Developing Mental Toughness
MENTAL TOUGHNESS 🥊 & how I got into boxing.
Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. - 1 Corinthians 9:26
This is a short, sweet little scripture that is sandwiched in the passage about running your race. It is powerful because it is a great reminder to not be aimless, or directionless, without purpose, or goalless. I love it because it has been a powerful verse that got me through tough times in the past and continues to stay at the front of my mind. It is a scripture that I have often turned to when I have pursued learning two physical activities; running and boxing.
Running, I loathe and have a serious love-hate relationship with, but the love for the sport of boxing runs deep in my veins. My grandfather, dad, and uncles were all boxers. I know that many consider it a brutal sport, but it possesses many skills, training, and strategy that one can appreciate. However, my family legacy of professional boxing is not the reason I put on the gloves.
Hard Times Will Develop You
In 2016, I went through one of the most challenging years of my life. People I loved passed away. I watched people I love bury people they loved. I was bullied in isolation by fearful thoughts, constant worry, and anxiety. I fought hard to overcome depression. And still, I was a believer and person of prayer. That didn't change the fact that I was sure to go through trying and testing times.
Scripture promises that in this life, we will experience trials (John 16:33). Or the humbling reality that God allows the rain on the just and the unjust alike (Matthew 5:45). I remember crying out to God to deliver me from the discomfort and hardship, to protect me from what felt like I was being hit on every side. Have you ever been in that spot?
Maybe you don't particularly like extreme difficulty or to deal with conflict?
Perhaps you too would prefer if life was always positive vibes and good times?
Maybe you like your little comfort zone and you're settling in there?
Well, the truth is that we will experience seasons of test and trials that break all that up and produces the fruit of whatever the contents of your character is made of.
What I believe was revealed during that time was that God did not want to take me out of the trial. He did not want to remove me from the fire. He wanted me to develop the endurance, steadfastness, and perseverance to rise above it. He was asking for me to elevate my faith and trust to match His capability and sovereignty despite the circumstances. He was producing pure gold that only comes after being in the Refiners Fire (Job 23:10).
Developing Mental Toughness
Since there was no way out of the fight, no way to go around it, but only to go through it, I learned how to war against the fiery darts that hit my mind. I allowed for God to renew my mind through His Word to show me that I wasn't fighting for victory, but from a place of victory.
The arena of the fight was what was taking place in my mind through the unpleasant fight. That was where I needed to win to regain level ground and right perspective. The opponent looked like negative thoughts. You know, the DOUBTFUL THOUGHTS, PERSTERING THOUGHTS, PERSISTENT thoughts, and WORRISOME THOUGHTS. All of the -oughts.
Through these trials, God was training me to learn and develop stamina in prayer. It was time to mature beyond my sweet and gentle "thank you, Jesus, for my food" and drive-by prayers, to learn how to pray till something broke and shifted. He wanted me to be trained in the fruit of self-control; by bringing my mouth, my mind, and my body under the submission of the will of the Holy Spirit in unpleasant circumstances.
And, one of the practical ways I learned this strategy of perseverance and building the endurance to outlast the situation, was through learning how to box physically. It was after signing up for the classes that I was able to learn the spiritual application to help me through the situations.
As I signed up for boxing lessons, I learned:
The way you win is to decide to outlast your opponent.
In the match, yes, you're getting hit. Yes, you are absorbing blows. However, as you keep focused and stay in the fight, you can't forget that you're throwing them too.
Building your stamina takes time and daily practice.
You must learn to anticipate your opponent's next move to protect yourself.
It is a sport of strategy.
I hope you can see the parable in this.
The way you will win and overcome this test and trial of economic downturn, COVID-19, and whatever else the years ahead have in store is by deciding in advance that you will OUTLAST whatever situation because you know that THIS TOO SHALL PASS. It is by developing a mindset of a champion before you even step foot in the ring.
Muhamad Ali said, "I am the greatest of all time", even before he knew he was.
There is no doubt that the recent turn of events is throwing our plans, ambitions, and schedules all out of whack. You may be feeling like "it's one thing after another." I challenge you then to get off of the defense and start playing offense. Confess the Word of God over your finances, family, health, children, marriage, future marriage, etc. Stop waiting for the worst to happen and start asking the Lord to give you strategy, eyes to see an opportunity, and grace to rise above the obstacles when they do come.
Better yet, ask the Holy Spirit to cut off the head of any diabolical situation that would even be conceived to bring about death (spiritually, mentally, naturally, financially). Learn how to pray preemptively.
An action that is taken before an adversary can act.
Jesus was a strategist.
He knows where there were plots of His life and sidestepped them until it was His appointed time. He knew how long to stay in a place and when it was time to leave. He was aware of where to go and where not to. You and I need the mind of the Strategist to navigate.
For where we currently are, and for what we may face ahead, I truly believe that we need to set our minds for the long-haul, develop mental fortitude, and ask God to begin to strengthen us in the power of His might accordingly. You can be uncertain about tomorrow, but still, ask God to equip you for today.
For "homework" (*smile*), I challenge you to look for someone who you consider having that spirit of perseverance. I think of Kobe Byrant in this instance because he was known for his mamba-mentality. That mentality was focused and determined to "just try to get better every day" and he had a determination to win.
I also really love reading Daniel chapter 1 and Daniel chapter 3 regarding people in the Bible who decided in advance where they would stand and did not compromise even in the face of unpleasant circumstances and danger.
Consider what an activity that develops that stamina in you and cultivates mental toughness is? Maybe it's pushing yourself to do several push-ups at home or disciplining yourself to read for an hour every day. Decide that no matter what, you will stick with God and pass through the fire. You're committed to developing that mental fortitude that will set you apart in any instance.
Until next time,