Go ahead and take the plunge, life is better on the water!