The Joy of Sweat


Date: Thursday morning? -? Time: 7:43 A.M.? -? Location: The Gymnasium

I shouldn’t feel this exhausted. My heart is hammering and my legs feel like jelly. I’m trying to sprint down the court but can only manage a half-hearted jog. Sweat pours off my face and my chest heaves. My mouth hangs open with exhaustion. A casual observer would think I was miserable.

The game is tied at 14 – one more point wins the game. My team sets up on offense and I receive the ball at the top of three point line. I dribble right, survey the floor, dribble left. The defense is stifling and I’m covered too well to take a shot. Suddenly I see an explosion of movement off to the right. One of my teammates is cutting to the basket.

I rifle the ball through the defense, hoping to catch my teammate in stride. Unfortunately my pass is too far left and leaves him without a shot. But the sudden movement has caused a ripple in the defense and a man is standing wide open in the corner. My teammate fires him the ball, and he lifts a high arcing shot toward the basket. Everyone holds their breath in anticipation. But something – a slight increase in gravity, a hangnail, the movement of the moon – has knocked the shot slightly off course and it rattles in and out of the hoop.

The opposing team gets the rebound, sprints down the court, and knocks down the game-winning shot. Game over. We lose. Thanks for playing, try again next time.

I walk/limp out of the gym. My neck hurts. And my back. And my lungs. Yet in spite of the pain, and the loss, there’s a smile on my face. I’m aware that basketball is God’s kindness to me. Why do I get to experience the pure joy of playing sports when millions of people can’t even walk? I can run, many can’t even move. Health is a gift. Sweat is a mercy. When I step onto the court I’m experiencing God’s favor, and the only appropriate response is gratitude.

Thank you Lord for my health. Thank you for the gift of sports. Thank you for exercise. Teach me to be more grateful.


  • Laedelas says:

    Amen, bro. I’m preparing for a tournament on Saturday and this encouragement was really helpful!

  • Ron Reffett says:

    Hey Stephen!
    Great post, what a great reminder of the grace of God! I loved what you said about the fact that some people can’t even walk, being able to exercise and sweat your butt off, is indeed a sign of God’s mercy.
    My wife and I just joined a gym, I’m definitely going to remember this post when I’m sweating it out next time!
    Ron Reffett

  • laurie says:

    that is exactly how i feel when i jazzercise. :) just kidding. except about the part when i am grateful to God for the gift of exercise.

  • You know I was just thinking about that the other day. Not with sports, particularly, but just in general. We have been blessed with so much, and we rarely thank God for it! Thanks for the reminder.

  • Stephen Altrogge says:

    Laedelas – I hope the tournament goes well! What sport?

    Ron – Work out hard for the glory of God. Remember, sweat is mercy!

    Laurie – As a man I can’t in good conscience talk about jazzercising…

    Nick – Right on.

    Rachel – How easy it is to forget to be grateful. You’re welcome.

  • Laedelas says:

    Stephen–I fence. The competition on Saturday is for epee. Thanks for asking!

  • Robin says:

    I am learning this lesson the hard way. I was going to start exercising regularly (again) on October 20. Three minutes into a bike ride with my daughter I was making a turn on my road bike (skinny tires) in gravel and acorns and my bike slid out from under me. In the fall I ended up with 3 displaced fractures, torn ligaments, and a sprain (all in my left ankle). After a 2 hour surgery I now have a cast, 10 screws and a plate. Four weeks post injury I still have to keep my leg elevated to keep the swelling down and I have 2 more weeks of not putting any weight at all on my left foot before I begin physical therapy to regain the ability to bear weight, straighten my ankle, etc.

    Hopefully, once I am able to exercise, I will never again take it for granted. I’ve wanted for 2-3 months to go for a walk on the beach. (My daughter and I had plans to go on Oct. 21.) I’ve thought many times in the last few weeks how nice it would be to go for a walk in my neighborhood. A day or two ago I was thinking how nice it would be just to walk out and get the mail. We take a lot for granted…at least, I know I do.


    P.S.–Sorry for being so long winded, but this hit pretty close to home. :)

  • Stephen Altrogge says:

    Robin – I’m so sorry for your accident. That sounds really painful. You’re right, exercise is something we take for granted so often.

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