Now that we are past Christmas and the New Year is upon us, it easy to develop a dutiful “the party is over” mindset. We return to school and/or work. And, we gear up to pay for the party, so to speak: holiday bills, holiday pounds, exhaustion, and the all-too-common strained family relationships from family gatherings, all of which often generate or exacerbate fatigue, depression, and anxiety. We pay more attention to budgeting, we ponder the fastest and least painful way to lose weight and gain fitness, we set a new bed time, and we promise ourselves to change our participation in family gatherings even as we sometimes deal with guilt and shame because of our present condition.
It is easy to understand why New Year’s resolutions are a common theme in January. This is the time of year when we encounter and confront the consequences and the cumulative consequences of our choices, some of them poor ones. The typical approach to a New Year’s resolution is to browse the ads and offers of a quick DIY fix on our medium of choice. We plan to get our act together as quickly as possible and then get on with life.
But the quick DIY approach can be discouragingly counterproductive. It was first introduced to humanity by no other than Eve in the Garden of Eden. She engaged in conversation with the serpent by herself, even though Adam was at her side and the LORD was certainly within calling distance. She made the fateful choice herself, largely attracted by the serpent’s lie that the forbidden fruit would make her wise like God—so that she could continue to do life herself. We can’t fix ourselves, and when we try, we become self-focused and vulnerable to the pride that was exposed and exploited in the Garden of Eden. C.S Lewis puts it this way:
Teachers, in fact, often appeal to a boy's Pride, or as they call it, his
self-respect, to make him behave decently: many a man has overcome
cowardice, or lust, or ill-temper, by learning to think that they are
beneath his dignity--that is, by Pride. The devil laughs. He is perfectly
content to see you becoming chaste and brave and self-controlled
provided, all the time, he is setting up in you the Dictatorship of Pride--
just as he would be quite content to see your chilblains cured if he was
allowed, in return, to give you cancer. For Pride is spiritual cancer: it
eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common
Another problem with the DIM (“DO IT MYSELF”) approach is that it invites us to become performance oriented. We follow the way of the world and measure our value and status in society by how well we perform and how closely we conform to the expectations of our culture. This generates a competitive attitude, making it difficult if not impossible to find contentment and peace and to love as our Lord calls us to love.
We can give up and stay as we are. We can charge forward to fix ourselves anyway. Or, we can consider a Biblical approach. We can put our need before the throne of God that is both perfect and full of grace. We can DIWG—Do It With God.
The DIWG approach means that we find our identity and value in Christ and our place among His people. We look for the Holy Spirit to do His sanctifying work in us as we walk in faith and in the fellowship of believers. We not only talk the talk of faith, but we do our best to walk the walk. As we worship and minister in the body, our weaknesses and sin patterns will be exposed. We will be invited to confess and repent, to grow in conforming to the character of Christ. And as we do that, we will find that becoming whole, as our Creator intended, involves our bodies and minds as well as our souls and spirits. If we want to become who the Lord created us to be and to fulfill His purposes for us, we need to pursue physical and mental health as well.
Research has demonstrated that a healthy lifestyle of good nutrition, exercise, and adequate sleep is essential for brain health and our ability to make wise choices. And brain health and wise choices are essential in our faith walk. And the cycle continues: Our faith walk—built on deepening and growing relationships with the Lord and His people—also supports a healthy lifestyle as it enables us to fail without shame and to grow as we both humbly and confidently abide in Christ and depend upon the work of the Holy Spirit within us.
I, for one, find that I am surprised that 2023 arrived so quickly. I don’t feel that I have managed to clean up after 2022 yet! But ready or not, 2023 is here. May we accept the Lord’s invitation to seek wholeness in Him as we in turn invite the resident Holy Spirit to make Himself at home, choosing to keep company with our spiritual brothers and sisters to prosper that work in all of us.