Exercise class isn’t usually a place where I meet God.
I used to be one of those people who saw exercise as an instrument of torture, or a means to an end for maintaining weight. I had no natural athletic abilities, so I figured why bother trying to push my body to do something it doesn’t want to do? But slowly, as I’ve given new forms of exercise a try, I’ve begun to discover the benefits athletes seemed to be raving about all long.
Some of my friends who have a close personal relationship with God even talk about how they regularly worship or pray while exercising. There have been a handful of times that I’ve experienced the full pleasure of being alive, of being thankful for how God designed my body and what I have trained it to be capable of, but this is not my default.
I’ve had a complicated relationship with my body these last few years thanks to some significant health issues. I’ve moved through cycles of frustration and exhaustion to hatred to forgiveness and grace to hopefulness more times than I can count. Scripture says my body was “fearfully and wonderfully made,” but more often than not, it has just felt fearful. It has felt broken.
When I arrived at spin class that day, I was ready to get a good workout but had no intention of specifically meeting God there. I came into class carrying all my usual worries, fears and mental to-do lists from the day, but I knew that for the next 50 minutes, I could put them aside and focus on doing something good for my body. I could give my mind a rest.
For the next half hour or more, the instructor played fun, upbeat tunes to keep us motivated (and distracted?) while we climbed hills and did sprints. The session was fun but uneventful as I focused on shifting from hills to sprints to active recovery and back again. It was like any other ride until an unfamiliar song came on. My ears perked up and my heart started to beat faster as the lyrics to the chorus registered and resonated in my soul.
Praise Him ‘til your blessings come down
Praise Him ‘til your situation turns around
You gotta lift up your voice and say
And as I listened to the lyrics of the verses afterwards, I was floored. The singer was telling my story — of unresolved issues, of desperate prayers, of losing patience and hope. But the chorus was a reminder that despite all these things, the best response was still to praise Him. I had never heard this song before, but it felt like it was written just for me in that moment.
I walked into class that day carrying the weight of a heavy season. Some days it is heavier than others, but there is often a current of disappointment that runs through my everyday activities. It’s dissatisfaction with my circumstances and stage of life. I find myself longing for some happier, more fulfilled version of my future — one where this long season of pain and grief is but a distant memory. Whether consciously or subconsciously, I would think, “When it’s over … won’t it be easier to praise Him then?”
But if we wait to praise God until all our barriers have been torn down, all our sickness healed, and all our hopes fulfilled, we might never be able to praise Him. We live in a broken world where something will always be out of order. We have to practice praise even when it feels like utter foolishness. Praising God in bleak circumstances is an act of defiance against the forces of darkness, aligning ourselves with His truth.
The truth is that we are His children.
The truth is that we are overcomers.
The truth is that we have been given all we need.
The truth is nothing can separate us from His love.
The truth is that His plans are to prosper us and not to harm us.
As I pedaled through the rest of the song, I could not stop smiling. My circumstances hadn’t changed, but my mindset had. I found myself deep in a conversation with God, thanking Him for the unexpected, my hope renewed by the everyday reminders of His grace… even something as small as a song in spin class.
Erika is a dinner group leader and coach at Hoboken Grace. You can read more about faith, relationships and life lessons on her blog, Married in Mile Square City.