Exercise as Worship

Sunset Run
When I was running a few days ago, I started reflecting on what a blessing it is to be able to exercise.

I love running- there is something so reassuring about entering into this familiar habit- feeling my body hit it’s stride, and being more aware of it- the power in my muscles, the beating of my heart.

Running has always helped provide balance for me.  It releases stress, helps to keep my eating habits more healthy, and usually ends up being a time of reflection and prayer.

Exercise can be worship-but what are we worshiping?

Over the years I have also discovered that sometimes exercise can turn into something ugly- to preoccupation with our appearance- to obsession- fixation on our body and trying to perfect it.

We can become consumed with size- looking good in our clothes-eliminating every bit of cellulite.

That obsession can take over our life and leave no room for other more fruitful things- and many times can lead to hours and hours of exercise each day- constant measurements or reaching for the next size, even starvation or eating disorders.

Depriving yourself of more and more calories on a road that you think leads to more happiness.

People notice- they compliment you- it feels good- strokes our ego.  We feel like people see us- or at least they notice our body.

Maybe you have started wearing clothes that show off your figure a little more. We rationalize: You have worked hard for that body after all.

But wait- who’s telling us that this is what we want?  Who’s telling us that this is important?

How will all this time we are devoting to our body image impact us in the future? How does it affect our witness to others, our children?

I Samuel 16:7

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.

Proverbs 31:30

30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

I Peter 3:3-4

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.

Isaiah 53:1-3 (speaking of Jesus)

Who has believed our message
    and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
    and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
    nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

I started asking myself- looking at some of the above verses, and discovering how empty pursuit of the “perfect body” can be- if I truly believe what God says about beauty, then I should be spending more time focusing on my character than I am focused on perfecting my body.

So when I start to obsess and am spending too much time preening in front of the mirror- I write a verse on that mirror reminding me that my inner reflection is what glorifies God.

My grandmother always said, “It is more important to be beautiful on the inside than the outside.”

We are teaching our daughters about what true beauty is- they see us spending that time in front of the mirror- talking about our bodies- turning and looking with dissatisfaction at that particular area we don’t like or complaining about not being able to fit into that outfit.

I have been so convicted about this, looking back at past seasons- and pray that with God’s help I might be completely free of this struggle with body image.

To rest and be at peace with the body that God has given me.  That I would be healthy, self-controlled, and responsible- but not obsessive.

When I run, I focus on thanking God for a healthy body and the ability to exercise- I don’t focus on size- we don’t own a scale.

I try to avoid prolonged conversations about my weight or losing weight- because I find myself in danger of letting my focus stray to things that are not of God (Philippians 4:8).

Pride so easily slips in- and the world saturates us with images of super-thin women- forcibly trying to brainwash us into believing that if we don’t look like them- we are not beautiful.

We can’t let the lies of the world dictate our priorities.  We must use the truth of God’s Word as our source for what is beautiful- what gives pleasure and glory to God.

Hebrews 13:15-16

15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. 16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

true beauty;

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10 Responses to Exercise as Worship

  1. Hi,
    I stopped by after reading your comment on our simple life’s fb page about her readers…your passion for writing showed :). I am trying (note trying) to get into shape more, and I never really thought about how blessed it is that I can even try…there are others who are not able to as much…
    THANK YOU!!!
    :) michy

    • Rachel says:

      So glad that you stopped by! Self-control and discipline with exercising and eating has been a struggle for me for so many years- and one that continues. Only by the grace of God am I able to continually battle the bad habits that I have made and try daily to let God comfort me instead of food- and to exercise to honor Him- not to honor or worship my body. So glad that the post encouraged you- God bless you.

  2. Mary Beth says:

    I almost did not click over because I didn’t want to read about exercise…I HATE it! But your post was encouraging. The focus is not on how we look or how often we exercise, but on Who we are worshiping.

    I love the idea of putting a passage about inward beauty on the mirror.

    Mary Beth

    • Rachel says:

      I am so glad you stopped by! Yes, exercise is a way to honor God and thank Him for this amazing bodies He has given us that can physically do some pretty amazing things. :) God bless you.

  3. AWESOME POST!!!!! Thank you. I am sharing this in my FB weight loss group. It’s great to be healthy – but so often we go overboard trying to fit into an ideal that God never created or intended. Thank you for the reminder. A Little R & R http://jukiczr.blogspot.com

    • Rachel says:

      So thankful we can encourage each other on the journey to take care of this amazing body God has given us. We need to daily drown out the world’s lies with the truth of God preserved in our hearts and minds-set before us to meditate on and remind us who we are. God bless you!

  4. A wonderful post and so, so wonderfully true…you hit the nail on the head! :)

  5. catholic boy says:

    Thanks for the article.
    I think it applies to men in a similar way.
    Exercise feels great and it sure beats being idle, but u point out the danger of it becoming an idol especially in our fallen state.
    God bless

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