James 1: 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
“What Actually Makes You Tired During Exercise?”. This was an interesting read. The author cited the common misconception that we get tired to the point of having to stop exercising because our muscles get depleted of fuel. She cites a book by Dr. Jo Marchant, Cure: A Journey Into the Science of Mind Over Body; in it Dr. Marchant shares findings from various studies which highlight the brain and its surprising control over the muscles in your body. The traditional thought was that “athletes get tired when their bodies hit physical limits—their muscles run out of oxygen or fuel, or become damaged by the accumulation of toxic by-products such as lactic acid. This in turn triggers pain and fatigue, forcing us to stop exercising until we recover.” However, in one study cyclists went on a treadmill until they were too fatigued to continue. The researchers expected that they would be engaging more and more muscle fibers as they reached exhaustion until they had all been depleted, however the opposite occurred, muscle fibers were being turned off and they were never activating more than about 50 percent of their available muscle fibers. It turns out that the brain acts well in advance of the physical limits, making us feel tired and forcing us to stop exercise well before there is any damage. “In other words, fatigue isn’t a physical event but a sensation or emotion, invented by the brain to prevent catastrophic harm.” Elite endurance athletes may not understand the science behind it, but they understand that they can push their body well beyond the point where they hear a message in their head saying stop; if they want to win, they need to persevere well past that point.
Today’s scripture speaks of a different kind of perseverance, that being spiritual. Like an athlete who endures intense physical (sensation) pain, we all face trials in our life. And James tells us we need to: “2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1: 2-4). A good athlete endures the pain and continues on; an elite athlete finds a way to embrace and even relish the pain, because they are able to look past it and see what fruit will come from pushing beyond their comfort zone. James is saying something similar here. We have the choice to crumble under our trial; or we can stumble through the trials with grumbling; or we can consider it “pure joy” when we face those trials. Why? Because we know that at the other end of the trial, when we have persevered, and let it “finish its work”, we will have gained maturity and obtained something that God felt was still “lacking” in us. Isn’t it exciting when you think of it in that way?
Most athletes understand that muscles grow by first being damaged (hypertrophy) through exercise, but the body repairs damaged fibers by fusing them which increases the mass and the size of the muscles. As Christians, we gain faith, gain maturity when we persevere through our trials. This does not mean we are always smiling and singing through our trials. There are days where I have chosen to sing praises to God while tears poured down my cheeks. There are times to mourn and weep, and ironically, we can walk through those days with joy. We can weep and have joy at the same time. Nothing should be able to rob us of the eternal joy we have in Jesus. Choose to persevere with Christ through the trials you now face. Let the inner athlete in you come out during those times, keeping your eye on the eternal prize.