Exercising in God’s Gym for Mental Health and Peace

Everywhere I look I see broken people  searching for relief from the mental pain, anxiety and depression brought on by living in this dysfunctional world. Some choose medications, some choose the more natural option of exercise, whether it be yoga, running, weightlifting , team sports, cycling, or other physical activity, As a runner, I get a runner’s ‘high’ when I run long enough and I enjoy it, crave it, and depend on it to stave off physical depression caused by stress and low endorphins. It makes me feel awake, alert, and ready to take on the day.  I also try to eat according to what my body can tolerate, which means no gluten and few other grains, and plenty of protein, including meat. The routine of the exercise program also provides a feeling of control and accomplishment in my otherwise often out of control day.

However, as a Christian, I am aware that this type of feeling good is not something I can count on to last or even always be accessible to me. When I can’t run, I would be lost if I didn’t have something more powerful and more real to sustain  me through tough days, of which there seem to be many since turning 50.

Last night I watched a very positive, uplifting video about some military veterans who work out in the gym with their peers . This was just one of many similar programs that have been started by caring individuals and groups with the goal of improving lives and preventing suicide from PTSD.   I applaud the many volunteers and others who are involved with helping veterans become active and literally saving their lives. I hope these programs continue and grow and more Vets will give them a try.  My only concern , as a Christian, is that I know things can happen and sometimes people get injured and can’t exercise or run or do the things that are keeping them from going over the edge. In that unfortunate situation, they are going to need something else.

That something else is the peace that only comes from knowing Jesus. Only the Holy Spirit of God can comfort and heal in the middle of chaos and trials. Only this great supernatural power from outside ourselves can calm the storms in our minds. I’m not talking about religion or reciting a prayer at age 12 or walking the aisle. I’m talking about really spending time to get to know God through his Word, hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit and learning how to turn away from one’s own mental car wreck of thoughts and focus on the promises of God, trusting and relying on the truth that God is with us and loves us and will carry us when we can no longer walk. Nothing else can bring calm like Jesus in a life crisis or mental storm. It takes practice to look up instead of at what is happening in the moment  and only a true believer can depend on it when things are really crazy. A weak or new Christian who has not exercised and developed spiritual muscles will fall into fear, anger, worry and hopelessness as quickly as a non-Christian. It’s a process called sanctification that we must work through with God’s help. We will get opportunities to ‘exercise’ our faith and trust and each time we do, we will be able to do it even easier the next time. Of course, first one must believe that God is real, that Jesus is his son come in the flesh to bring salvation to a lost world, and that unseen things in the spiritual world actually exist and can affect humans. Just as evil forces actually do exist, angels are real. There is no risk in trusting this statement, but there is a huge risk in rejecting the truth. God is worthy of our trust! When things seem bad, instead of thinking that all is lost, remember that God can do anything. He may not fix things right then and there, but he has it under control and in the long run, it will be okay.  You can rest in that knowledge! Even if your physical body dies, your spiritual body will be okay if you are a forgiven, redeemed child of the Most High God. Christians can depend on the promises of the Bible, especially the promise that Jesus is with us until the end of the world and that He is coming back for his people. This earth is not going to last forever. We are not to expect it to be perfect or our lives to be perfect. Only in Christ can we have the peace that passes understanding, because we know we are part of a much better kingdom than this earth.

I hope and pray that the Vets will continue in their physical fitness and mental rehab programs and continue to heal and grow and live happy lives. I also pray that they will seek and know the Lord because he offers greater joy and peace than any gym can ever provide.

Phillipians 4:4-7 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

 

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