Contrary to popular belief, I took ballet classes from age 5 to age 12. When I gracelessly bump into a chair or carelessly drop a fork, it’s hard to see the evidence of all those classes. Yet regardless of the questionable outcome, the truth is that I loved to dance. I was one of those kids that would do grand jetes down the grocery store aisle and pirouette through the kitchen even as my mom tried to cook dinner. But loving to dance did not mean I always liked dance class. You see at least half of a ballet class you spend doing “bar”. That means doing repetitious exercises over and over while holding on the bar with one hand. Being an extremely active child, I didn’t want to hold on to a bar! I wanted to leap and spin and turn and dance all over the room. But first, like all good little ballerinas, I had to endure the bar exercises.
Today when I sit in the audience and marvel at a ballerina’s ability to balance on her toes while holding her knee next to her ear, I know that skill came from years of enduring tedious bar exercises. That ballerina had developed not just grace and presence but pure unadulterated muscle. And if you are going to fly through the air, spin like a top and contort your body in impossible positions, you’re going to need some muscles- lots of muscles. But the only way to build muscles is through endurance.
I like the way James 5:11 says “we consider blessed those who have persevered”. Think of people who have endured incredible struggles and have gotten to the other side. Of course, they’re blessed. It’s a lot easier to consider endurance a blessing once you’re done enduring, but what do we consider people that are in the process of enduring? Think about the people you know right now that are enduring a struggle. Do you know anyone out of work? Facing a divorce? Grieving the loss of a loved one? Would you say they are blessed? Probably not and yet through the process of enduring they have the opportunity to develop spiritual muscles. Just as a ballerina needs powerful muscles to accomplish her craft, you need powerful spiritual muscles to live the grand adventure Christ has placed before you. Spiritual muscles won’t take away the pain of enduring a struggle but they will take your faith to a whole new level.
So here’s the question, can you endure struggles and not build spiritual muscles? Sure. You can pray less, share less, and distance yourself more not only from God but from other believers. Spiritual muscles aren’t built through struggles; they’re built through taking your struggles to God. With each answered pray, your faith grows. With each illuminating scripture, your faith grows and with each meeting with your Heavenly Father, your faith grows. Don’t waste your struggles drifting away from God. Read more scripture, pray more prayers and seek out the God that loves you enough to die for you on the cross. Seize those spiritual muscles when presented to you and you’ll be amazed at the new found strength you have to endure.