The Achiness of Inactivity

Mornings are the worst for me. I wake up and as soon as I rise from bed the Symphony of Old Age begins. My knees pop, my ankles crack, my neck crunches, and every movement is accompanied by a low groan. As for my surgically repaired left shoulder? It stands silently by, awaiting my first attempt at movement. Then, like crashing cymbals, it sends a crescendo of pain through my neck, chest, and arm.

I have learned that anytime my body remains motionless for any extended period of time, a recovery process is required. Relative inactivity for more than one hour must be followed by a routine of slow, precise, shortened activities in which the concept of movement is reintroduced. My once long, confident stride is reduced to a slow shuffle. The lifting of my head requires a three-minute warm up period of small rotational movement. I have learned that until I can get to the pulley system affixed to my workshop door.

Until I can shuffle outside, I must only use my arms from the elbows down. Only after I’ve completed a five-minute stretching routine to loosen up the joints can I even attempt to reach above my head for anything. Why do I have the pulley system outside you ask? It’s outside because my loud groaning awakens the wife.

As I thought about how my body aches whenever it’s been inactive for too long, I wondered what else in my life becomes stiff and inflexible when not used. As I prayed on the topic, I realized how my spiritual life becomes less active when I don’t apply the spiritual gifts given to me. When I become too worldly, the gifts of patience, kindness, self-control, joy, and others tend to become less useful in my life. I become more stiff and inflexible. When that happens, my soul starts to ache (to long for) the activity of godly character to help restore my right relationship with the Lord.

Psalm 119:20 states, and here I prefer the Good News Translation, “My heart aches with longing; I want to know your judgments at all times.” In the Matthew Henry Commentary on Psalm 119, he explains “David had prayed that God would open his eyes (v. 18) and open the law (v. 19); now here he pleads the earnestness of his desire for knowledge and grace, for it is the fervent prayer that avails much.” It is when I am seeking God’s wisdom and knowledge, and applying His will in my life, that I find myself most active, happy, and productive.

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The activities I use to prevent spiritual achiness in my life include studying God’s word, seeking His will and wisdom through prayer, and actively allowing His grace, mercy, love, and character to shine through in my daily life. Many days, I feel I’ve hidden His light behind a curtain or under a basket. On my best days, I’ve allowed Him to guide and direct my life in a way that showed Him to others. What I have found is that on those days, just like on days when I’ve been physically active throughout the day, I am more comfortable, relaxed, pain-free, and able to rest more easily.

God’s blessings,

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42 thoughts on “The Achiness of Inactivity

  1. Wonderful analogy, my friend. Thankfully, I’m not yet “blessed” with as many physical aches and pains as you currently have, I’m sure my day will come. But, the real crux of your message hits the bull’s eye target on me. Yes, I get stiff and inflexible when I don’t regularly imbibe in God’s Word, reach out to Him in prayer, and fellowship with believers. Thanks for the inspiration you have shared with us.

    1. I pray you never experience some of the physical challenges I’ve come to face. I suspect, much of my aches and pains today came as a result of the stupid things I did when I was younger. Oh yeah, lets’ crawl around in the swamp, jump out of airplanes, sleep on rocks. “I’m never going to grow old.” Then again, at the time, I thought I was never going to live to see 35 years old. Who knew? 🙂

  2. I can appreciate the vivid description of aches and pains you experience after being sedentary for periods of time. My yoga teacher is fond of saying “motion is lotion” and I think she’s on target with that.

    Your comparison of body aches and pains to spiritual inflexibility reminds me of 2 Chron 30:8, “Do not be stiffnecked, as your fathers were, but yield yourselves unto the LORD,…”

    1. Another great verse Ms. Candyce. When we “stiffen ourselves to God”, we cause Him to have to break us spiritually. Nothing breaks without pain of one sort of another does it. I love your teacher’s phrase “motion is lotion.” Am going to have to remember that one. 🙂

  3. We were definitely created for movement – physically and spiritually! Stagnation is never good. Just as physical movement loosens the joints and gets us more flexible, spiritual “movement” through prayer and confession, etc. keeps our spirit flexible and tender. Love the analogy!

    1. Thank you so much ms. Jeanne. Isn’t it great? I wonder if God created us this way? He helps us to grown stronger spiritually so we are better equipped to handle our weakening physical state as we mature. It’s as though He is taking the world out of us as He is preparing us for eternity. 🙂

  4. It’s a good balance for me – keeping the body mobile and relatively pain free and making sure to get the exercise I need through God’s word and prayer in order to be “instant in season and out of season.”
    Sadly, it’s easier to keep the body moving – it’s only my muscles and joints that complain. To keep my spiritual life in shape, I battle hourly the evil one and his imps, who all want me to forget Jesus.

    1. You and me both Melissa. Sometimes I feel like the lyrics of that old Garth Brooks song, “I much too young to be this darned old… .” Then again, even waking up stiff and in pain, the first thing I say is “Thank you Lord for another day. Please help me use it to bring glory to You in whatever way I can.” 🙂 Isn’t it amazing how our “God time” gives us renewed energy?

  5. I find that when I’m in prayer on my knees I often lose track of time. However, when I begin to stand up I find the time I spent on my knees does not pain me as much as when I am just sitting.

  6. I’m sorry for those aches and pains, J. D. You’ve used them for God’s glory by reminding us about the dangers of spiritual inactivity. I sometimes get so busy, I forget the most important practice–being still to know He is God. Fruit of the Spirit is more plentiful when we start the day with Him.

    1. Awww… Thank you Ms. Jeannie. I appreciate that ma’am. Please know though that I don’t feel sorry for myself. Sometimes I lament that I have so many scars from the “dumb things” I’ve done in my life; but each ache reminds me that I am still here, which means God still has something left for me to do for Him. I like that idea very much! 🙂 God’ blessings sweet friend.

    1. You and Ms. Candyce my friend. 🙂 I’m thinking you two read the same book. 😀 Have had that same thought. Sometimes when I am limping around (usually a result of sitting too long and my sciatica starts acting up), I think of Jacob at Jabbbok (Genesis 32). I smile to myself, thinking perhaps these aches and pains are a result of my struggle to come to a better place with God. They’ve become “my marks of struggle and submission.” I’m bruised, a bit broken perhaps, but oh so much richer because of my struggles with faith. They are teaching me that it is safe to surrender to God. 🙂

    1. Thank you Ms. Robin. What a kind thing to say ma’am. Am so glad you’re finding how you introduce God into any situation, then listen for and follow His leading, things always seem to get better. Something I’ve learned through the years though is that sometimes the journey through the valley (the situation) can be difficult and painful, even with God’s leading, the outcome is always better. I’ve learned more in my difficult trips through the valley than I have on the easy ones. Don’t get me wrong, I would much prefer “easy”, but have come to understand easy doesn’t prepare me as well for the next trip. 🙂 God’s blessings young lady. Praying for you and Mr. James each day.

  7. That’s a great analogy. I totally understand the pain and stiffness that comes with immobility. We have to work it out with movement and activity.
    I’m sorry your physical body slows you down, dear friend. But at least you know what to do to get ‘er goin. And you have great spiritual insight to relate that to our walk with Christ.
    Great post. Thanks.

    1. That’s so sweet Ms. Connie. I might need extra insulin this morning after this. 🙂 Am so glad this post resonated ma’am. As for lamenting that I’m “slowing down”? Not so much. I wish, of course, that I could do more each day, but as long as I know I’ve put forth my best effort, then I’ve come to be happy with that.

  8. Excellent! Children sing about not hiding our light under a bushel and we relate that to sharing Jesus with others. But your thoughts about not even shedding Christ’s light on me for wisdom and grace was a “light”that caused me to stop and ponder. Thanks again for inspiration toward life transformation.

    1. As I suspect you’ve heard before from me Ms. Marilyn, “You get what you give ma’am.” Thank you for allowing me to make a small repayment for all the wisdom, grace, knowledge, and inspiration you’ve shared with me ma’am. God’s blessings dear lady.

  9. Love this analogy of stiff and inflexible in relation to our spiritual life and gifts. I’ve heard other writers say, sitting in a chair writing for hours is not good for our spine and my chiropractor said the same thing. With a low back issue, and sometimes neck pain, I often have to get up and do stretches and try to exercise. In the same way, we must exercise our spiritual muscles to not atrophy and lose the ability to be affective in the body of Christ. Another good one.

  10. I know the Symphony of Old Age well! Snap, crackle, pop! Crunch and groan too. Getting back to spiritual disciplines after a period of inactivity can take effort and practice but pays off as His light shines through us.

  11. Faith is my spiritual exercise on a routine basis. Faith to believe God will address my neediness each day in spite of my hesitancy to admit it. Faith to accept that He knows what is best regardless of the outcome. Faith to trust His almighty power in light of my feeble weakness. Faith to show me His guidance when I stumble in word, deed, and thought. He throws in a few recognizable blessings along the way. Such a loving God.
    I have had to remind my 89-year-old mother over and over again to keep moving even though her knee says “no” or her back wants to stay supine. The busyness of movement especially within the aged population has shown me the legacy it can leave.

  12. Oh my goodness – the “Symphony of Old Age” had me laughing out loud!!! But, then, this powerful statement caused me to cringe with my own inactivity and left me pondering things I could do differently. I loved this entire paragraph: ” I realized how my spiritual life becomes less active when I don’t apply the spiritual gifts given to me. When I become too worldly, the gifts of patience, kindness, self-control, joy, and others tend to become less useful in my life. I become more stiff and inflexible. When that happens, my soul starts to ache (to long for) the activity of godly character to help restore my right relationship with the Lord.”

  13. Perhaps this is why, in church talk, we describe this aspect of sanctification as “exercising” our spiritual gifts? 🙂
    I loved the analogy in your post, J.D. Isn’t it amazing how God can use things as burdensome as our pain for His glory?
    Blessings to you!

  14. J.D., such a good illustration for our need to move and stretch our spiritual muscles. We aren’t meant to be passive. And sometimes it takes effort to get going again if we stop too long.

  15. I thought of snap, crackle, pop, when I read about your symphony, too, but see it’s already been mentioned! I feel some of your pain throughout the day and agree with your plan of action–study God’s Word, prayer, and allow Him to shine through our daily lives. I think from what I’ve seen that you do those things very well. Blessings!

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