By Annette Griffin, Crosswalk.com
After the tree is packed away and the diets have begun, many Christians find themselves kicking off the new year by dragging themselves through January. And is it any wonder? Weeks of planning, gathering, and celebrating with family and friends can take a toll on our bodies as well as our souls. Thankfully we serve a God who is in the business of restoration. Here are 5 steps to spiritually overcome post-holiday lethargy:
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Step 1: Replenish
The simple definition of replenish is to, “fill back up again.” Recouping from a season of giving can be difficult, especially if we’re physically spent to the point of depletion. What can we do to refill our energy reserves? Jesus summed up the perfect remedy in Matthew, chapter 11.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest…” (Matthew 11:29).
Before our good shepherd can replenish our souls, we need to make time to rest in Him. Rest is such an important component in God’s restorative plan that He set the example for us, by purposefully resting the day after He created the whole world. He also commanded the Israelites to take time out for rest as part of the Sabbath law (Exodus 31:13).
The Israelites’ Sabbath foreshadowed the coming of the Messiah, who would provide a permanent rest for all His children. Now, Jesus is the Sabbath rest for all Christians (Matthew 12:8, Hebrews 4:9-11). He is the only refueling station we need for our souls, but we must purposefully draw near to Him for replenishment. The hardest part of resting in Christ is letting go of all our urgent tasks long enough to embrace the one needful thing—Him.
Practical steps to replenish: Dedicate daily time to get away—just you and the Lord. Find a quiet place, leave all technology and other distractions behind, and plan to be alone with God. Don’t approach the meeting as another chore to accomplish but view the time as a divine date.
Sit at Jesus’s feet. Bask in God’s word. Talk with Him. Sing to Him. Give Him your undivided attention till you find your rest in Him. When we abide in Christ, He replenishes us and equips us to thrive. Apart from Him, we’re empty. Anything we try to accomplish in our own strength is useless. But we can do all things through Christ. He strengths us because He is our strength.
Step 2: Remember
Busy seasons have a way of monopolizing our brain space with immediate projects that distract our attention from past truths. Sometimes the best motivator for moving forward is to look back. So, after we find our rest in Christ and allow Him to replenish our souls, it’s time to remember. Reminding ourselves of the great things God has done in the past helps anchor our hope for the future to His faithfulness.
Like rest, remembrance is an important component of God’s restorative plan. In the Old Testament, God’s people erected altars as a visual reminder of God’s great works. Every Believer today has altar-worthy events to commemorate. God is good. His work in us, for us, and through us is good. And those good works are worthy of remembrance and praise. Not only for His sake, but for our own.
“I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds” (Psalm 77:11,12).
Whether we’re in the depths of despair, as David was when he wrote Psalm 77—or we’re simply in the depths of our own brain fog—we can find our way to clarity by remembering who God is and all He’s done.
Practical steps to remember: If you journal, peruse your past entries, relive the victories, and thank God for those things still in the works. Highlight your personal God-moments and share them with a friend or family member as an offering of thanksgiving to God.
If you’ve never journaled, consider starting now. Begin with a dedication page that lists every God moment you can remember from the past year. Share those recollections with someone else who may be struggling too. Thanksgiving is contagious. And once you’ve begun purposefully remembering God’s goodness, thanksgiving will inevitably follow.
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Step 3: Refocus
Our focus lies wherever our eye is fixed. Are you wearied by looking at the long year ahead? Is your energy sapped whenever you examine the traumatic world events of the last two years? Nothing withers hope and vitality more than when we fix our eyes on circumstances, rather than on Jesus.
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2, BST).
In 1918 Helen Howarth Lemmel wrote a hymn that beautifully describes what happens when we take our eyes off the world and place them upon our Savior. Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus was composed after she received a tract titled, “Focused.” The little pamphlet read, “So then, turn your eyes upon Him, look full into His face, and you will find that the things of earth will acquire a strange new dimness.”
As we rest in Christ and remember His goodness, the need to lift our eyes to Him becomes an overwhelming urge. But what is it about Jesus’s face that causes the world around us grow strangely dim? The Bible tells us that in Jesus’s face, the glory of God is revealed (2 Corinthians 4:6).
No temporal distraction, nor any dark trial can ever compete with the radiance of God’s glory. When our eyes are fixed on Jesus the winds and waves can swirl all around us, but we remain firmly in His grasp as we move forward toward Him.
Practical steps to refocus: Take a media and technology-free day to prayerfully seek God’s guidance for the new year. With eyes on Christ alone, ask Him to draw you into His plans for the new year and order your steps. Listen for His answers in the pages of His word. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7).
Step 4: Recommit
Every year millions of people around the world make new year’s resolutions, and less than 8% ever keep them. But this grim statistic shouldn’t discourage the Believer from setting goals and persevering to reach them. Instead, the shocking figures should help us understand an important truth found in scripture.
“All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord. Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans” (Proverbs 16:2, 3).
From the moment a Believer is born again, our lives are under new ownership. Yet often we forget to consult the new owner about our plans for success. We can allow God to replenish us, remember His goodness, and even fix our eyes on Him, but if after all that we choose to walk according to our own inclinations instead of surrendering to His Lordship, we’re doomed to wander aimlessly—just like the Israelites in the wilderness.
In a culture that places the utmost value on independence and individual rights the idea of Lordship can seem foreign and even a little repugnant. But a Believer’s patriotic ideals must not seep into our spiritual beliefs. The truth is, Christianity is not a representative republic or democracy. We don’t elect God as our King when we accept Christ as Savior. He is King, whether we accept His gracious gift of salvation or not.
Do you honor God as King in your life? Does He have the final say about decisions you make and the direction your life will take? Or do you reserve the right to veto His plans if they don’t adhere to your own? These are vitally important questions all Believers must ask themselves on a regular basis.
What does Lordship have to do with overcoming post-holiday lethargy? A surrendered Believer is a revived Believer. We must empty ourselves of ourselves so that His life can flow freely through us (Galatians 2:20). Christ has already done all the work for this exchange to occur. His Holy Spirit is the very essence of life and vitality. Day by day we must simply commit to walk in the freedom of His Lordship.
Practical steps to recommit: Prayerfully ask God to show you any areas in your life where you’re reserving your own rights. Repent if He shows you areas that need to be surrendered. Ask Him to reveal areas in your thinking where His Kingship has fallen prey to cultural stigmas and ask Him to renew your mind. Recommit your ways, your life, and your heart to the Lord’s ownership. Let Him know that this year, and every year, belongs to Him alone and pray that His will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.
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Step 5: Rejoice
There’s no better way to ward off a spirit of heaviness than to rehearse and make known the goodness of God through verbal and/or musical celebration. As an overflow of the other steps, rejoicing seems the perfect way to express our delight in God’s provision, His great works, His word, His grace, and His Lordship.
During one of Paul’s prison stints, the apostle wrote a letter to the church at Philippi. In that letter he gave the Philippians a secret weapon, in the form of a command, that would help them through their season of uncertainty.
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4).
As far as suffering and uncertainty are concerned, Paul was an expert. Through all his trials Paul learned that joy in the Lord has nothing to do with time, space, feeling, or circumstance—which all change from one moment to the next. His joy was rooted in Christ, who is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 12:8).
Our joy in Christ is unshakable because He is unshakable. Rejoicing at all times doesn’t mean we fake happiness during seasons of trouble, despair, or doldrums. It means that we choose to demonstrably remember, at all times, that He is the source of our joy.
When Christians acknowledge the unshakable joy we have in Christ our voices become an audible expression of our inward faith. Rejoicing and praise go hand and hand. Throughout Scripture we see examples of how rejoicing can turn the tide in the supernatural realm, make a huge difference in our outlook on life, and can even be used by God to change circumstances (2 Chronicles 20:22, Psalm 63, Acts 16:25-26).
Practical steps to rejoice: Read aloud some of your favorite scriptures that describe God’s character. It’s amazing how that simple act can ignite your heart with a renewed passion for Him. Find Christ-centered, worshipful music to sing to Him. Call or Text a family member or friend for the sole purpose of joyfully reminding them about the hope the lies inside you. Be on the lookout throughout your day for simple reasons to rejoice; celebrate the blessings each of us take for granted in everyday life. Rejoice over a fresh new morning, the ability to get out of bed, clean water, health, freedom, etc. Rejoicing subjects our feelings to the transformative power of truth.