As 2020 comes to a close, do you feel worn out? Has this year taken a toll on you and your loved ones? Maybe you are looking forward to next year being better. Perhaps you’re waiting for a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine or a change in government. Perhaps you desire for your work conditions to improve or to be employed again. Maybe you hope to return to in-person learning at school or participating in and attending large group activities like sports and performing arts. Even though you might not know when these things will happen, hoping in them helps. But if place all your hope in external circumstances, you’re bound to become anxious, fatigued, cynical, or depressed. Instead, you need to find ways of combating these stressors no matter what you encounter. Here are some practical offensive and defensive daily tactics to remain physically, mentally, and spiritually fit for life’s battles.
- Take one day at a time. You only have today. Yesterday is gone and tomorrow is never promised. Jesus said, “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34). Give your concerns to God and let him carry the burden. He can handle it. The government of the universe is on his shoulders.
- Care for your body. Get enough sleep, eat a well-balanced diet, drink water, and exercise often. But realize that staying physically fit is just part of your strategy. The apostle Paul, instructed younger Timothy, “Train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:8). Godliness requires restoring your heart and renewing your mind also.
- Nurture your spirit. At the core of your being you need relationships—first with God who created you and loves you, then with others he has blessed you with. Enter into life with God by faith. Effective faith is more than just mentally accepting that he exists. It’s giving him your hope, loyalty, trust, obedience. Learn from him how to love and serve others. Then do so joyfully and thankfully. In fact, JOY is a simple mnemonic for this: (J)esus first, (O)thers second, and (Y)ou third.
- Guard your mind. Read, discover new things to learn, stay positive, and focus on the truth. The latter is especially important. You are surrounded by deceit and intentional misinformation disguised in partial truth which tends to wear you down, desensitize you to what’s right, and warps your perspective of reality. God is the source of truth revealed especially for you and me in Jesus and recorded in his word, the Bible. The Psalmist advises, “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers” (Psalm 1:1-4).
- Place your hope in God. “The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:31). Even when it seems like evil is winning, know that God will address it at the right time in the right way. “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes…For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land” (Psalm 37:7, 9).
As we near the wonderful celebration of Jesus’ birth this Christmas, our challenging days remind me of what Israel faced. During the first century, the people of Israel suffered under foreign, Roman rule. Conditions were difficult and wearisome, some leaders were proud, self-centered, or corrupt, and the future looked bleak. People prayed and longed for God to fulfill his promise of sending a savior who would bring freedom, peace, and righteousness. As always, God responded with wisdom, grace, and love. At the perfect time he sent God the Son, Jesus, to become a man and live among us to show us God. Anyone who believed him was saved and reunited with God.
The world surrounding believers may not have changed–a godless nation still oppressed them, leaders still served themselves, and people still suffered. Yet in a sense, everything did change for anyone who followed Jesus. He brought healing from the inside out. He knew a change of heart is what was needed more than a change of circumstances. So first he addressed people’s rebellious and dead spirit by restoring to them what they truly needed: a relationship with God, their loving Father. Only God offers everlasting life, joy, peace, faithfulness, and hope in this fallen world. The salvation Jesus introduced 2,000 years ago is available to you today. Every day you can have victory amidst life’s trials by trusting and obeying Jesus who is the way to God, the whole truth, and the abundant life you desire but won’t find in yourself, others, or this world. Soon Jesus will return to earth to complete the other intervention we all long for: an establishment of righteousness and a restoration of our world. He will consummate his kingdom, reward believers, judge unbelievers, and put an end to evil. Turn to Jesus now and let him fight for you. Then, despite the current burdens of this world, you can not just survive, but thrive and be able to help others do the same.