A college classmate of mine began his lifelong love of bodybuilding when he was a freshman. The changes in his behavior and physique were striking. He entered college as a skinny and shy young man but within a few months, the burgeoning muscles were noticeable and he made sure everyone was aware of the changes. He soon began using performance enhancing drugs and with his growing ego, it was a toxic combination and powerful narcotic. When other people cautioned him about his lifestyle, he dismissed them as jealous wimps. His gospel was the latest bodybuilding magazines from which he liberally quoted, boring everyone within earshot. It was his dream and no one would stand in his way.
I saw him about six years later at a random encounter in a university cafeteria. He was grotesquely huge and his facial features had changed, coarsened by the years of steroid use. As I surveyed his physique, he smirked at my shocked expression and said, “You’re impressed, aren’t you? Are you jealous?”
“Sure…” I muttered. “You’re impressive!” I was attempting to hide my disdain. It was useless to give a medical opinion, it would be discarded and unheeded, like all other advice he was given. I was familiar with the tragic side effects of many of the performance enhancing drugs he was taking. Skin changes, hypertension, heart disease, osteoporosis…and then it becomes serious. Liver disease, including tumors, bone marrow and immune disturbances, and lest anyone forget, the mood disturbances. He was egotistical, even combative, and it was a vicious and slippery slope he descended since he deemed these very character traits as critical to his success.
For when dreams increase and words grow many, there is vanity; but God is the one you must fear.
Ecclesiastes 5:7 (ESV)
Bodybuilding is an honorable sport, but like any activity, taken to an extreme and forsaking all, even at the expense of one’s health, it comes with a terrible price. The irony was he convinced himself and all who would listen that he was doing this for his health.
It is easy to point the finger and be critical of my friend’s behavior. Yet, how often do I see others abusing their bodies all under the moniker of better health? Fad diets, nutritional supplements, enemas. As a physician, I have witnessed the damaging effects when each of these activities have been taken to an extreme. Why do we continue to pursue these dubious pursuits?
We are dreamers with restless spirits. God created us to reach beyond our perceived limitations. But there is a God-shaped hole in our hearts and only God can fill it. No physical beauty, academic achievement, or financial success will ever achieve this. Only God. And when our dreams veer off course to pursue our desires rather than God’s guidance, this is vanity and disappointment is certain.
Fearing God means to revere Him, to realize that we can never find happiness and contentment without Him. He has given us the answer. Confess and repent of your sins and accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Only then will our dreams be fulfilled.
Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.