Monday, May 3, 2021

Devotionals for the Heart: A life lesson on exercise and God's love

How exercise helps me love myself as God loves me
A devotional by Jessica Brodie

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” –Psalm 139:14 (NIV)

A few months ago, worn down by tension headaches, I was frustrated. Nothing brought relief—not medicine, sleep, or even massage. I was desperate for relief. I decided to try an experiment: do some simple stretching exercises daily for a few weeks and see what happens.

After a week, my headaches were much improved. One afternoon after a hard deadline on my newspaper, a headache began to rear its ugly head. I slipped into something comfy and started my routine. Within five minutes, my headache was gone.

I kept my stretching up daily, and soon I noticed more than just headache relief. I was becoming more in tune with my body and more appreciative of it. I was learning to focus on deep breathing and allowing myself grace. I was calmer, happier. I felt stronger, too. Soon, I added back in a daily walk, another something I’d let slip. This week, I’m adding in some arm weights and pushups, too.

For I’ve noticed something significant: All this attention I’m paying to my physical body, the care I’m giving myself through stretching and other exercise, is helping me grow as a Christian, too.

See, part of what I enjoy about exercise is its focus on centering myself in the now and appreciating the moment and the body I’ve been given. As a driven, type-A personality who loves a plan, I can get so focused on the future, on results, that I zip on by the “journey” part of life. I like to have a “job,” a task, something to focus on, and admittedly have a tough time relaxing.

Yet the Bible verse from the first half of Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God” (NIV), began calling to me some years ago, beckoning me to sit and rest at God’s feet and know in my soul that He has it all under control. Doing things in nature, such as hiking or photography, help me do just that—be. Be still. Be still and know, truly know, that the Great I Am has His infinite hand upon me now and forever.

Still, I’m a busy working mom and wife jugging what can feel like a gazillion priorities. And most days—while I want to relax, to be a “Mary” from Luke 10:38-42 sitting rapt at Jesus’s feet—I’m going ninety miles an hour, barely stopping to sit down for lunch.

When I do take that time to slow down, I’m better for it, both as a person and as a child of God.

That’s what daily exercise has been helping me understand. Taking the time to breathe, to stretch, to feel the glorious wonder of muscles and tendons and skin all working together in a beautiful dance of flexibility and rhythmic movement, is a beautiful reminder of the blessings God has given us. As Psalm 139:14 (NIV) reminds me about the Lord, “I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

Remembering that, remembering the omnipotence and glory of God and my place in His creation, is an important aspect of my faith journey. When I’m rushing here and there, never stopping or slowing down, I’m focused on the world, on doing, on me—not on God or love or peace or anything of the things He wants me to care about.

But that’s one critical thing we are offered in Jesus: Peace. Rest. Reprieve.

Colossians 3:15 (NIV) tells us we are to “let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”

And Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV) says we should not be anxious but instead turn it all over to God, for when we do that, “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

And as Romans 12:2 (NIV) urges, “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.”

For me, exercise gets me to that state of renewal, that reminder of the importance of fusing mind, body, and soul in unity with God. You might run, or nap in a hammock, or spend the day in a canoe fishing—whatever it is you do, prioritize that. Know that rest, refreshment, and renewal is important in our spiritual walk, no matter how culture tries to convince us otherwise.

Comment below—what do YOU do to find renewal?

Let’s Pray:
Dear God, thank you for the body You have given me. Help me appreciate it, knowing I am created by You to be a beautiful masterpiece, a magnificent creation. Help me to know I am wholly and fully loved now and always. In Your name I pray, Amen.

Author Bio:

Jessica Brodie is an award-winning Christian novelist, journalist, editor, blogger, and writing coach and the recipient of the 2018 American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis Award for her novel, The Memory Garden

She is also the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism, and a member of the Wholly Loved Ministries team. 

Learn more about her fiction and read her faith blog at


  1. What a wonderful message! I find that when I pause, breathe in and out slowly, and focus on God, I am more relaxed and comforted. Renewal comes in those precious times with Him.

    1. Thanks, Melissa! Renewal is so important, in my opinion.

  2. Exercise is more than physical fitness. Walking my dog is a time for contemplation. I'm planning to add the stretching to my routine too. The Mary quest rather than the Martha drive is a difficult pursuit. But worthwhile.

    1. It truly is a marvelous time for contemplation. I often pray better when I walk and stretch. My focus is less on me and more on Him, ironically.

  3. Good reminder. I find that when I'm pressed for time, the first thing that's sacrificed is exercise. And the consequences are both direct and indirect. I needed this!

    1. Exercise and self-care often get pushed to the back- burner for me, too, but I know that's not what God wants.

  4. Jessica, this is such an interesting perspective on physical excercise and how it helps grow us as a Christian. Because sometimes we forget God created us body, soul, and spirit. Love this thought: "For me, exercise gets me to that state of renewal, that reminder of the importance of fusing mind, body, and soul in unity with God. "


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