“See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being, I announce them to you.” - Isaiah 42:9 (NIV)
I must confess, I love the new year.
The more I learn about process, cycles, and seasons, the more I love things that symbolize fresh starts and new beginnings. Each Monday, when I open my planner to a new week, or each month, as I turn my calendar to a new page, it is like a breath of fresh air. When the natural seasons change, I celebrate, teaching my kids fun little rituals to mark the transition.
But the new year? That’s my favorite fresh start of all. No matter how hard the previous year was or how weary I am, my heart cannot help but experience a surge of hope on January 1.
Our culture seems a little confused about what to do with the new year. On one hand, there’s a tremendous push to “start things off right,” or commit to a “new you.” Surely, it’s the health and fitness industry’s favorite time of year! There is a lot of pressure to make changes and choices, to do a better job this time.
On the other hand, there will be a barrage of articles and statistics about all the reasons resolutions are pointless and why you’ll certainly fail. There might be a few attempts at helpful tips, offering better ways to manage your goals, but in the end, it kind of feels like one colossal gimmick, the next marketing surge on the path to Valentine’s and Easter. (Do you realize that one month the advertisers are trying to make us buy health products and gym memberships, and the next month, they push us to buy chocolate? It’s just not right!)
It can be tempting to get cynical, or to dismiss it as nothing more than the usual passage of time, no big deal. If you’re really feeling discouraged, you might think, I’ve tried so many times and still failed to change. Maybe I shouldn’t try again. Perhaps you simply feel overwhelmed with all the possibilities—where should you even start?
Take a deep breath.
Every spiritual process requires practical action.
God wants to speak to us. The best thing we can do is prepare our hearts to take it all in. Every spiritual process requires practical action. Here are a few suggestions, based on my personal experience:
Take your time. I rarely set any goals or form any plans at the very beginning of the year. The entire month of January is set aside for listening, processing, absorbing. Many churches offer special services for worship and prayer; this is a wonderful opportunity to soak and rest in God’s presence. The more you are with Him, the more revelation into His heart (and your own) you will have.
Acknowledge the disappointments, failures, struggles, etc. from the previous year, and release them. When we try to bury, ignore, or dismiss these things, we actually end up giving them more power over us; we also don’t learn as much from them. I like to write things out, then go over them one by one and talk to God about them. I’m not talking about lofty, spiritual language here. Get raw and honest with God; He can handle it. Then choose to trust Him with working it all together for your good.
Identify what’s important to you as an individual. Sometimes we think all our goals need to be spiritual or profound, but God has wired you with certain interests, passions, and strengths for a reason. I really love to cook, and last year, I decided I wanted to grow in this area. It seemed kind of silly at the time, but I embraced it anyway. It’s amazing to look back at what a difference that one seemingly not-so-spiritual thing made in my life. My family is healthier, I found another creative outlet, and yes, I even gained some deep spiritual insights as God spoke to me through what was happening in my kitchen.
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you discern what is meant to be a priority to you. There will be many great prophetic words and insights coming. There will be causes brought to your attention. There will be all manner of efforts and initiatives. Not all of these things will be your assignment. God has a way of highlighting what He is calling you to. Pay attention to what deeply resonates with you or to what you cannot stop thinking about. Also, consider the season you are in and what responsibilities you have. This can help you identify what needs to be a priority.
Be expectant. Our family has a “good things” jar, labelled with the current year. When something happens that we want to remember, big or small, we write it down and put it in the jar. At the end of the year, it is so fun, even surprising, to pull out the squares of paper and remember all the bright moments. But when we started this habit, I did it because I was struggling to have faith for good things. I was carrying deep disappointment in my heart, and I was afraid I was going to be crushed by it. It was a desperate act of faith to set a jar out where I would see it daily, believing it would be filled with good things. But 12 months later, it was full, and I had learned to see God’s goodness in all kinds of places. It changed my heart. It is worth doing whatever it takes to open your heart wide to the possibilities of God’s love showing up in unexpected ways.
I want to encourage you today—God doesn’t give up on you, even when you’re tempted to give up on you. He has things He wants to show you and say to you. He has gifts to give you and divine assignments for you. He wants to bring clarity, not confusion. He is calling out your best, even while loving you fully wherever you are right now.
New beginnings are God’s idea, even His specialty. Whether you are overflowing with hope or struggling to muster some up, choose to believe His promise and His character, and get ready to hear His voice for this fresh season of your life.
“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” - Isaiah 43:19 (NIV)