Falling Off the Wagon & Getting Back On

By Brianna Hines

Well, I failed. Here I am writing this series on healthy living and I am thoroughly bruised from my recent fall off the exercise wagon. Man, it sucks to be here — again. It seems like just when I get some good momentum going, life takes a turn and all of my hard work falls by the wayside. I can’t necessarily blame “life” for this either because I am the one making most of these major life decisions that keep rocking my routine, like moving into the house we just bought. However, it doesn’t negate the fact that I fell, hard, out of the habit of exercising. What’s a girl to do about it?

Listen to Brianna share Falling Off the Wagon & Getting Back On.

Step 1: Forgiveness

Well, the first thing to do is to forgive ourselves. There is no use in wallowing in self-condemnation. That takes far too much energy and is not what God would have us do. Ask Him to forgive you for your failure, receive His forgiveness, and then let it go. Just like every other sin in our lives, there may be lasting consequences we have to live with, that is just a fact of life, but there will be NO lasting condemnation from the Lord. When we confess our sins to Him, it’s done. 

as far as the east is from the west, 
so far does he remove our transgressions from us. 
As a father shows compassion to his children, 
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. 
Psalm 103:12–13

Step 2: Repentance

After we have asked God’s forgiveness, it is our job to show repentance. I mentioned it before, but repentance is not beating ourselves up. It is turning from our sin and re-turning to God’s ways. What does that look like for me? It looks like obeying the Holy Spirit’s prodding to start running again. Regularly. 

Ugh. I gotta be honest. Now that I am out of shape, that task seems really daunting. Pro tip: Don’t immediately start up again right where you left off. You will hate yourself and give up. I know it seems tempting to skip all those months of conditioning to just get right back into action, but believe me, you will want to die. Nope. Humble yourself, and start at the beginning again. 

Before I started running, I got really consistent with walking. I am currently getting back into a regular walking routine, building solid routes, increasing my speed, and doing it more often. Soon I will be ready to run again, but not quite yet. It stinks to have to take all these baby steps again, but they are both humbling and important for the endurance of our commitment. 

Step 3: Self-Evaluation

What if I feel stuck? What if the thought of beginning again (or for the first time) is just too overwhelming to even think about? There may be an internal roadblock that I need to deal with first before I can move forward. For me that looked like mourning the loss of a sin I had become attached to.

Let’s be honest. We wouldn’t have to mourn if we didn’t actually like our sin. Ebenezer Scrooge wouldn’t have had anyone at his funeral because no one was that sad to see him go. Not so with our sins. We like our sin; in fact, we love our sin. It wouldn’t be so hard to live righteously if we didn’t love it. Giving up sin is difficult because we are putting to death something that we hold very dear in our lives.

That is where the grieving comes in. We have to throw ourselves a thousand little funerals. We must mourn our old selves, our sin, our flesh. It is not easy giving up these things. There is a death. We all like the “raised to new life” part, but we don’t talk a lot about how much death sucks, especially when it feels like a very piece of ourselves is dying. One way we try to get around this whole thing is throwing a funeral for our sin publicly, but keeping it on life support in our closet. We are not quite ready to fully let it go. I will use food as an example here:

How many of you have gone on a diet and the first thing you did was look up “diet-friendly” recipes for all the same foods you were eating before? This was me to a T. When I went keto, I perfected recipes for keto pizza, keto ice cream, keto brownies, and even keto candy bars. I was changing my diet to get away from all of the unhealthy foods that were destroying my body but still surrounding myself with not-so-cleverly disguised versions of the exact same foods. So many companies are marketing the same things: “Paleo” pasta, “Atkins” cookies, “Vegan” cheesecake. It is all just “replacement therapy.” We replace all the old foods that were serving as comfort for our hurting souls and just find new ones that appear to fit the “diet.” Nothing changed. We might be using different ingredients, but we are eating the same foods.

What I have to do is ask myself, “If I am using this food as a BAND-AID, what is the wound?” At the heart of gluttony, there is always something we are trying to cure with eating this food. Is it loneliness? Anger? Shame? Grief? Envy? Stress? These are the emotions that come knocking at my door asking if I want to buy a box of Thin Mints. How can I say no? What else do I do with them? They won’t go away unless I appease them, right? Wrong.

We all know that whatever we just ate didn’t actually get rid of any of those emotions. It just put them on pause for a few glorious seconds while the taste in our mouths made us forget why we came there. Wouldn’t you prefer to deal with these false comforts? Wouldn’t you prefer to stop them in their tracks? To let them die?

We need to throw a funeral for our gluttony, for our laziness. Grieve them, and then let them go. We need to get to a point where we can honestly say, “I can go the rest of my life without eating _____________.” For me, that was brownies. I actually got pretty depressed for a while at the idea of never eating a brownie again. I am pretty sure tears were shed. I went around dejectedly, lamenting the unfairness of my life, imagining everyone else in the world eating pans and pans of glorious brownies. Wow. I looked at my behavior and realized that I not only loved brownies, I was shackled to them. I was their slave. I needed to be set free, and it would take nothing short of a work of God to do it.

It has taken years of fasting and imperfect obedience for me to see some of these shackles come off, not just with brownies but with many foods. I can’t tell you what that journey will look like for you, but it is a vital step toward the true defeat of gluttony and laziness in your life, and it might be what you need to tackle before you can hop back on the wagon. 

Step 4: Re-motivation

We talked about the importance of motivation earlier this week, but it begs reminding that a rock solid motivation will be the thing that will continue to nag at you until you get back up after falling. Finding and reminding yourself of yours is essential. 

Additionally, as God’s children, we are free to ask Him to give us motivation through the power of the Holy Spirit. We can’t just pray that God would take care of our bodies and not do anything about it ourselves. That is just laziness, but we can actually ask God for the strength and willpower to obey Him. 

I tested this out when I first started running. I knew myself well enough to know that my willpower was going to run out much faster than my motivation, so I prayed that God would miraculously give me the desire to run. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I wasn’t expecting God to wake me up the next morning at 5 a.m. I wish I was like Samuel in I Samuel 3. When he was a kid, God kept waking him up in the middle of the night, and he would actually get up. I can picture him springing out of bed, ever dutiful and obedient, going in to ask the priest what he wanted. But not me. I had anything but a “Here I am! Your servant is listening!” sort of attitude. It was more like a croaky, eyes half-closed, “Wha…what? Why did you wake me up God? Oh ya. Dang it…”

I firmly believe that if God is convicting you of something, if He is asking you to do something hard, He will follow through and give you the strength you need to obey Him in it if you ask Him. Let me say that again, because I need to remind myself too. If God is convicting you of something, He will follow through and give you the strength you need to obey Him in it if you ask Him. God would never ask you to do something you couldn’t do. 

You can do this. In God’s strength, with much repentance and forgiveness, you can wage war against gluttony and laziness, and win! We just need to keep in perspective what our poor choices truly are — sin — and who is the One who is actually able to put them in their grave — Jesus. If we keep those two things at the forefront of our minds, it won’t matter how many times we fall off the wagon, we will just keep getting back on because that is what God is asking us to do, and He is ready and willing to give us the strength to do it, again, and again, and again.