A few years ago I decided to get in shape. I had never exercised much, and I was a lot softer and flabbier than I wanted to be. Fortunately, as a college student, I had free access to the university’s P.E. facilities—weight room, indoor track, whatever I needed.
As luck would have it, someone in my ward was already lifting, and his partner was moving away. So I became his new partner, and we started the program with enthusiasm.
The benefits of having a partner soon became apparent. For one thing, it was nice to have someone to talk to while I was working out. For another thing, I felt more committed to keeping a regular schedule because I knew someone would be counting on me to show up.
But the most important reason came up later, when we were bench pressing.
With most weight exercises, if your strength gives out while you’re in the middle of a set, you can simply drop the weights, or let go of the machinery. With bench pressing, you lie down and push weight above you. If you can’t hold it any more, you can’t just let go, because the bar would fall on your chest and possibly do serious damage. You have to push it up all the way—just one more time—and let it rest on the supports.
That’s why having a partner is so important. If your strength fails you when you’re bench pressing, you say, “Help!” Your partner, who is standing behind you watching, is on the alert and can pull up the bar as you’re pushing it, keeping you from hurting yourself. He can do it because he isn’t tired from lifting, and because standing up, he’s in a better position to hold the weight than you are.
An unspoken rule is that the partner doesn’t interfere until you say so. Sometimes it may look like you’re struggling, but the partner won’t reach in and start pulling up the bar until you ask him to.
One day my partner had to cancel our lifting appointment. He had worked the graveyard shift the night before and was too tired to work out, but he encouraged me to go by myself, which I did. I handled the other exercises just fine, since they don’t require a partner. And then I tried bench pressing.
I knew I shouldn’t try it without a partner. I knew that by the end of my third set, exhaustion would set in and I would need help on my last repetition. Sometimes just knowing my partner was there made me brave enough to try a few more repetitions than I normally would—because I knew if I got in trouble, he could help. Now, without him there, I figured I could do it, since I didn’t push myself too hard. I thought if I just did two sets, instead of three, I could probably handle it on my own.
I was wrong, of course. By the time I was halfway into my second set, my muscles were starting to give out. And yet I didn’t stop. I wanted to push it for just two more repetitions. On the second one, my arms came down, the weight now resting just above my chest—but my arms wouldn’t go up again! My strength was gone. I couldn’t do any more. I pushed and strained and wiggled around on the bench, but my arms were absolutely finished. I could do no more. This was the time I would normally say, “Help!” and my partner would pull the weight off me. But I had no partner. I had gone into it alone, and I was stuck.
Fortunately, a kind soul happened to walk by and saw my predicament, and he helped me out. I was embarrassed, but at least I wasn’t hurt. As I looked back on the incident, I realized how it ties in with the gospel. When we accept the gospel and are baptized, we become partners with Jesus Christ. Having Him with us motivates us to do good, just as having a lifting partner helped me stay on schedule with my workouts. And while we’re “working out”—going through life, trying to endure to the end—it’s good to have a friend there with us.
Often, just knowing that our Partner is standing behind us, ready to help at a moment’s notice, gives us the courage to press on.
And then there are the times when we need Him to rescue us. As we work to strengthen our spiritual muscles, we often get tired and discouraged. We “labour” and feel “heavy laden” (Matt. 11:28). We get to the point where, spiritually speaking, we can’t lift anymore.
That’s when we say, “Help.” That’s when the Lord steps in and takes over. He’s in a much better position to handle the weight than we are. He’s already been through it himself, and having all the power in the universe, He can deal with anything. All we have to do is ask Him.
I was without a partner and wound up in a situation I couldn’t get myself out of. In the book of Helaman, the Nephites thought they could handle the Lamanites on their own, and so the Lord let them: “And because of this their great wickedness, and their boastings in their own strength, they were left in their own strength; therefore they did not prosper” (Hel. 4:13). We should never think we’re so strong we can handle life on our own, because the Lord is liable to let us try it, just so we can see how wrong we are. Things may be fine for a while—but do we want to risk getting into a jam and finding ourselves without a partner? I know I don’t. Not after realizing I do know my own strength—and that it’s not enough.