A new year can mean a new environment whether it be starting university, a new job or a new venture, which can be both exciting and challenging with a whole new world to engage with but also in which to adapt. It may also mean another year in the same environment at school, university, work etc but it doesn’t have to mean “same old, same old”; there’s always the opportunity for something God to do something new, deeper and richer in our lives. Below are some tips to help navigate through the year ahead while still growing in our faith wherever we may find ourselves:
It may be the most basic aspect of any faith life but it is the most important. A simple way we can do that is to start each day by thanking God for giving us another day and to ask for God’s help in carrying out whatever we need to do that day. We can then end the day by reflecting back over our day and think about where God may have been guiding us, thank God for all that has been – even the small things and the difficult challenges – and think about how we can do better the next day. Beginning and ending the day with prayer is a good start and then, as we are able to, we can fit in other times for prayer such as Mass, Adoration etc.
These can easily demoralize our faith but the trick is to not let them get us down, to do our best and let God take care of the rest. If we have done our best, then we can rest our conscience and, if not, we learn from our mistakes and resolve to do better next time. Whatever we may be disappointed about – results, relationships, personal issues – we may feel the world falling apart but it’s not the end of the world. We can always look to Jesus on the cross and know that we can always stay close to Him and He’ll help us get through it, however long or difficult it will be.
It’s good to want to be involved in many different things and to have an active social life and take part in many activities but taking on too much can also be counter-productive. Sometimes, in trying to help everyone, we don’t help anyone. It’s important to recognize that we’re not superhuman but that, as humans, there’s a lot we can do and should do and to know the difference between what we can do, should do and don’t need to do. If there are too many things going on at once, it’s easy to let our spiritual life be the first thing to suffer but it can also be where we can recharge if things are getting a bit too much.
This year may be a year where, due to study or work commitments, there may be less time for prayer. If that can’t be avoided, don’t worry too much about it. Unless we’re in a monastery or a convent, prayer is meant to fit around our work rather than making work fit around our prayer. If we’re at school or university, then God wants us to be the best student we can be and, if we’re at work, God wants us to be the best worker we can be. We need to offer both our study/work time for God as well as some dedicated time for prayer and to always find the right balance.
It’s important to be friendly with everyone but it’s just as important to be discerning as to who our friends are and how much time, resources and personal energy we give to them. As humans, we are like sponges in different social environments and we will absorb all that is good and bad in the people we spend time with. The measure of how good a friend is for us is how much we can be our true self around them (the self that God has created us to be) rather than needing to keep up an image we present about ourselves.
So, here’s to a new year and a year in which we’ll become closer and deeper in our relationship with God who is always close to us in the victories and struggles of life and in the ordinary every day moments too.
by Fr Brennan Sia