By Samantha Ditzel
IT’S GOING TO GET UNCOMFORTABLE. YOU CAME HERE TO GET BETTER. CHALLENGE YOURSELF. FOCUS. DIG IN. GIVE ME EVERYTHING YOU’VE GOT. YOU’VE GOT TO FEEL IT TO SEE IT. YOU’RE ALMOST THERE. STAY WITH IT UNTIL THE END.
These are some of the phrases I hear while I’m working out these days. In the past though, the words I spoke to myself during a workout went something more like: “This is so hard. When will this be over? I can’t do that!” For that reason, it’s truly fascinating for me to see the growth that has transpired in my relationship to my workouts over time.
To understand how far I’ve come, I’ll have to provide some backstory. In the past, I struggled with my weight, couldn’t control my eating, and would cringe at the thought of running. As a young adult in my 20s, I remember sitting on a curb crying because I couldn’t reach my fitness goals. I always knew about God, but I didn’t pursue a relationship with Him until things got desperate. I realize that most people only make a lifestyle change out of inspiration or desperation, and with the devastating loss of our second child I was at the lowest place emotionally that I’d ever been—a real tail spin.
It was in that place of incredible pain and tragedy that I met God. I recall my father trying to comfort me with the words, “Thank God we have our faith” after our loss. Those words stuck with me, and I began to ponder, “What is faith?” and, “What good is having faith if I have to suffer like this?”
I was hurt and angry, and I felt like God abandoned me. I also recall my husband, Ed, who had no spiritual upbringing, offering me encouragement and later asking me, “Who are you to question God?”
I thought to myself, “I’ll tell you who I am. I am a good person. I don’t drink or smoke. I go to church and attended 12 years of Catholic school. Why would a loving God allow me to experience such pain? He watched me get so sick I could barely take care of our two-year-old daughter. Why would He allow me to get pregnant and then allow my baby to die?”
I began to question my “faith,” and it was in my desperation that He met me in the book of Job. When I dusted off my Bible from the shelf and spontaneously opened to Job 1:21—“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away”
—I felt him speak to my spirit. I felt love, not condemnation or fear.
After reading Job, I decided to attend an unfamiliar nondenominational church. Before the service, I opened up with a friend about what I was going through. There was another woman standing close by who overheard us talk-ing, and she came over, apologizing for eavesdropping.
She wanted to comfort me and shared that she had lost three babies. As she put her hand over her growing belly, she assured me that God was faithful. She asked for my number and called me before my surgery (where they planned to remove the baby from my uterus). She asked if she could pray with me, and I had never heard a prayer like hers before. It brought tears to my eyes.
She continued to check in with me and invited me to her home fellowship group. I found myself transforming, as each day I couldn’t wait for my daughter Emily to take her nap so that I could kneel by my bed and read the Bible. It was as if the words on the page were illuminated, and I couldn’t get enough of God, church, and reading. He walked Ed and I through two more miscarriages with complete peace, so much so that I knew He was real. My natural self would have turned to depression meds or even angrily dismissed Him, but incomprehensibly I ran to Him.
So much happened in such a short timeframe that I couldn’t believe it when my miracle came. I wanted to lose weight so that I could be healthy and have another child. I skeptically decided to give Herbalife a try after my brother-in-law insisted “He would eat rocks to feel this good!”
I thought he was crazy, but I was desperate. In fact, my first shake spilled all over me on my way to church, and I almost quit. I didn’t need these products. After all, I was a professional dieter. I knew what I needed to do, and I only wanted to lose 6 lbs. Once again, with the loving encouragement of my husband, I made another shake and set out to church. Little did I know that God would use Herbalife to bring healing to my body and my mind. That He would use me and this company as an opportunity to minister to a hurting world in desperate need for Him, for health, and even spiritual breakthroughs.
I went on to lose 25 lbs with hardly any exercise. I have kept it off for more than 17 years and am no longer controlled by food. It’s not typical, but it is what happened for me. We went on to get pregnant for the fifth time, and although the ultrasound showed nothing initially, I was certain I was pregnant. A week later, we saw our unborn baby, and the heart beat was strong. I had complete peace throughout the pregnancy, and Aaron was born that following December.
It was through great hardship that I was brought to freedom. I rejoiced in my sorrows for it was because of them that I met Jesus. My husband and both of our children are currently serving the Lord at ccdelco with their whole heart. Just as in Job, He has restored all that the enemy had tried to plunder. And like other spiritual disciplines such as prayer, fasting, and reading the Bible, exercise has now become a spiritual experience for me.
I begin by visualizing what is taking place in my body. I imagine the water I’ve drank flowing through my veins, distributing nutrients to every cell. I feel my pounding heart, leaving me breathless. I connect with my breath. Then I remind myself that He is my source, He is my breath, and I get to honor my body—the body that He made and chooses to place His Spirit within.
I now enjoy running, cycling, resistance training, and stretching to name a few, and in a group setting I push myself harder because of the community around me. If I were to be alone, I would be tempted to slack. It’s no different than belonging to a church. When you are in community, you are accountable and strengthened to grow. We are meant to live outside of our comfort zone, pushing the limits. If I stay comfortable, I don’t need to rely on God or others for my strength. It’s what He teaches me every time I workout—that without faith, it’s impossible to please Him. It’s in the risks where I’m forced to solely rely on Him for strength.
And that’s just it. God speaks to us even, and especially, in the spin of our lives, whether that comes in the form of a trial or in an exercise regimen. When it’s emotionally or physically challenging and when we are not sure we can make it on our own—He’s there. That’s when we experience Him, and He gently teaches us the most about ourselves, this world, and His plan for our lives.