Have you ever experienced a deep emotional pain that literally takes your breath away and drops you to your knees? That feeling like your heart is being torn open and someone is pouring salt over your open wound?
Have you ever been at a point in your life where your mind is your greatest enemy? Where your thoughts are so destructive that you can’t get out of your own way?
Have you ever felt like you've completely lost your identity and have no idea who you are or where you are going in life? Where you get caught up going through life on auto-pilot and forget what it feels like to be truly alive?
If so, believe me, you are not alone. I have experienced all of these feelings.
“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” This is one of my favorite quotes from Mark Twain, and it exemplifies my life’s journey.
My name is Troy Ismir. I help men reclaim our inner warrior, so we can have more vitality, adventure and purpose in our lives.
Growing up, my identity was defined by being a football player. All I wanted to do, from the time I was a little kid, was play professional football. I was consumed by it. I was moving toward that dream in college, playing football at a Division II school, the University of North Dakota.
I remember that fateful day like it was yesterday. It was a cool, crisp autumn day in Grand Forks, North Dakota. October 4th, 1986. We were playing a tough, chippy team, Mankato State. I played on defense, as a strong safety.
The running back was coming at me, and I was ready to make the tackle, but at the last second, he changed directions. I planted my right foot on the artificial turf, so I could quickly change directions to make the tackle. Unfortunately, as I was preparing to make the cut, a 280-pound offensive lineman fell directly on my knee. My lower leg ended up at a 90-degree angle from my upper leg. I heard the sickening sound of my knee disintegrating. I went into shock because of the intense pain. And I knew, the second it happened, my career was over.
The injury was the worst the orthopedic surgeon had ever seen. Three of my knee ligaments were torn, and I was crushed. My hopes and dreams of being a professional football player came to a crashing halt on that horrific day. My new goal became being able to walk normally again, and I fell into a deep depression. I was lost and searching for a new identity. I had always been known as Troy, the star football player. That was no longer the case.
All About Physical Training
After two years of intense rehabilitation on my knee, I found myself spending more and more time in the weight room. After my knee healed, I started spending hour after hour lifting weights. I was obsessed with getting as big and ripped as I possibly could, without crossing the line of taking steroids.
Up until about seven years ago, my life revolved around physical training. I was a gym rat, working out seven days a week, for three hours at a time, sometimes throwing a second or third workout in, when I could, or going for 3-4-hour bike rides. All of the physical training I did was my escape from the real world. Exercise was my addiction. It became my new identity. I was all about being as physically fit as possible. I was living a shallow and unfulfilling life — self-centered and absorbed in my own little world of working out.
It wasn’t until another tragedy struck in my life, that I learned the meaning of spiritual fitness. After 18 years and two beautiful children, my marriage came to a tragic end. Never in a million years did I think my marriage would end in divorce. I became a statistic. Someone who who has to check that divorced box. The most important thing to me in my life, my family, was stripped away, and I was devastated, again.
It was at this point in my life, that I dropped to my knees and said, “God please help me.” I was desperate and in so much pain. I didn’t have the strength to move forward on my own. And it was there, on my knees, that I surrendered my life to God.
Things got better for me slowly, and I climbed my way back. My heart was beginning to heal, but as time went on, I found myself clinging to old ways and getting stuck between the new Troy and the old Troy. My pattern became: surrender my life, go back to my old ways and then get back down on my knees and ask for God’s help, again.
In the midst of this constant battle and struggle of old self versus new self, God brought into my life Pastor Byron Bledsoe, the founding and Senior Pastor of C3 Church in Orlando, and he guided me down a path that changed everything for me.
I had grown up in church. In fact, I am a PK — a preacher’s kid. I'm very proud of my dad and the upbringing I had in the church, and until my mentorship with Pastor Byron, I never truly realized that the most important thing in life is having a personal relationship with God. It’s not about being perfect, or about following rules. It’s simply about asking God into my life and developing an intimate personal relationship with Him. One thing they say at C3 Church is "No perfect people allowed." I guess I fit right in then.
My journey, attending C3 Church on a regular basis and having deep personal conversations with Pastor Byron, led me to choose to accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I was baptized on December 15th, 2010. Yet the battle between the old Troy and the new Troy continued, with being a new Christian in a fallen world, and with my internal struggle to draw closer to God and make a difference in the world, while being racked by self-doubt, fear of being alone and not trusting God in all areas of my life.
The Spiritual Training Begins
If there is one thing that ultimately transformed my life, it is when I made the personal commitment to spend quiet time with God every single morning. I started to wake up at 4:30 every day and read the Bible for just 10 minutes a day, slowly building my spiritual muscles.
As my spiritual fitness got a little stronger, 10 minutes turned into 20 minutes, and before too long I was spending an hour every day reading the Bible, journaling and reading spiritual books. My Muscle and Fitness Magazine was replaced by the Bible and The Purpose Driven Life. I started to lead a community group at my church and began to surround myself with other godly men.
It was at this time, about four years ago, that God planted in my heart the idea of starting a faith and fitness ministry. As I began to grow spiritually, I realized that my life isn’t only about me. As Pastor Rick Warren states in his first sentence of The Purpose Driven Life, “It’s not about you.” This was the first time I understood that I could move from being self driven to being mission driven. I realized the best way to glorify God was to make a difference in other people’s lives. And so, my faith and fitness ministry — The Divine Wellness Academy — was started. This 10-week life transformation program is Christ-centered and helps Christians discover the connection between their physical and spiritual health.
The Dating Game
As my mission became clearer, there was still an area in my life I continued to struggle with. Dating at any age is hard. Starting to date again in my 40’s, after 18 yeas of marriage, was overwhelming. My identity had gotten lost, this time, in my marriage, and I had no idea who I was after my divorce.
I turned to women to validate me, to tell me I was a good person. I struggled with self-doubt and thinking I wasn’t good enough. There were times I became needy. I had lost my masculine energy. I had an intense fear of being alone. As hard as I was trying, I was still living a life that was separate from God. My mind wasn’t falling in line with His purposes for me. I was still trying to control this area of my life.
After several failed relationships, I had a spiritual awakening. Through deep introspective work, I came to realize that God loves me for who I am. He created me in His image, and His love for me runs deep. He created me for His purposes, and is in control of all areas of my life. One of my favorite scriptures is Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a good future.”
Once I truly started to believe this, in my heart, my fears of being alone and not being good enough went away. Once I got in alignment with what God thought about me, my faith deepened. I realized that what is most important is to live out my mission and live a purpose driven life.
Living My Mission
In my quiet time with God, He clearly shows me that he wants me to have a faith and fitness ministry— that my purpose is to help men to take better care of our bodies, so we can take better care of our spirits. As 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 states, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”
With this realization, everything changed for me. My self-doubt went away, and I now wake up every morning with passion and excitement. I am full of joy and inner peace. I am full of light instead of darkness. I am free of worries. I feel connected to God instead of separate from Him. I feel like I am finally living the life God created for me to live. I have more focused energy, inner peace and am living a more powerful and joyful life.
Once the light started to shine brighter in me, I knew I had to make a difference in the world. I get to serve others and ultimately glorify God through my service. I get to literally die to self. I get to become less and God gets to be more.
My mission is to help men reclaim our inner warrior, so we can have more vitality, adventure and purpose in our lives, and my goal is to positively impact and improve as many lives as possible.
Through my soul searching, heartbreak, and spiritual growth, it came down to making a decision. I was standing at a fork in the road. Would I choose to fulfill my God given purpose and bring glory to God, or would I shrink back and live a comfortable self-centered life? Would I live a life for my own goals, comfort, and pleasure or live the rest of my life for God’s glory, knowing that He has promised us eternal rewards. Would I I play it "safe" or make the decision to become fully alive?
Two Difficult Questions
For me, it came down to two questions that I asked myself.
- Would I be willing to lose everything to save my soul?
- Would I be willing to live a life of risk and uncertainty to live my God-given purpose and mission?
I answered yes to both of these questions and, since then, have dedicated myself to overcoming my fears and living my mission. I have dedicated myself to my faith and fitness ministry. I recently started my own podcast — the Divine Wellness Academy — so this message of faith and fitness can reach more people. I am an author, speaker and a faith-based fitness and lifestyle performance coach.
Suffering builds our character and adds depth to our soul. It helps us to become more compassionate, empathic and stronger in Christ. Through my suffering, I have learned who I am in Christ. I have and will continue to use my pain to do good and serve all of mankind. I have come to realize that true fulfillment is not measured in material possessions, but in the number of lives I help improve.
What this world needs is people who are fully alive, because that’s what God wants for us. You too can become mission and purpose driven. What one man can do, another man can do. If you aren’t living your mission, you will look for fulfillment in other areas such as food, sex, drugs, alcohol, performance addiction, exercise addiction or validation from others to fill that void.
I learned that my mission in life gets to be my priority. Unless we know our mission and our life is aligned with it, our core will feel empty because that is how God created us.
To deny that call from our soul is to deny ourselves the life we deserve to live.
We Need More People Fully Alive
So what’s it going to be? Are you willing to lose everything to get your soul back? Are you willing to live a life of adventure, uncertainty, and risk for God? Are you willing to choose a difficult path instead of an easy one? Are you willing to live your mission for Christ instead of a self-centered life?
My challenge to you is to start to train yourself like a spiritual warrior. Train yourself physically. Train yourself mentally. Train yourself spiritually. The ultimate purpose of our Christian journey is to become more like Christ. The purpose of life is to live a life of purpose.
We all have amazing God given gifts. He wants us to live with inner peace, good health and joy. The best way to do that is to get in line with God’s purposes for us. Once we start living our mission, we will have the power to conquer our fears and live lives that makes us feel fully alive and fulfilled.
ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist
NSCA Strength and Conditioning Specialist
TPI Certified Golf Fitness Instructor Level 2
Functional Movement Screen Certified
Precision Nutrition Coach Level 2