Mental Toughness and Following Christ

I’ve always been the type of guy who takes challenges personally. If there is something that is deemed difficult to accomplish, and if that something interests me, I like to see if I can accomplish it. I take this approach in many areas of my life. I am under no delusion, however, that I can accomplish anything that I put my mind to do. I know there are some things that I just can’t do. I know that I have physical and mental limitations. My limitations are why I admire our men and women of the military so much; especially our Navy SEALs.

I love reading firsthand accounts of Navy SEAL missions. In my opinion, SEALs are the closest thing to super heroes that exist in real life. They go through the most grueling training imaginable to be chosen to be a SEAL. During their most intense week of training, over half of the candidates drop out. However, most drop out for reasons we would not think of. Most all of the SEAL candidates are in ideal physical shape. They can all run and swim for miles. They are all stronger than the average person. Most are smarter as well. However, mental toughness is what distinguishes a SEAL and a person who will never be a SEAL.

One has to be mentally tough to survive SEAL training. This is important because once faced with the life and death terror of war, mental toughness can save one’s life.

Whether you know it or not, “mental toughness” is a trait that is often taught in other spheres of life. Sometimes it may be similarly labeled as “positive thinking” or “willpower.” Mental toughness can really make a difference in one’s life. However, everyone has their limit. At some point, even the most mentally tough person will fail in some area.

The challenge for the Christ-follower is to be mentally tough in a different way. Being a mentally tough Christ-follower means the opposite of being mentally tough in the world. Worldly toughness involves digging deep down and looking inside yourself and grinding it out. However, to follow Christ means the opposite. It means to lose yourself completely and trust, not in yourself, but in Jesus.

All throughout Scripture we are urged to trust Christ. Proverbs 3:5 states, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” There will be many times in life where even when we are mentally tough, we still will not “win” or succeed. We will fail. These times of failures are reminders to us that as Christians we are new creatures in Christ. The old man has died. The new man has been born.

The new man is indwelled with the Holy Spirit who guides and comforts him. He gives the new man the ability to succeed in the things God has laid out before him. Therefore, being mentally tough as a Christian means trusting in Christ.

Trust is something we all struggle with because in many ways it is a passive action. Trust is dependent. We are often independent and action-oriented. In many ways, American culture celebrates individual independence. But independence is death to the Christian. It was independence that laid us to sin and break God’s law. It was independence that drove Adam and Eve from the garden of Eden and brought the curse of death on mankind. And it is independence that keeps us from fully trusting in Christ day by day.

Do you have a big challenge on the horizon? Do you have goals you’d like to accomplish? Being mentally tough can help you meet those goals. But trusting Christ is better. Ask the Lord to give you a trusting heart. Cry out to him for help in your times of need. Cry out to him for help in the times you don’t think you have a need. Depend on Christ; not on your own mental toughness.

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