An American proverb states, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” This proverb is attributed to two people: John F. Kennedy’s father, Joseph P. Kennedy, and Knute Rockne, the great football coach at the University of Notre Dame. It means that when a life situation gets difficult, strong- or tough-minded people are able to step up and handle it.
The covid-19 pandemic—synthetically created by vain scientists, harnessed by power-grabbing government officials and propagated by a hyped-up media—exposed the mental weakness of millions worldwide. How? An emotional and high-stress pressure cooker was created. A May 14 Telegraph article, “Use of Fear to Control Behavior in Covid Crisis Was ‘Totalitarian,’ Admit Scientists,” proves this point. Government and medical officials purposely terrorized their fellow citizens with the fear of death. Why? To gain control of the masses. People were coerced to fear for their lives and those of family members, parents and grandparents. People were forced to close themselves off from their church communities, families and friends. Many lost their jobs, livelihoods and personal freedoms. People were forced to wear masks—then two masks—supposedly to prevent murdering other human beings. In some countries people were threatened with jail time if they stepped outside their homes. National economies collapsed. Children stopped attending school. Family crises mounted with no outlet to relieve the pressure.
What were the results? A study in April found 1 in 4 Americans reporting symptoms of anxiety or depression. Other studies show these same effects in many other countries, including China. Drug and alcohol abuse dramatically increased during government-mandated lockdowns. Evidence also shows that domestic violence became a pandemic within the pandemic. And some child psychiatrists believe covid-19 lockdowns drove up youth suicide risks. For example, one school district in Nevada, saw six students commit suicide between March 16 and June 30, 2020—the beginning of many school shutdowns—12 more between July 1 and December 30, and another in January. That’s 19 students—double the number of suicides from the previous year.
The covid-19 debacle made things very tough for many people—except the elites, of course! For some, the suffering has been immense. A great many people lacked the mental toughness tohandle it.
While things seem to be getting back to normal, many medical experts and government officials are saying it is not over yet! Now, pressure to submit to a dangerous vaccination is growing daily. Officials speak of the dangers of covid-19 variants. If they have their way, more lockdowns or other losses of personal freedoms may be coming.
Since we are somewhat in the midst of a breather, let’s be sure we build the mental toughness to handle the next round.
Mental Toughness Explained
What is mental toughness? While this term was initially applied to sports psychology, it became more frequently applied as a strategy for business executives, college students and even patients striving to overcome life-threatening cancers. Now it needs to be taught to everyday people to cope with living in a rapidly changing, high-pressure, violent and unstable society. 2020 was an unprecedented year and is sure to feature in future history books.
While mental toughness is hard to define in just a few words, here are some good statements published in the second edition of Developing Mental Toughness, by Peter Clough and Doug Strycharczyk. The first definition is from S. Brennan in the Christian Science Monitor in 1998: “It’s the ability to handle situations. It’s somebody who doesn’t choke, doesn’t go into shock, and who can stand up for what he believes. It’s what someone has who handles pressures, distractions, and people trying to break their concentration ….” Here’s another, published by the Curtis Management Group in 1998: “Mental toughness is many things and rather difficult to explain. Its qualities are sacrifice and self-denial. In addition, most importantly, it is combined with a perfectly disciplined will that refuses to give in. It’s a state of mind—you could call it character in action.” Both of these definitions imply maintaining a positive frame of mind and calm emotions in times of trouble.
This helps us begin to see the physical side of this virtue. Yet there is the deeper spiritual side that helps us to thoroughly understand mental toughness.
Let’s look more closely at the physical level first.
Founded on Emotional Control
Sports psychologists who teach the principles of mental toughness know that its foundation is built on effective emotional control. A winning athlete must be emotionally flexible. No matter the athletic contest, there are always unexpected emotional challenges. To excel, a winning athlete needs mental toughness in the face of unexpected situations by remaining supple as a young green tree, staying non-defensive and physically balanced, and stirring up a steady supply of positive emotions.
Sports psychology experts have proved that emotionally inflexible athletes become rigid and defensive, and are easily broken. Clearly the events of 2020 demanded emotional control from people; those who were inflexible ended up easily broken.
Top-trained athletes stay emotionally active and fully engaged under pressure. In fact, they are energized by the pressure and often do their best. Winning athletes have emotional strength that matches their physical strength. They sustain a powerful fighting spirit.
One critical trait that superior athletes maintain is emotional resiliency. This means being able to take a punch emotionally and bounce back quickly. Essentially, they know how to handle disappointments, mistakes and overlooked opportunities. They have a mindset that prepares them to jump right back into the battle, fully armed to resume the fight to victory. These same emotional skills would have greatly helped many men, women, and teens in 2020.
A True Christian’s Mindset
Besides emotional control, other elements of mental toughness are required to be at full strength mentally. Do you need to buy a lot of books to learn these elements? No! All the necessary elements of mental toughness are found within the pages of the Holy Bible.
Surprised? There is definitely a spiritual side to developing mental toughness. In fact, it is the spiritual side that imprints mental toughness into our character.
God desires His entire human family to develop this mindset. And our loving God shows us how.
The Apostle Paul is the most dramatic example of a human being with mental toughness. His writings, as well as those of several other apostles, teach us the elements of mental toughness.
Five Spiritual Elements
The first element for developing mental toughness is accepting the reality of the world in which we live.
Paul called our world “this present evil world” (Galatians 1:4). Why? Traditional Christianity falsely teaches that this is God’s world. However, Paul shows that Satan is the god of this world, that this evil being appears as an angel of light, and that he and his demon cohorts are constantly working against humanity (2 Corinthians 4:4; 11:14-15; 2:11). With God-given vision into our time, Paul wrote to Timothy: “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come” (2 Timothy 3:1).
We must see that Satan was behind the worldwide mayhem of 2020. He is a being of awesome power, and he hates God and His human creation. Knowing these facts gives us the mental toughness to not be shocked by a world in crisis.
A second element of mental toughness is the ability to endure hardness. This echoes back to the earlier definition that mentally tough people are willing to sacrifice and embrace self-denial.
Just before his execution for preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, Paul wrote his beloved son in the faith, Timothy: “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2:3). Because Americans have benefited tremendously from God’s incredible material blessings, many cannot endure any hardship placed on them. But because we live in perilous times, we should develop the skills of sacrifice and self-denial.
To be honest, things are only going to get worse. Jesus Christ, the greatest of God’s prophets to have ever walked the Earth, warned of great tribulation to come in our time (Matthew 24:21). Conditions will become so bad that if Christ did not return, no human being would be saved alive (verse 22; Moffatt). While God promises to take His faithful Church to a place of safety (Revelation 12:14), Jesus Christ also warned that catastrophic events will precede that worst time of suffering (Matthew 24:5-8).
The recent cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline and the ensuing panic on the United States East Coast is a prime example of the lack of sacrifice and self-denial in today’s world. There was no gasoline shortage. After news broke of the attack, it was the fear of a shortage that drove events. Panic set in immediately. People began hoarding fuel. Gas prices soared—some as high as $10 per gallon. Tough-minded people survive such crisis without wrecking their character.
Athletes are taught that belief in themselves, their physical prowess and desire to win will get them through any challenge. However, that thinking is not a firm pillar of mental toughness. Tough-minded people need to know that challenges or problems can be worked through, especially when we seek God’s help.
Faith Matters Most
A third element of mental toughness is faith in God. Let me say at the outset that developing and having faith in God does not prevent an individual from being confident with their physical abilities, talents and skills. God has created these assets within human beings to be developed and used for the benefit of mankind and His own Work on Earth. But faith in God is crucial when we face severe personal trials. There are times when we desperately need God to help us through a crisis.
All human beings must face difficult trials in life. In fact, God has planned it to be this way. Why? God created man for a lofty purpose. You can read the details of God’s plans for man in Herbert W. Armstrong’s thrilling book The Incredible Human Potential. (We will happily send you a free copy upon request.)
“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you,” wrote the Apostle Peter (1 Peter 4:12). He understood that all humans, even spiritually sound ones, are usually shocked when a tough trial hits. But when we fully understand God’s purpose for our life, and we humbly and quickly turn to Him for help, He will hear us. “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you,” encourages Peter (1 Peter 5:7).
Faith in God’s help and power makes us mentally tougher. In fact, with strong faith in God’s support you can actually rejoice during your trial! (1 Peter 4:13).
Never Quit—Have Hope
The fourth and fifth spiritual elements of mental toughness are deeply connected. The fourth element is perseverance. Never quit—keep fighting!
When Paul’s loyal assistant, Timothy, knew that Paul was imprisoned and would be executed for preaching Christ’s gospel, he became deeply discouraged and was in danger of quitting his ministry. In his first letter to Timothy, Paul encouraged the man he loved as his own son by saying: “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses” (1 Timothy 6:12). Paul admonished Timothy to never quit despite fiery trial. Timothy was cavorting with disaster. He needed to keep fighting for God—both to help the members under his care and, literally, to save his own eternal life!
All too often, when God does not end a fiery trial immediately, human beings choose to hate God. However, when we seek God’s help in trials, we must also remember that God has allowed the trial to build godly patience in us and make us more worthwhile to Him spiritually.
We must follow Paul’s incredible example of never quitting. He wrote, “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness …” (2 Timothy 4:6-8). Paul used a race metaphor to show that those who are mentally tough spiritually never quit but keep fighting until the trial is over. Never quit!
The fifth spiritual element is to remain always hopeful. Athletes with well-developed mental toughness always maintain the hope that they will do better in their next athletic event. With this belief, the athlete will train more efficiently to ensure future success.
When we look at the majority of God’s chosen leaders—the men and women with mental toughness spread throughout the Old and New Testaments—all maintained a hope in the future. Why? Because they understood that this present evil world will come to an end at Jesus Christ’s Second Coming.
A utopian world is coming! Over 2,700 years ago, the Prophet Isaiah described this coming world in Isaiah 11. Jesus Christ is going to establish this world as a kingdom of great peace and prosperity. Paul was very familiar with this chapter. He encouraged us to rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, and continue instantly in prayer (Romans 12:12). With God actively working for us and in us, there is always hope to survive trials and difficult times. Hope keeps us moving forward to a soon-coming and forever-bright future.
Mental toughness is desperately needed now. God can build that mental toughness in us if we look to Him for guidance and inspiration. Labor as Paul did to conquer whatever challenges lie before you.
Remember: “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”