Spiritual fitness relates to how our religious beliefs give us hope for the future and help us thrive each day by experiencing abundance and joy in life. It’s easy to feel blessed and joyful when everything is going well, but much harder when we are facing life’s trials. We all go through hardship at different times, especially from the cumulative losses we experience as we age; none of us are exempt.
The central question is, do our beliefs about how God operates in our world help us cope? Do we feel overwhelmed by life’s troubles and abandoned by God or are we prepared to face hardships with grace; strengthened by our awareness of God’s unconditional love?
The message of faith is not that we will not struggle, suffer or die, but that God will stand alongside us and give us the grace to face life and even death with hope and peace. Thus, spiritual fitness has to do with embracing the power of faith to persevere and remain hopeful, no matter what comes our way.
The Apostle Paul captured the gritty reality of life’s journey and the power of faith in this promise, when he proclaimed, “Nothing in life … not hardship, distress, persecution, death … or anything else in all of creation, can separate us from the love of God made known to us in Jesus Christ” (Romans 8:35b-39 paraphrased).
Within United Methodist Communities, all of our religious groups, services and celebrations focus on supporting spiritual fitness. However, our chaplains, as representatives of God, hold a unique role, because they risk wading into the dark and painful places in life to walk alongside of those who are suffering in order to bring them reassurance and hope. Through their presence, our chaplains help others tap into the resources of their own beliefs and faith traditions and experience the life-giving power of God’s unconditional love anew.