Three habits to keep strong amidst life’s challenges

If you are reading this, congratulations! You have survived 2020, the year infamously tagged as the worst year ever, and that had people wishing on social media for it to just end. In all
sincerity, 2020 has brought about loss like our generation has never seen before – of lives,
health, jobs, freedom, sanity, and even hope.

Now that we have entered not just a new year but a new decade, the communal prayer is for
2021 to be kinder, especially given the news of the COVID-19 vaccine being available and
already administered in some countries. But as reports explode about a new strain of the corona virus spreading even before the original strain is defeated, this question comes back on an indefinite loop: when will all this end?

If you are like me, you probably had a handful of challenges already even before the virus
dropped a ton more to your plate. And the scary truth is, some crossed over to the new year with us. While I cannot assure you on when and if they will ever be gone, what I have for you is a three-piece armor you can wear to make you stronger and to keep you sane as you face your old struggles, and even new battles, moving forward.

1. Feel the feelings

Negative feelings are not sin. As the famous K-Drama title goes, “It’s Okay to Not Be Okay.”  God created human beings with emotions, even the undesirable ones. You may feel sadness,  fear, frustration, confusion, or a mixture of all these and more. Whatever those feelings are, what matters is how you handle them. 

Instead of ignoring, denying, or sweeping them under the rug, face them. Acknowledge the
anxiety and the anger, like how you would welcome the joy and the excitement. Identify what you are feeling – call them by name. This is the first step to overcoming them. You cannot fight an enemy you do not know, or an enemy that you deny. 

Once you are acquainted with your feelings, channel them out in a healthy way. You can speak with a person you trust, write in a journal (or type it, if you are the more digital type), punch your pillows, scream, sing your heart out at karaoke, or better yet, pray to God. Do this as much as is needed, until you feel better. Then incorporate the best ones in your routine. Just be careful not to hurt yourself or other people, nor dwell on negative emotions for long. Face them, then say farewell.

After you have let them out, prevent them from coming back by filling up your heart with positive feelings. You can do this by finding a hobby that sparks joy for you, spending time with people who inspire you, or making a daily list of things you are grateful for (I know of many people who are doing this and are blessed). Master your emotions instead of letting them master you. Your feelings are part of you, but they are not you.

2. Control the controllables

We live in a culture where individual success is encouraged and pursued, and construed as a direct result of hard work. This is why when almost the whole nation suddenly went on lockdown in 2020 and people were forced to stay home, many felt trapped and depressed on some levels. We felt as if we lost the control we once had.
While taking responsibility and being accountable for one’s own life is an admirable trait, we have to recognize that in reality, we cannot control everything. Having full control is a myth. Take nature as an example: the sun rises and sets without you having to contribute anything for it to happen. The wind blows, climates change, storms come and pass. There is a Higher Being Who is ultimately in control. He is powerful and trustworthy, even when things are difficult to accept or understand.
What, or who, then, can you control? You! Just you. Your thoughts, your emotions, your response to everything happening around you. I understand how many times our thoughts and emotions can be all jumbled up and messy. It’s okay, it happens. Our emotions are influenced by what we think, so the best way to keep them both grounded is to guard what enters our mind.
Think about it – how are your everyday activities affecting your thought life? What you look at in social media, what you watch, what you read, the songs you listen to, the people you converse with, the thoughts you conjure or entertain. All of these determine the health of your mind, and eventually, your heart. In any case, you can always pray to God for guidance. He can show you what is good for you, and if you let Him, He can even transform you from the inside out. Only He has the power to change hearts in ways that we cannot.
Now that you know how to control yourself, great! You may be tempted to think that you can control other people as well, by telling them certain things or treating them a certain way. While we can influence them, ultimately, how they act and what they say is out of our control. Even the greatest manipulators fail at controlling people, in one way or another. This may be a frustrating or depressing concept to grasp for some, but trust me. The moment you embrace this, you will feel a heavy burden removed from your shoulder. You cannot control people, and you do not have to. The best you can do for the transformation of others is to pray for them and be a good role model. Focus on being the best you can be, as God designed you to be. He will take care of the rest.

3. Major in the majors

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “major” (adjective) as “greater in dignity, rank, importance, or interest.” The question to be asked given this definition is, greater than what?
For the most part, what people deem important is usually in comparison with other things and based on personal standards. One would treat her work as more important than time watching Netflix with family because the former gives her money. Yet another may treat family time as more important than work hours. How then do we know which are major things in life, and which are the minor ones?
One good question to ask is this: How will this matter five years from now? Ten? Twenty? For eternity? If your family member leaves the soiled plates unwashed in the sink, is it worth nagging him/her about it and risking straining the relationship? How about if you found out your husband was cheating on you? Or that you have cancer? On which of these circumstances will you choose to spend more thought and energy? You see, the greater the effect of a circumstance in the future, the greater its importance and the more energy and resources you should invest in it. Stop sweating the small stuff.
Each person has exactly 24 hours in a day. That is 1,440 minutes, or 86,400 seconds. How you spend each moment adds up to your future, either positively or negatively. It is good to make plans – for your schooling, career, family, child’s education, investments, retirement. But life does not end there. When you reach your last moment, how will you know that your life was well-lived? Are you certain that you will be with God for eternity, even after life is over for you here on earth?
The great news is that God wants you to live a meaningful life now, and to know for certain that He will carry you through to eternity with Him in heaven. Yes, you may have blunders and failures (a.k.a. sin), but that is exactly why Jesus came to earth to be human, was crucified, died, and rose to life again. He did all that so you would not have to face the consequences of your sins. He is willing to take over the cost for you, that is, if you let Him.
If living an abundant life now and forever does not sound major to you, I do not know what else will. Entrust your all to Jesus today. Let Him be your Saviour and your Lord and Master. Then the rest of your concerns will fade into less major, and even minor, category.
So there you have it! I pray that these three tips will be beneficial for you to make it through whatever 2021 and the future has in store for you. As the saying goes, we do not know what the future holds, but we know Who holds the future. For every challenge, there is a lesson that can be learnt.
We cannot go back and undo 2020 anymore, but this year is still for our taking. Feel the feelings, control the controllables, and major in the majors. You can live a victorious life in Christ!
About The Author
Joyce Amonoy

Joyce Amonoy

Joyce is a freelance writer who loves sharing testimonies of God’s faithfulness and love through meaningful content and conversations. She practices SEO, copywriting, and content creation. You can connect with her through her FB page, JC E-Solutions.

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