Today marks the final blog in our series on establishing and maintaining well-being as we enter the new year. The last two weeks we explored physical and emotional health; today we dive into our spiritual well-being. Of all the areas of personal well-being, our spiritual health can be the most difficult to understand and maintain. There are clear signs we are struggling with our physical and emotional health: our weight goes up, our depression and anxiety kick in, our body tells us when something is off. Spiritual signs of struggle, however, can be harder to detect.
Struggles with Spirituality
As Christians it is common to face struggles with faith. Our spirituality goes through phases, often aligning with the phases of our lives. During difficult times we may go through a period of anger towards God, or doubt our faith. When the world feels overwhelming and dark, we may feel hopeless in our spirits. Most often, we simply feel out of step and distant as we get caught up in our day-to-day lives, or like we have come up against a wall, unsure how to move forward in our faith.
Here are some common causes of spiritual struggles:
- Death or pain of a loved one
- Health, financial, or relationship issues
- Major life changes
- Feeling bored by life’s routines
- Feeling overwhelmed or too busy
- Comparing our spiritual journey with others
- Depression and anxiety
These moments are all difficult, and it is normal–even necessary–for our faith to be challenged by life’s trials. These difficulties provide us opportunities to grow closer to God and become aware of how the Holy Spirit works through us and around us.
Here are some ways to reinvigorate your spiritual health:
- Make time daily for quiet reflection
- Read and meditate on Scripture
- Read new books, listen to podcasts or watch movies that will prompt new spiritual questions and probe your thinking
- Join a small group
- Make intentional time to help those around you
- Find a spiritual director to talk through your struggles
- Confide in friends, family, and most importantly, the Lord
One of the best decisions I made in 2021 was to find a spiritual director to help me process the issues of the day. I did this through 2022 and now, in 2023, I am engaging in the Ignatian Exercises, meeting weekly with my spiritual director to process issues that the Lord has brought to my attention. The encouragement I want to give to you about your spiritual development is this: begin where you are!
I am a big advocate for the Stop-Challenge-Choose tool, a very simple tool that was introduced by Dr. Wayne Scott Andersen, Co-Founder of OptaVia. Stop-Challenge-Choose allows us to reflect on specific actions and habits in our lives and consider how we can adapt for the better.
STOP: What do you need to stop doing?
CHALLENGE: What specific actions can you take to achieve different results?
CHOOSE: What new behavior, technique, or mindset changes will you adopt immediately?
Used with permission from Dr. A’s Habits of Health (pgs.133-137) by Dr. Wayne Scott Andersen
It is important to remember that well-being is holistic; all areas of health affect all other areas of health. If your mental health is suffering and you are feeling depressed or anxious, those feelings can distract and distance us from the Lord and impact our spiritual well-being. Likewise, if you are in poor physical health, it can have a significant impact on your mental health. Taking care of yourself is a way to honor the Lord.
- Which moments have been difficult for your faith in this last year?
- Who or what helped you through these moments?
- When were the moments you felt closest to God this year?
- What sparked these moments?
- What is your spiritual routine (prayer? Readings? Reflections?)
- What action can you take to grow spiritually this upcoming year?