Soul-Nourishing Resolutions for the New Year

As Christians, when we consider New Year’s resolutions, we often think about reading the Bible more, praying more often, or maybe getting more involved in our church. Those are all wonderful things worthy of pursuing. Rather than taking time to expound on those, however, I’d like to commend three other resolutions that may not make the usual lists. These are practical—maybe even commonsensical—but given the times in which we live, they’re easy to neglect with the result that we flourish less than we could.

Practice Attention Management
We hear a great deal about time management these days, but rarely about attention management. Americans spend multiple hours each day on their phones, with teens devoting more than nine hours(!), and adults more than four hours daily.1 We’re awash in a sea of texts, emails, videos, games, and alerts. If we’re not careful, these can become an endless series of distractions that divert our attention from more important things.

They can also subtly mold us in the shape of the secular culture that produces much of what we consume. As theologian Jason Thacker writes, “Following Jesus in a digital age requires . . . having our eyes wide open and seeing how technology is subtly shaping us in ways often contrary to our faith. We need to learn how to ask the right questions about our relationship with technology, examining it with clear eyes grounded in the Word of God.”2

Following Jesus in a digital age requires . . . having our eyes wide open and seeing how technology is subtly shaping us in ways often contrary to our faith

It takes some intentionality to “guard our hearts” from the often counter-Christian messages coming through our screens, but we have to make it a priority because “everything [we] do flows from” our hearts (Proverbs 4:23). We can use technology in many beneficial ways, but we must also “examine everything carefully” and “hold firmly to that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21, NASB), while avoiding obstacles to our spiritual growth.

Get More Sleep
There’s an old saying among pastors that “Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is take a nap.” After all, we’re not just souls or minds, but also physical beings, by God’s design. Christians are sometimes tempted to view our physical nature in a negative light, but this reflects a Gnostic view that sees the spiritual as good, and the material as bad or inferior. This is alien to Scripture, however, which tells us that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). As one theologian observes,

The body matters much more than we usually imagine it does. It matters because it locates us in time and space here on earth. It matters because we live in it and with it. It matters because through it we interact with the world around us, the people who coexist with us, and the living God who keeps us physically alive in it.3

Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). In order to keep them healthy and functioning properly, adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep each day.4 A lack of sufficient sleep can lead to heart disease, hormonal imbalances, reduced immune response, and a lack of mental focus, among other problems.5

Since blue light from our phone and computer screens can make it harder to get deep, restful sleep, this is another good reason to limit screen time, especially close to bedtime.6

Get enough sleep, and you’ll likely notice greater energy, optimism, and an increased capacity to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Our bodies and souls are integrally connected, and each significantly influences the other.7

Make New Friends / Deepen Friendships
Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, half of US adults reported feelings of loneliness, with 58 percent worrying that no one in their life knows them well.8 We live in a hyper-individualistic society that often views other people as obstacles to our personal agendas. Yet God designed us to live in close connection with other humans, especially fellow believers. The writer of Hebrews instructed his readers not to give up “meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another” (Hebrews 10:25). Like Christians in the early church, we should “[devote ourselves] to . . . fellowship” (Acts 2:42).

God designed us to live in close connection with other humans, especially fellow believers

Since we’ve been noting how some of these resolutions affect our physical health, it’s remarkable that chronic loneliness is more dangerous than smoking fifteen cigarettes a day! Thus author Justin Earley observes that “friendship will make or break your life.”9 We can see the wisdom of God’s statement in Genesis that “it is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18).

The quality of our friendships also makes a big difference. We’ve all seen groups of people sitting together in some public place, not interacting with one another, but engrossed in their phones. “This is what community often looks like in the digital age,” writes pastor Jay Kim: “Lonely individuals falling prey, over and over again, to the great masquerade of digital technology” that lulls us “into a state of isolation via the illusion of digital connection.”10

As Kim goes on to note, while we can communicate digitally, we can only commune in person. Communication is about the exchange of information, while communing involves the exchange of presence. Communing is the more difficult task because it “requires more of us: more of our attention, empathy, and compassion.”11

So this year, I encourage you to intentionally look for opportunities to begin new friendships and deepen old ones. It will take some deliberate effort, and every relationship will have growing pains, but the greater depth of fellowship will be worth it. As the pastor and evangelist George Whitefield once said, “No man is the whole of himself. His friends are the rest of him.”12

Christopher L. Reese (MDiv, ThM) is a writer, editor, and journalist. He is the founder and editor of The Worldview Bulletin and a general editor of the Dictionary of Christianity and Science (Zondervan, 2017) and Three Views on Christianity and Science (Zondervan, 2021). His work has appeared in Christianity Today, Bible Gateway, Beliefnet, Summit Ministries, and other sites.