Starting at the beginning question here, religion is constantly debated and challenged. Some people see religion as a support to get through life, but not as anything more serious than that. If religion is just a set of rose-colored lenses to see the world through, does it even work? And if so, how?
Religion does work, or at least it can. The thing with religion is that you have to put into it what you want out of it. So for religion to really work for you, religion needs to be your lifestyle. You won’t believe the payoff that comes from dedicating yourself to your religion.
If you’re wondering if this is actually true, you’re not alone. I wondered if the effort of religion was worth it, even growing up in a religious home. Later, when I served as a missionary in the Philippines, a man asked me almost the exact question this post is titled.
When he asked me this question, it actually drew me up short. Despite my own questions growing up, I had never really put the answer to this question into words. Does religion work?
In that moment, facing that man who was genuinely asking if what I was offering him was worth spending any time on, I had to pause. Then the answer came, and it’s the same answer I gave you right at the start of this post.
Religion does work.
Religion, when it is your lifestyle, actually changes you into someone who lives what they believe rather than someone who just says they believe something and isn’t really sure.
So how do you make religion your lifestyle?
Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone… For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.James 2:17, 26 (King James Version)
As James says, action is key. So here are just a couple of my thoughts of things we can all be doing. Admittedly, these are things I am still working on, and I will probably be working on them for the rest of my life.
But that’s one of the first steps of making religion your lifestyle: recognizing that growth is part of religion and perfection isn’t.
I think sometimes religion is intimidating to people because they think they need to be perfect or saint-like, and they just aren’t. This is certainly a perspective I have heard among members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Religion is actually for people just like you and me, who know we aren’t perfect, but want to be better. It’s a work in progress, and it’s something we have to recognize and accept for religion to be a lifestyle.
Another step for making religion your lifestyle is setting up the little, daily habits.
For me and others of my faith, this can look like:
- Studying scriptures daily
- Praying – probably several times a day, anytime I have a reason to pray
- Attending church services weekly
- Regularly visiting other places of worship, such as temples
- Caring about other people and going out of your way to help them
- Spending time with family and discussing religion with them
- Learning from religious leaders
These things may not match up with your religion, and that’s fine! But I’m sure there are things like this in every religion – little things that can be worked into daily routines and keep your mind on your faith.
The great thing about these habits is that they aren’t all religion specific. Family time and caring about people don’t need a religion to be habits. However, for making religion your lifestyle, they can be pretty important.
Of course, these things can be modified to fit different life situations. For example, if family is distant, friends and neighbors can help with any family needs you might have.
A third step I’d like to recommend is surrounding yourself with religious images.
Personally, as a Christian, I like to have at least one picture of Jesus Christ in my bedroom at all times, not to mention scattered throughout my home. These pictures help me to remember Him and His love and sacrifice for me.
I also like to have several nativities set up during Christmas as part of the decorations. The nativity scenes remind me why I really celebrate Christmas.
While living in the Philippines, I saw many homes filled with figures of saints. For them, having those figures in their home helped them to show their devotion to the Catholic church.
Whether it’s Christ or Buddha, having some sort of figure or image in your home will help you remember what you believe and who you believe in.
The last step I have to suggest for making religion your lifestyle is one you’ve likely heard in a lot of places: Keep going, even when it gets rough.
As with any goal, making religion your lifestyle will be tiring at times. Sometimes, you flat-out won’t want to keep going.
Maybe you have to make more changes than you thought. Maybe your family or friends are challenging your decision. Maybe you think that you aren’t good enough or strong enough.
Keep going anyway.
Religion, when it is working, is a long-term commitment. Yep, long-term. Trust me, that kind of scares me too.
It’s worth it though.
It takes a lot of work. Habits don’t form overnight, and there are constantly challenges pushing you to choose your religion over and over again.
But at the end of it, your faith in your religion comes out stronger than anything. And the more you work at it, the less scary the commitment is.
After all, anything worth working at is worth keeping, right?
These are the steps I’ve been working on for awhile now. Complete transparency here, I am still working on these things. In fact, while I’ve been writing this, a couple of things have been hovering at the back of my mind, reminding me that I’m not where I should be on some of these practices.
Like the fact that I said to read scriptures daily, and I have yet to do so today.
But I have hit points in my life where I was routinely doing many of these things. And I have seen people who have taken steps like these in stride and become powerful in their beliefs.
It pays off. And making religion your lifestyle does make religion work. I’ve seen it in others and myself. It’s a process, a refining one, and every moment is worth the work.