I was heading into Mile 3 or 4 on a jog through some bear-infested woods in the back country of Canada on my recent vacation when I felt it. No, I wasn’t feeling a death stare from one of the black bears that had been seen on my route just the day before. Wasn’t indigestion. It wasn’t an overwhelming awe at the beauty that surrounded me.
It was pain.
I was headed up one of the many hills on the back road to the cottage where we were staying and suddenly became aware that my legs were burning. Like, painfully burning. I was not even that far into my journey and I felt like I needed to walk and rest a bit. But how could I justify that? I had just started and what – I was going to let a few hills knock me out? I told myself I could push through it. It’s just pain.
Then it hit me…It was just pain. It wasn’t a cramp where my muscles were going to seize and lock and prohibit another step… it was just pain.
Over the course of that hilly jog and the miles I put in the rest of the week in Canada, I prayed most of the time asking the Lord for understanding about the difference between “when pain signifies a need to stop and get help” and “when pain is merely something to push through.” The reality is this: pain due to fatigue or due to exertion is something you can push through! It is a battle for “mind over matter.” It is a physical vs. mental war!
When I would feel pain while I was running, I would instantly assess whether it was pain due to fatigue or pain due to a cramp.
What’s the difference?
A cramp is where your body lacks the water it needs to function. Pain do to fatigue is merely a reality of your body or muscle not being used to being worked at a sustained level of intensity.
A cramp is where you need to stop and re-hydrate. You need assistance from someone else. You need to consume something that you can’t provide for yourself. You can’t continue on your own. For us in a battle for the purity of our hearts of minds, mistaking a cramp for fatigue can leave us alone and unable to move because we thought we could just push through on our own…when the reality is that we needed to reach out and be fearless in exposing our weakness to a brother and getting their support and help. Can the Lord provide all you need? YES! Were you created to live in relationship with others? YES! Especially when you are cramping up? YES!
On the flip side, sometimes we give up and walk when we actually need to push through and take our spiritual and physical abilities to the next level. Are you sitting back and rationalizing “a break” because you felt the pangs of pain or fatigue and excused a self-prescribed sabbatical from ‘making war against your flesh’ when you really should be charging ahead? Are you always reaching out to others, waiting for the next great sermon, blog post, worship song or ‘word from someone’ and using them as an unnecessary crutch when you should be learning how to push through and ‘strengthen your inner man’?
Men, ask the Lord to clarify when the fatigue you feel is due to a cramp or simply due to an unfamiliar exertion of effort that you need to push through. If it is a cramp and your lack the Living Water that you need to stand firm and work out your salvation, then stop! Hydrate! Get connected to a brother so they can help you get what you need. If it merely pain in the flesh… then ‘make no provision for the flesh’ and push through! Put to death the flesh and its desires by saying no to ungodliness.
So which is it? A cramp or fatigue? A lack of water or a lack of exercise?