By Brianna Hines
Whenever we need to make a major change in our life, like to eat healthier or start exercising, finding our motivation is the place to start. I would imagine if you are reading this post it is because you have already decided that something needs to change for you. That is great! A huge first step! But your second step needs to be figuring out your true motivation behind that desire to change. There has to be a why, and that why has to be all your own. It will be that thing that brings you back to your goals whenever you fall off the wagon, so it needs to be very personal and incredibly important to you. Sometimes finding it, that true motivation, will take some digging. So, today I would like to try to help you find your why, and then present you with another why that might just make it to the top of your list.
For starters, I would encourage you to start writing a list of all the reasons you want to be healthier — and not on your phone. When we write things down on a physical piece of paper, with our own fingers holding the pen, it makes it more real. It is a kind of confession. It is telling yourself the truth. And it needs to feel like that because some of your reasons to get healthy might look really ugly when you see them written down. They may be superficial. They may be really sad. It’s okay. Chances are, if we are trying to make changes to our health, it is because we have done a lot of failing in the past. Our first step to change is admitting those failures to ourselves and then bringing them before our Heavenly Father, who will never once condemn us for them if we are truly repentant.
So start making a list of anything that comes to mind as to WHY you want to be healthier.
Here are some examples:
- I don’t like my current body.
- I am embarrassed to go to my high school reunion.
- I hate how I look in photos.
- I want to wear and be able to actually find clothes that fit my body better.
- I want to shock people (in a good way) by how different I look.
- I want to be thinner than my sisters.
- I want to avoid uncomfortable conversations with my doctor.
- I don’t want a high-risk pregnancy.
- I want to live to see my grandkids or even great-grandkids grow up.
- I want to be able to participate in more active things with my family and not miss out.
- I want to be obedient to the Lord and treat my body like a temple.
- I don’t want to give up years of ministry and the use of my spiritual gifts due to health.
- I am less depressed when I am healthy.
- I want to bless my husband with a more attractive body.
- I want a better sex life.
- I want to be stronger.
- I want to avoid pain, aches, injuries .
- I don’t want to stop doing my favorite hobbies.
- I just don’t feel good and I want to change that.
- I want to be a good role model for my kids because they are picking up my lifestyle.
- I want to break generational habits in my family.
- I want God’s best for me, and I know this isn’t it.
- I want to stop living in the sins of laziness and gluttony.
- I want God to be what fills me, not the things I choose for comfort.
- I want to be free.
All of these reasons are completely valid reasons for getting healthy and making changes in our lives. Despite the fact that some of them are quite shallow, they are honest. In fact, every single one of these why’s is actually on my list personally. I don’t want to miss out on my own life, my own ministry, my own happiness and future. I do want to have more confidence, better sex, and new freedom from the back pain that I know is only beginning if I keep living the way I have. Yes, some are definitely more superficial than others. But they are all true reasons buried in my heart that I needed to get out on the page, so God could begin transforming them — and me.
Because that is what I need: transformation. Not a quick fix, not a BAND-AID, not another fad diet that will leave me even more discouraged than before. No. I need holy transformation because there is always a reason we got here, isn’t there? As much as I want to blame my current unhealth on anyone and everything around me, there are some deep, nasty, unhealed hurts in my heart that manifest themselves in my current behavior. Making a list like this is the first step to bringing some of those into the light. Confess them, even the ones you are embarrassed of or sad about. Confess them before the Lord. Out loud even. Writing my list down was one thing, but hearing the same words coming out of my mouth was entirely another.
You may begin to notice that as you write your list, a lot of your whys look pretty flimsy when you hold them up to actually doing that 30-minute workout video, or saying “No thank you” to that triple chocolate cake at the birthday party — for the rest of your life. For me personally, I got tired, exhausted actually, from trying again and again to motivate myself to change with all these fragile little whys. Getting “swimsuit ready by summer” didn’t stick. Neither did the looming date of my high school reunion, or the shame I felt whenever I looked in a mirror. Those motivations might have gotten me to skip a piece of cake now and then, but they were never strong enough to carry me through the real trials and temptations of a long-term change.
Then what’s the point of making a list of motivations? Ah. Good question. The list is to show us all the lies we have been telling ourselves for much too long. All the mistruths we have been believing that have caused us to make these unhealthy choices in the first place.
Just look at my list. Hidden in it are many mistruths that have been the root cause of my gluttony and laziness over the years. Mistruths like being thinner changes other people’s opinions of me and that their opinions matter more than God’s. Or how about that being healthy will relieve all my problems like my self-seteem, sex-life, or depression. As I look at the list, it seems I am putting a lot of stock in physical health to provide me everything I ever wanted. But is that true? Can physical health do that for me? Am I looking to something that will fall short when what I need to be looking to is Someone who never will? It would seem that my motivations to get healthy don’t seem to be rooted very deeply in truth.
But motivation is still a vital component to living out a healthy lifestyle. We need something to set us back on course when we fail because we always, always will. The key is that this motivation has to go beyond just me and my selfish desires, beyond all the mistruths to something deeply true. We need to adopt a very different kind of motivation for taking care of our bodies, and this one comes all the way from the top.
My new motivation, the one that never lets me slide too far off the wagon, is that when I don’t take care of my body I am being disobedient to God. Let me say that again. My new motivation is that when I don’t take care of my body I am being disobedient to God. The very first of the Ten Commandments orders me to have no other gods before Him (Exodus 20:3). My stomach counts. My laziness counts. Those things are cutting in line before my responsibility to treat this body like a temple (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) and a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1), to be an instrument of righteousness (Romans 6:13), to practice the spiritual fruit of self-control (1 Corinthians 9:27), and to seek first the kingdom of God before the kingdom of Brianna’s comfort. I worship a lot of other gods before Him when I choose to keep making unhealthy choices, and that realization HAS to be my primary motivation. This isn’t just a beach-body issue, or a self-confidence issue, or even a longevity issue. It is a SIN issue, and when I admit that, I realize I have NO business flirting around with it.
Now, is being overweight or weak as a noodle a sin? No, not necessarily. But for many of us, our sin has led us to become one or both of those things. And if we don’t take that sin seriously when the Holy Spirit convicts us of it, it becomes unrepentant sin.
All over the Bible we see God making a big deal out of unrepentant sin (Proverbs 28:13, Romans 2:6-8, Hebrews 10:26-31 to name a few). If I am unrepentant about my gluttony, about my laziness, God is not pleased with me. And repentance doesn’t just mean that I feel sorry or sad about it. God doesn’t want our sacrifice of feeling bad about ourselves or beating ourselves up. He would much prefer our obedience.
Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. 1 Samuel 15:22
Repentance is not a feeling. It is an action. A verb. A change. Repentance is a returning to God and His ways. It is essentially making a 180-degree turn from our sin back toward obedience to the Lord. If we realize we are dabbling with gluttony, that the food we are about to eat is not to fill a hungry belly but to ease a discomfort we should be bringing before the Lord in prayer, repentance looks like putting down that food, or even throwing it in the garbage, and turning to God in prayer. If we realize we are playing around with laziness, when instead of taking that walk the Lord has been nudging us to take, we decide an episode or two of Netflix will do the trick for us, repentance looks like turning off the TV, or even unplugging it, and putting on our shoes.
This might sound harsh. This might sound legalistic, but if you really start to question each decision you are making, you might be surprised at what you find hidden there. We all know the things God wants us to do. Deep down, we know. And we know when we choose not to do them. Each time we do that, it is sowing a tiny seed of disobedience to the Lord in that area. “Not this time, God, I need this right now. It’s not that big of a deal anyway. I will do it tomorrow.” But do you see the mistruth hidden in those very words? I need this right now. I need this chocolate. I need this break. I need this more than I need what You have for me.”
I am constantly believing this mistruth: that I know my needs better than my Heavenly Father does. Oooo. That sounds ugly when I say it out loud, but I act it out all the time. The truth is that GOD knows what is best for me — always. Even when it is hard. Even when it hurts. Even when it feels like torture. Hosea 6:1 says:
“Come, let us return to the Lord; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up.
We must return to God. We must return to His ways. We must look at our poor decisions and see them for what they really are — sin. Disobedience to our loving Father who always, always knows what is best for us.
Are you believing mistruths about God? Do you doubt that He will truly provide you with everything you need? When we eat too much, is it because we don’t think God can actually provide that instant comfort, or that it won’t be as good? When we greedily snatch rest for ourselves, or what we think is rest, are we believing that God won’t give us rest, true rest, or that it won’t be enough? God provided sabbath, but how often do we reject that in favor of productivity, or how often do we reject prayer in favor of scrolling. God promises rest in His Word: “Come to ME all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest…” (Matthew 11:28, emphasis mine). Oops. Mistruths.
I honestly think most sins begin as a coping mechanism for some kind of pain or fear in our past. Some sort of wound pushes us to find a way to comfort ourselves in the midst, and we start believing these sneaky mistruths. But the truth is, we have an Almighty Comforter who is longing to comfort us with far better things than the ones we are in the habit of choosing ourselves.
Maybe this is the beginning of healing for you. Maybe as you start this journey toward health, God will begin to dig out the roots of that pain or fear in your past and that sin that has taken hold of you as a result. For me, God is revealing the roots of my fear of food not always being available, as I sometimes felt as a kid. He is also revealing how my family used food as comfort and reward, and how I have carried that forward today. All of these mistruths I was believing led me to make some pretty unhealthy choices, and those choices turned into habits, and those habits have shaped my lifestyle and will continue to shape my future if I let them.
Tomorrow we will talk in depth about habits and how to actually go about breaking ad forming them. It will get super practical, so I hope it is helpful as you partner with God in figuring out what changes He is asking you to make. But until then, I want to leave you with a passage from Romans that have served to both encourage and convict me in my messy journey toward health.
I appeal to you therefore, sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:1-2, emphasis mine).