Training for More Joy (Part 2)- How physical disciplines impact living in freedom

In part 1 of this blog series, we looked at how spiritual disciplines impact our freedom journey. If you haven’t read that one yet, I’d highly recommend it before jumping into this one. Over the past 8+ years, I’ve seen that spiritual disciplines are the primary disciplines needed to live in ongoing freedom, but God has also given physical disciplines as a gift to empower you on this journey of forever freedom. In this short blog we will look at how finding your rhythm, exercise, nutrition, and sleep can positively and negatively impact your freedom journey.

1- Find a Rhythm

Before I started following Jesus my life was chaos. The only real routine I had was my work schedule (if I decided to show up). I went to bed in the middle of the night and woke up whenever felt right, oftentimes late in the afternoon. One of the first things I noticed after arriving at treatment was how rigid they were about our schedule. Morning meditation and breakfast were at 6am. There were meetings all day; 8:30am, 12pm, 5pm, 8pm, etc. At first I resented this structure, but eventually I saw it’s value. I have remained pretty disciplined in this area to this day. My wife makes fun of me because I put literally everything on my Google Calendar, from meetings to date night, and even bedtime. Rhythm and order are not the source of our recovery, but they are useful tools God uses to restore us.

In the first book of the Bible, we see God designed the world to work with a rhythm. As God created the universe and filled the earth, He changed formlessness and chaos into order and rhythm. “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day” (Genesis 1:2-5). We were created to operate with rhythm and order, without it we do not flourish. I believe God wants to restore order in your schedule to help restore order in all aspects of your life.

2- Care For Your Body

There is no lack of data to show the impact a healthy body has on the brain, but research also shows it positively impacts recovery from addiction. Our bodies are God’s temple, and we are called to steward them well. Although God doesn’t demand we all become world class athletes, He does say, “physical training is of some value.” Three disciplines that I’ve adopted into my life are: regular exercise, eating healthy, and a good night’s sleep.

Exercise has been known to reduce stress, increase energy levels, improve mood, and even protect the brain from the negative impacts of long term drug use (Futures Recovery Health Care). As I’ve started doing CrossFit a few times a week, I have experienced all of these benefits. Pick something that you might enjoy and do it on a regular basis; walking, basketball, lifting weights, swimming, running, etc. Exercise is not the ultimate fix and cannot become our god, but it does have its benefits.

Nutrition has also been proven to help the recovery process (Medline Plus). When I was in active addiction my diet consisted mainly of sweet tarts, raspberry lemonade and handfuls of pills. When I arrived at treatment I was extremely malnourished, weighing a whopping one hundred pounds. I didn’t know the science behind it at the time, but as I started eating healthier, I started feeling better. One article states, “Nutrients give the body energy, help build and repair organ tissue, and strengthen the immune system… Nutrition also plays an important role in mood. Research suggests that changes in your diet can alter brain structure both chemically and physiologically, and influence your behavior. Furthermore, the consumption of certain foods has been tied to increased production of key neurotransmitters like serotonin” (The Fix).

Not only do exercise and nutrition help support us in this journey, but a recent study by Penn State University shows that getting a good night’s sleep is also linked to lasting recovery from addiction (Penn State). Better sleep helps people stay sober. God gives us sleep as a good gift to bring healing to our bodies, minds, and souls, “He gives His beloved sleep” (Psalm 127:2). Isn’t that good news?

PARTNERING WITH GOD

By themselves, none of these disciplines mean anything. We are only justified by God’s grace and we are only truly freed from addiction by the Gospel. Our primary focus in growing in our relationship with God is Him changing our hearts, but we must also train for godliness through spiritual and physical disciplines. We partner with God’s work in our hearts by filling our minds with His truth and using our hands to do His will.

God is in the process of changing our hearts. As we give ourselves over to prayer, reading the Bible, worship, and a healthy lifestyle, we are partnering with God in this holistic transformation. The late Jim Rohn has famously said, “We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. The difference is discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tons.” Every person has this choice. Will we discipline ourselves today and experience the benefits, or will we punt on the pain of today surely to reap impending remorse in the future?

Some “normal people” look like they are able to casually follow Jesus and finish the race without great measures of discipline, but for the person who has struggled with addiction, this is not so. Just like a diabetic must be much more disciplined with sugar consumption and a formerly obese person must be disciplined in their exercise and eating, we must be more disciplined in our training for godliness. God is not calling you to a mediocre spiritual life, He is calling you to train for godliness as a world class athlete trains for the olympics. You have a high calling.

I have looked at many drug addicts in their eyes as they tearfully experience this throbbing regret. They knew the right way to go, but chose not to embrace the pain of discipline. After losing everything, including their families, once again, the pain is so tangible I can feel it too. Don’t let this be your story. Fully surrender everything to Jesus and live a life full of trust and training. Let’s run this race with discipline, knowing the eternal prize of endless joy is ours for the taking.

ACTION:

1. What adjustments do you need to make to your spiritual disciplines from part 1 of this series?

2. What planner or online calendar will you use to begin ordering your life to find your rhythm?

3. What adjustments do you need to make to your eating, exercise, and sleeping habits?