Rambling isn’t an Olympic sport. It’s just what I’m doing right now.
I’ve always loved watching the Olympics. It’s like the Super Bowl for two weeks. Things are different now. I know this may sound like whining to some, or attention seeking, or talking about how I’m special. I’m not special, although I may be whining. It’s difficult to watch because with chronic fatigue, it can be hard to see all of these people who are healthy and have great energy. I’m not jealous; I’m truly happy for them. I’ve always been a “body watcher” (I hope that doesn’t sound weird), being so into fitness, and for decades, weight training, and it’s nice to see so many fit people in one place.
Having chronic back pain, it’s difficult seeing figure skater Evgeni Plushenko, a Russian Olympic gold medal hopeful, who developed severe back pain, have an artificial disc put in-between two vertebrae and can now perform again. For me it was first a surgery to repair a herniated disc, which allowed me to stand up straight, but my pain kept increasing. Later came a fusion, which also didn’t work. Now a pain pump, which also doesn’t work as well as hoped (the goal is to relieve at least 50% of the pain).
However, since I started writing this post, you may have seen that his back completely gave out and he had to withdraw. I will write another post on the subject of loss, which is also hard to watch, along with Psalm 42.
Outside the Olympics, Peyton Manning kept having back surgeries (four) until they got it right. I had my one fusion, it didn’t work, and that’s it. I’m really glad Peyton Manning is able to keep on playing–better than ever. Career ending injuries are sad to see, especially right when they happen, like when Bo Jackson injured his hip. Who knows what he could have become, among so many others. Bo knows hurt.
Right now, I’m frustrated. I don’t know if frustrated is the right word. Angry sounds too strong. I can’t think of a better one. I’m reading through the Psalms, and David and other psalmists get a little miffed now and then too, wondering what’s going on. But they always go back to thanking and praising God for what He’ll do and for who He is. I’m finding in times like this, that takes discipline.
My wife has a book called 31 Days of Praise. When she had a couple of big trials, she decided to praise God continually. That got her through it. That took discipline. I admire her for that.
I feel like I’m just learning how to “set my mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth (Colossians 3:1).” It’s a different kind of discipline than physical exercise or regular spiritual disciplines. I’ve always liked doing those things, so I don’t really need discipline to do them. Thanking and praising God when I’m just mad and really down takes discipline. We need to choose to do it. God compels us through his Spirit if we live by it, and rewards us, but we still need to strive. It’s a different type of spiritual exercise. I don’t like it.
One thing I can to be thankful for is that I’m able do a little bit of some specially tailored weight training again now and have been able to improve. I’m back on the couch afterwards, but I can do something. It’s easy to compare myself to others, which I shouldn’t be doing. I shouldn’t even compare myself to myself–what I used to be able to do. I just have to workout smart, and be glad for any progress. But when I see Olympic athletes doing all kinds of stuff, it makes it difficult not to compare and wish I could just be healthy mentally and physically.
Reading the Psalms has come at a good time. God is good. God is a great teacher. Athletes may have great specialists to help them with everything they could need for their sport, but we have the beyond perfect God, who lives in us permanently to take us through life beyond the grave. I’m learning how to state my displeasure–lament, and to confess the ways that I’m sinning in my attitude, and then praise him for who he is, and thank God for what he has done and is doing. Then I can ask Him to help me, most importantly to be conformed to Christ. I do pray for healing now and then, but after decades of dealing with some things, I pray for coping, and spiritual things that I know are in God’s will (Ephesians 3:16-21 for example–see Complete List of Paul's Prayers). I know that difficulties are supposed to help us to long for heaven–our home–but I don’t seem to lack in that area. I would like to experience more hope for heaven in the present.
In a previous post on preparing for suffering, I included a quote by C.S. Lewis about “engaging in mental/theological exercises” and having a sound view of God. Another thing we can do it to constantly thank and praise God. The more we are bent towards God by praising Him as we think about Him and pray, and the more we thank God for things he does in our lives, the more likely we are to do that when trials come along. Memorizing and reciting Colossians 1:11-12 (along with :9-20 for good measure) has been very helpful in smaller trials. “May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.” (NRSV) Being saved is of so much more importance than whatever is happening to us.
I have so much to be thankful for, and God is still showing me more ways to praise him. There is no lack when it comes to those things.
The LORD is my shepherd.
I am never in need.
Psalm 23:1 GW
Always be joyful.
Never stop praying.
Whatever happens, give thanks, because it is God’s will in Christ Jesus that you do this.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 GW
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12:2 NIV
Tragic Worship | First Things by Carl R. Trueman