Anxiety, Fear, Stress, and the Danger of Believing in Yourself
In my late twenties, I decided I was going to take up the sport of boxing. A guy in our church was a boxing coach and ran his own gym. One day I approached my wife and proclaimed to her that I believed God was calling me to start boxing as a hobby. (That was the super-spiritual way I would approach my wife with things I really wanted to do but knew she would think were silly: “God called me.”) Don’t get me wrong. My wife has been incredibly supportive of every crazy thing I have dreamed up over the years and has pretty much encouraged me to do anything I’ve ever wanted to do. Believe me, there are a lot of wacky ideas that come out of this brain. I have one of those personalities. I will gravitate to a new hobby, go all in on it, get all the gear that comes with my newfound passion, and then move on to a new hobby within months. Know anyone like that? Yep, that’s me. My garage is full of things I’ve purchased for the hobbies I believed God “called me” to do, and I can imagine Him on His throne saying, “Pruitt, don’t blame Me for that.”
So my boxing career began. After training three days a week for about two months, I felt great. I was probably in the best shape of my life. I believed in my misguided brain that I was very similar to Rocky in his prime. So I explained to my trainer that I was ready to get in the ring to spar with some- one. Sparring is not a full-on boxing match, where you are trying to knock the other person’s head off. Rather, it is meant for practice, swinging at each other with about 50 percent of your full power.
My trainer, in all his graciousness, strongly advised against this, saying, “You don’t want to do that. You’re just training to get in shape and have fun. Plus, the only other person here right now is Tony. You don’t need to get in the ring with Tony. He is now a pro boxer.” Come on. What did he know? I’d been boxing for two months, and my trainer had been doing this for only a short twenty years. And Tony? He was a featherweight, which means he weighed between 118 and 126 pounds. “Listen, my boxing guru, I weigh 210 pounds. I have almost 100 pounds on him. Don’t worry. I will take it easy on him.” Gosh, what an idiot I was. Tony was a featherweight Golden Gloves winner, which basically means he was a champion and it was a very, very bad idea to get in the ring with him. But there we were, gloves on, helmets on, and mouthpieces in our mouths. We stepped to the middle and touched gloves, just like the real thing. Tony in- formed me he would just move around and let me try to hit him. To which I replied with a hurt ego, “See these eyes? Eyes of the tiger, man. You better give me all you got because I am coming for you with all 200 pounds of this muscle.” (It was actually very little muscle.)
Here is the highlight of my boxing career, as best I can recall, because my memory is still a little hazy. I walked to him and reared back to give him a punch that his great-grandmamma would feel. However, before I could do anything, a tiny feather- weight fist hit me square in the face, and it felt like a bomb went off as soon as it connected. I remember a bright flash of light, my knees going weak, and then an up-close meeting with the mat of the boxing ring. And that was it. My boxing career was over. Unlike Rocky, there would be no Pruitt II or III or IV or V. That day I retired from boxing. I hung up my gloves. I was in over my head. This was way over my pay grade. God was now calling me to stick to preaching the Bible and to leave the boxing to Tony. Tony was built to be a boxer, and it’s now his job. I was not built to be a boxer. That is not God’s best for me. It’s not what I was created to do. And, just like it is not my job to be a boxer, it is also not my job to be in control.
At the core of believing in ourselves is our desire to be in control. However, if you attempt to live life believing in yourself, you will be trapped by discouragement, fear, anxiety, and worry. The pressure of trying to be in control of all situations will set you up to be eventually knocked out by the hardships of life. Living in this world can pack a punch that may put you on the mat, but it can’t move God off His throne. You were not made to believe in yourself, because you were not made to be in control. You were made to believe in Someone else. You were made to trust Someone else to be in control. That is ultimately what faith is—trusting in the One who sits on the throne as king.
There is wonderful freedom in living this way. It takes all the pressure off you and places it on the One who can handle it. A great thing about believing in God and trusting Him with your life is that He does not struggle with the same things you and I do. He never gets stressed, anxious, or worried. He is in control of all things, has a plan and purpose, and is strong enough to see it through. We will fail. He never does. We will make mistakes. He never does. We will make a mess of things. He never does. He can be trusted. Time and time again He has proven Himself. But to believe in Him means we have to let go. Letting go means we can no longer hold on to it. Whatever that “it” is for you, it’s time to place it in the hands of God and let go of it. Faith steps in the moment you let go.
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
Find out more about my new book, 9 Common Lies Christians Believe: And Why God’s Truth is Infinitely Better at shanepruitt.com/9commonlies
Shane Pruitt is the author of 9 Common Lies Christians Believe: And Why God’s Truth is Infinitely Better. Shane has been in ministry for more than 17 years as a denominational leader, church planter, and traveling communicator. He holds a B.S. in biblical studies and a PhD in Christian counseling. Shane serves as Director of Evangelism for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. A popular blogger, Shane has written for Relevant, Christianity Today, the Christian Post, ChurchLeaders.com and other online journals. He and his wife, Kasi, live near Dallas, Texas, with their five children. For more information, visit shanepruitt.com.
Excerpted from 9 COMMON LIES CHRISTIANS BELIEVE AND WHY GOD’S TRUTH IS INFINITELY BETTER. Copyright © 2019 by Shane Pruitt. Published by Multnomah, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.