I’m on my yearly quest for next year’s planner. It is my ritual between Christmas and New Year’s to find that wonderful little tool I equal parts love and need to keep my life smooth and manageable. I am aware there are fancy shmancy ones I could order on line but that is not how I roll on this quest. I have the need to feel the actual paper and the weight and how the pages flip or don’t. This is an old school method for an old school tool and I adore it. There is just something about a New Year isn’t there? A new chapter and a fresh start. I generally do not make resolutions- though I often have an area of focus that I like to look back on and see progress in. And a few years ago I began to state beliefs I am resolved to cling to as life ebbs and flows over 365 days. 2016 has been a transitional time in my life and family, and transitions are generally uncomfortable as change is hard. I have prayed a lot this year and dug deep into the truth in God’s word. I have learned a few powerful lessons and from those, am offering a few areas to consider focusing on as you resolve and confess and seek the Lord for direction in the coming year.
Growth is more important than goals. I love checking off tasks accomplished and goals achieved but I am convinced many times I lose the purpose in my desire to be done with ________. The truth is God is not overly impressed with what I do- but He is deeply concerned with who I am and what I treasure. Reading the Bible in a year is a great goal- but if the purpose of loving God deeper by knowing His word gets lost- what good really was it? Wouldn’t it be of more value to look back and see that the time spent in His word was transformative and sustaining even if you spent a whole year reading Romans?
Forgivness, not rooted in grace, can damage relationships. Stick with the same people long enough and the need to forgive will become clear. But as “Relationship 101” as the concept is, I have seen in my own heart a subtle and twisted way it can be applied. Without staying very closely connected to why I need forgiveness and the grace God extended to me in Christ- I can use forgiveness as a way to feel like the bigger and better person in my relationships. I can come out of a conflict on higher ground than you because I am measuring myself by my willingness to let you off the hook, instead of the reality that I was on a much bigger hook that God released me from and only because of His grace do I have the heart to extend love and forgiveness. This kind of forgiveness is really a form of record keeping- I am better than you because I forgave- and that kind of heart will feel justified in pride and selfishness because those behaviors will just be “evening the score” owed to you.
When life is stormy, God’s truth is the anchor that keeps you stable. External circumstances of pain or suffering always tempt us. Sometimes we are tempted to believe God is not good. He must not really love us or ________ would not be happening. Sometimes we are tempted to be a martyr, believing we are pointlessly suffering so someone else can learn a lesson or exercise free will. Or sometimes we are tempted to be fake and act more spiritual to keep up appearances and impress others with our great faith. God’s word provides truth to confront and reshape all these responses to hardship. It has been the most powerful tool– more than community or self care or worship, though all good things- in keeping my heart steady and my actions healthy this year. Ingesting truth, both through bible reading and hearing it taught on a regular basis, has kept me at peace during financial and relational chaos and given me joy when circumstances were utterly joy-less.
Over the coming months, I plan to share more on how God has applied His word to my heart in these three lessons. I hope you will stay connected and would love to hear lessons God has taught you in 2016 so together we can be encouraged!