Mental Toughness

This past weekend was one of my favorite pro golf events of the year: The Players Championship from the TPC Course at Sawgrass, Florida. The distinctive course design, featuring the famous island green on the 17th hole, and the strongest field of any tournament held during the year, make for high drama and challenging moments. Perhaps no player in the tournament, however, faced the kinds of mental challenges that Kevin Na fought through. Since he recently made some rather severe swing changes, every shot for Na was a personal, internal battle. Standing over each shot, yet not trusting his new swing, Na took practice swing after practice swing, waggle after waggle but seemed incapable of pulling the trigger. Several times he even stepped away from the ball and screamed at himself in frustration. The most remarkable thing, however, was that Na entered the final day of the tournament in the lead! In spite of those inner battles and serious challenges, the 27-year-old was finding a way to fight through the mental struggles in a game that is primarily mental anyway.

In the struggles of life, we also need to develop toughness, but it is not necessarily mental in nature. It is a toughness rooted in a determination to trust in the Lord, no matter what life throws our way. King David put it this way: “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1).

This kind of toughness expresses faith in the face of overwhelming burdens, opposition, or danger. It is the enduring confidence in Christ that cannot be diminished by the circumstances or struggles that invade our lives. It is the devotion of heart that echoes Job’s words: “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15). This is the toughness that faces real life in the real world. And it is a toughness born out a relationship that is utterly dependent upon who He is—not what we have done. Enduring trust in the living God is the toughness that faces life with no need for fear.

 

Bill Crowder, Sports Spectrum Chaplain