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Hidden Work (Part 1): Why Spiritual Core Strength Matters

by Alissa Coburn


Where and how we walk is a frequent theme in God’s Word, but what I’ve realized recently is that we’re not walking where we should or how we should unless we’re willing to do the hidden work of deep spiritual formation. If we want to walk in public ministry, we have to be willing to take ourselves through intimate, private ministry. That having been said, this revelation came to me in kind of a weird way. 



At the end of December, Josiah and I finally decided we had to make an investment in our family’s health and re-institute our gym membership. We tried working out from home for a long time, but it just wasn’t working for us.

When I go to the gym, I love strength training—the bigger the muscle group, the better. Deadlifts and squats are my favorite, but upper body workouts are great, too. I love feeling my muscles grow and develop quickly—adding more weight and feeling like I’m making progress.

However, once we began going regularly, despite the fact that I’m a stickler for trying to make sure my form is good, I started experiencing a lot of low back pain. I’ve had some lower back discomfort for years, but trying to lift weights made it far worse. I did some research and realized my issue: my core was too weak. My limbs were developing a lot of muscle, but my core couldn’t support it.

Apparently, after years of back-to-back pregnancies and experiencing two c-sections within 2 years, I learned to work around those deep, low muscles in my abdomen. With every movement my body made, other muscles took over where those core muscles should have engaged. In particular, I began to notice my walk was affected. Instead of walking straight and tall (well, as tall as you can at 5’3”), I often sort of shuffled along, or even waddled, as though I was still carrying one of my seven babies on my pelvis.

Once I discovered the heart of my issue, I lightened the weights and started adding simple core exercises to my routine. To an outside observer, it might look like I’m just lying on my back falling asleep sometimes, but in reality, I’m focusing intently on learning how to re-engage muscles that have long atrophied from disuse. Simply lifting my knees high and marching may not look impressive, but that too, helps strengthen those deep, hidden muscles that just happen to support the rest of my body.



In the midst of this, I realized the gym isn’t the only area we do this: go after the big gains without paying attention to our core. We do it spiritually, too

As we’ve started our journey into full-time ministry, we like the outward work: events, speaking engagements, working with couples, helping churches—it’s all so much fun! And it’s great work, but….

If we’re not careful, we can focus all our attention on the outer work, and neglect the deep, hidden work of developing a stronger relationship with Christ and with one another. If we’re not spending time with him daily, praying together and seeking his grace, will, and even discipline and correction, then everything else we do is off. Our walk is affected.


The Bible has a lot to say about how we “walk” through this life. While imprisoned in Rome, Paul wrote the following to the believers in Ephesus:


“Therefore I, the prisoner in the Lord, urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1-3, CSB)


“Therefore, be imitators of God, as dearly loved children, and walk in love, as Christ also loved us and gave himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God.” (Ephesians 5:1-2, CSB)


“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light—for the fruit of the light consists of all goodness, righteousness, and truth—testing what is pleasing to the Lord. Don’t participate in the fruitless works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what is done by them in secret. Everything exposed by the light is made visible, for what makes everything visible is light. Therefore it is said:

Get up, sleeper, and rise up from the dead,

and Christ will shine on you.

Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk—not as unwise people but as wise—making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So don’t be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” (Ephesians 5:8-17, CSB )


Notice that almost every time our walk is mentioned, so is staying connected to God and His Word. We cannot walk well or walk worthy without staying connected to Christ, the vine.

In John 15, Jesus tells us staying connected to Him is the only thing that allows us to perform work for the Lord. We are incapable of bearing good fruit on our own. We are to work out of an overflow of what we have received from Him, and if we’re not taking the time to abide in, receive, and be exposed by His light and love, then we’re fooling ourselves and walking in darkness. In other words, our walk will get wonky. 


At the gym, I feel myself getting stronger all the time. Not only am I feeling muscles grow in my arms and legs that I haven’t felt in years, but I feel the fruit of my labor deep in my core. Muscles my brain forgot existed are waking up and getting stronger.


My deepest desire, though, is that my spiritual core would be strong. I want to wait on the Lord, so my strength is renewed and I can run and not grow weary, walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:31). I want to run my race well, like I’m running for the ultimate prize: the glory of God (1 Corinthians 9:24). I want God’s light to shine on all the dark places of my heart, so I can lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily traps me, and run my race with endurance (Hebrews 12:1-2), fighting the good fight and finishing my race by keeping the faith (2 Timothy 4:7).

And friends, from the bottom of our hearts, that’s what we want for you, too. Therefore, over the next couple weeks we’re going to be sharing the steps that have helped us strengthen our spiritual cores, and are continuing to help us as we seek to walk worthy of the calling we’ve received. We look forward to sharing this journey with you!

Picture of Alissa Coburn

Alissa Coburn

Alissa Coburn is madly in love with Jesus and her husband, Josiah, and her family. She has a passion for learning and teaching God's Word and loves to share about her spiritual walk with anyone willing to listen. She often says her love languages are transparency and vulnerability, and she tries to love others well by sharing her story with authenticity and a little bit of humor. When she's not working in ministry, you can find her homeschooling her kids, dancing in the kitchen with her husband, loving on grandbabies, or working on one of the many hobbies she's hopping between (which often include hand-lettering, watercolor painting, and crocheting).