by Sarah Highfill
“Ouch! That hurts!” I remember thinking to myself as I felt my muscles stretched beyond their current capacity. I had just started CrossFit in North Africa and we were only in the warmup, which was workout enough for me at that point. We were supposed to be stretching our legs as far apart as they could go with both hands on the ground in the middle. The problem: my partner was supposed to be pushing me deeper into the stretch with each count. “One”—a little push that wasn’t too bad. “Two”--another push. “Three. . .Four.” Now we were at “Five” and it was starting to be very uncomfortable. “Six” Why did we needed someone pushing us? When it was just me, I could control how far I was comfortable going.
I didn’t realize I was resisting the stretch until my partner flat out told me—“Stop resisting.” I had gotten to the end of my comfort zone and was starting to feel some pain. However, once I stopped resisting, my partner pushed me deeper than I would have ever gone on my own.
The Lord used this to speak to me. I was in a season of being stretched spiritually so I could grow and go deeper in my faith and in my relationships. I was being strengthened and didn’t realize it. My spiritual muscles were being stretched and I was becoming stronger. I felt the Lord whisper to my spirit, “Stop resisting what I have for you.” I couldn’t go deeper in my walk without the stretching and the strengthening.
I was reminded of this lesson recently at the conclusion of my time with my connect group. When we are being stretched and refined through the fire, it hurts, and the fire is very hot. But, it is worth it! The growth, maturity, steadfastness, and perseverance that comes out of these uncomfortable times is worth it all! James 1:2-4 ESV says “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” The Living Bible in verse four says “So let it grow, and don’t try to squirm out of your problems.”
When I was being pushed into that deep stretch, believe me, I was squirming and ready to push my partner off me. In that moment I didn’t see it as a growth opportunity because I was feeling the pain and ready to squirm my way out of it. Sometimes we might be uncomfortable because previously we have never faced this particular kind of trial. But we don’t have to give into fear, and we are empowered to count it all joy.
Are we willing to be temporarily uncomfortable so our faith can grow? Are we resisting something God intended to produce growth because it may be painful, awkward, or uncharted territory? Do we unintentionally resist God because it is a troubling situation we’ve never faced before? Are we counting it…all of it…joy? I think it’s interesting that in several of the translations I looked, it doesn’t say to count it AS joy, meaning similar to joy or to the extent that it is likened to joy. But. . .it IS joy!
There will be growing pains, awkwardness, and uncomfortable stretching, but guess what? We can be joyful and confident that God is working something wonderful in us by growing, stretching, and refining us to be more like Him. With the help of the Holy Spirit as our partner, we can relax and be taken deeper than we ever could go on our own or have ever been before.
Sarah Highfill serves as a missionary to North Africa. She enjoys doing and coaching CrossFit. When she is state side she enjoys taking her Schnorkie, Shadow, for walks and being involved in the ministry of Stained Glass Theatre.