“Being left alone by Satan is not evidence of being blessed.”
The above is one of my favorite quotes from the devotional book, Streams in the Desert, which I highly recommend, by the way! I love it because it makes me thankful for adversity and trials when they come. It reminds me that we are all engaged in a spiritual war and that the enemy has labeled me not as harmless civilian, but as armed and dangerous foe. It gives me joy as I remember the early church saints in the book of Acts who, after just being beaten for their faith, rejoiced “that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41; NKJV).
I am often guilty of complaining when life throws me a curveball. Instead of considering the spiritual culprit, I become harsh with myself and lament poor decisions, faulty thinking, unfortunate naiveté, incompetence, weakness, you name it. Unlike some, who seek to blame others for their woes, I tend to punish myself, which typically manifests in disordered eating and obsessive exercise. Satan uses my anxiety as a weapon to steal my joy, destroy my body, all in an effort to kill my effectiveness for Christ (John 10:10).
If there’s anything thirteen years of weightlifting and five years of CrossFit have taught me, it’s that improving one’s fitness doesn’t come easy.
I think anyone who’s ever exercised before, even just once, can attest to the mental and physical challenge a workout presents, and the soreness that follows it. Granted, if one sticks with a consistent exercise schedule long enough, very often it becomes easier to motivate oneself through workouts, and even DOMS (delayed onset of muscle soreness) becomes less severe. However, relative ease during workouts and an absence of soreness could also indicate that your body has fully adapted to the work you’re putting it through and is therefore in need of a challenge! So ultimately, there’s really no getting around the tough stuff if your goal is to keep improving.
The same is true in life. Challenges, burdens, weariness and pain are precursors to growth and progress. While it’s true that we can bring pain upon ourselves and that others can inflict it upon us, the common source we tend to overlook is the Old Serpent, our adversary, Satan.
First Peter 5:8 tells us to be “alert and of sober mind” because “the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” Ephesians 6:12 says we “wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Jesus told His disciples in Luke 22:31 that Satan desired to sift them like wheat.
Clearly, we have a very real enemy whose sole mission is to discourage, deceive, and ultimately destroy us. I believe one of the best things we can do when we feel ourselves being attacked is to, like the apostles in Acts, rejoice that we’ve been “counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.”
Many unbelievers, and people who merely profess to be Christians without living out their faith, are seemingly left alone by the enemy. This is no surprise – they aren’t a threat to his kingdom of darkness. Fervent followers of Jesus, however, that is individuals who live every day on mission to serve and glorify Him, have giant targets on our backs. We are Jesus’ hands and feet, His ambassadors until He returns again, and therefore are loathed and pursued by a prowling lion with an insatiable bloodlust. Hardships and struggles and all kinds of fiery darts from the enemy are evidence that we are up to something which Satan detests – and that’s a good thing. To be left alone by Satan is to be ineffective as a warrior for Christ.
Just like the burning in your lungs during a long uphill run.
Just like the ache in your legs after an hour of squats and deadlifts.
Just like the sting of sweat in your eyes during a kickboxing, spinning, or CrossFit class.
Just like the conversation you have with yourself when that little voice whispers, “You’ll never stick with it. Your efforts aren’t worth it…”
…It’s all making you the strongest version of yourself.
Whatever storm you’re facing now – whether it’s dominated by disappointment, anger, doubts or frustration – has been allowed in your life for a purpose by your Heavenly Father. Thank Him for it. Ask Him to show you its culprit, be it carnal or spiritual. Trust Him to create with it something beautiful, to use it to make you wiser, kinder, more patient and compassionate.
As with your fitness endeavors, remember always that results do not materialize from comfort. Indeed, gemstones must be cut and polished to reveal their beauty, a metaphor that serves us well in every area of life.
“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.” – James 1:2-4, ESV
 Revelation 12:9; 1 Peter 5:8
 If you aren’t yet a follower of Christ, it could be that the hard times you are facing is God’s way of bringing you to Him. It often only when we’re at the end of ourselves that we find the humility to accept His grace and love.