My religious education class was recently discussing various outlets people might explore when coping with different emotions.
Suggestions from my freshman students included exercise, conversations with friends or family, eating, reading, professional counseling, and writing in a journal.
Towards the end of our chat, one girl chimed in, asking what strategies exist that connect to religion.
Impressed she pursued this train of thought, I proceeded to offer the class several possibilities that could invoke God’s guidance and grace.
I reminded my students of the power of prayer, noting how God always answers “knee-mail” and is always open for business—24 hours per day, seven days per week, 365 days each year (even better than your local corner store).
I directed them to sacred Scripture, advising how God’s Word gives us the counsel we require to help us navigate through all life situations, including how to understand and manage our emotions.
We discussed the peace and reassurance available through attending church services (whether in person or online) and the importance of reconciling with God and others when our emotions hold a negative impact.
While the student’s question was right on point, I was unfortunately not surprised when the others referenced secular ideas as their immediate go-to answers in our conversation, despite being in a faith-based school system. After all, it is undeniable that mainstream values have changed notably over the past decades. As a result, instinctually promoting and carrying out godly virtues has become even more challenging.
Each of us has this same challenge presented in how we decide to live our lives in 2021; as we embark on a new year filled with unknown experiences and possibilities.
Working full-time as a high school teacher with my wife as a NICU nurse, it is not a stretch to say our crew has a busy home life. While blessed to be married and have three young children, my wife and I regularly have a calendar filled with events and responsibilities. Despite the stresses and the ample activities that go on, it is imperative that we make time for God in order for Him to center and strengthen us.
Even with this practice, however, many in society can still give way to the abundant temptations and opportunities available, leading them to drift from God amidst the busyness of life.
Following a quieter Christmas due to COVID-19 restrictions, it is ironic that many individuals found themselves so restless in a setting of calm this past holiday, after having yearned for that same tranquility during their stressful and packed annual Christmas breaks prior to the pandemic.
My wife and I discussed this exact point one year ago over dinner, and we revisited the theme again as we approached this past New Year’s Day.
As we evaluated our personal and family goals for the year ahead, we remarked how, with so much happening in life, it seems the continuous challenge for many is finding their way toward simplicity.
Considering the excitement of all sorts of activities that can attract one’s attention, we shared how crucial it is for individuals and families alike to protect their homes from any cultural messages that might distract us away from a balanced family life.
Keeping our eyes on the prize – seeking eternal salvation by modeling Jesus’ gospel teachings – our faith directs us to live rooted in a firm foundation, no matter how occupied or complicated life might seem (Matthew 7:24-27).
Maintaining unconditional trust in God’s plan (Proverbs 3:5-6) and placing priority on matters of rock, rather than unhealthy distractions of sand, we can ensure the hustle and bustle of our society does not drag us into a frantic craze as we endeavor to simplify life and follow God’s path before us.
As the leader of our domestic church at home and as a faith educator for teenagers, I do not take lightly the responsibility and tall order of mirroring Christ for my family and students in today’s society.
While the challenge can be great, we must all remember our commissioning to introduce the world to Jesus through our humble example. No matter the obstacle presented in the demanding and busy environment around us, acts such as collective prayer, celebration through church services, works of charity, and meaningful shared experiences can all help display our faith in action and encourage others to grow in the same fashion.
So as we journey through the beginning of 2021, we can look forward with hope for our loved ones and communities. But while we prepare for all of the uncertainty and excitement that awaits, may we also resolve to live simply in our families, relationships, and events in order to keep God as our core.
Committed to knowing and celebrating Him more while inspiring others to do the same, we can undoubtedly ensure that 2021 is a year of simple intention and rock-solid faith.
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