The New Year is a time of celebration, but it also carries with it an element of seriousness and self-reflection. As we look back on the year we’ve had, we must remember not only the good times, but the bad ones, as well. Even if it hurts, we must acknowledge our mistakes and admit to confront the personal issues we’ve failed to address. Only by appropriately dealing with the past can we begin to pursue a brighter future. So what steps can you take to start off the New Year in the right direction?
Reflect on the Past
Before you can start to reflect on the past, you have to understand it for what it is and is not. The past is not your identity; likewise, the past does not define you. The past does, however, contribute to who you are today. Every experience you’ve gone through in your life, whether positive or negative, has made some impact on your character. So when you think about the past, be careful not to give it too much power, but also not to give it too little credit.
As you think about all you’ve gone through, be honest with yourself. What things would you have done differently? What things did you spend too much time worrying about? This exercise isn’t meant to tear down your self-esteem, but to help you learn from your mistakes so that you don’t re-make them in the coming year. To counter this bittersweet thought process, think about everything you’re thankful for. Take time to praise God for all the blessings He’s given you, not just in the past year, but throughout all your life.
Deal With Grief
Everyone faces grief at some point; some may grieve more than others, and some may grieve very little. But if one thing is for sure, it’s this: we face grief more often than we like to believe. It’s in our human nature to act strong, to keep on going when the going gets tough. Every so often, though, we need to admit just how fragile we are.
Over time, we take a lot of spiritual, emotional, and physical damage, and that often goes unchecked. We let things fester in hopes that one day all our problems will just disappear. But when things bother us, often the best thing to do is address them before they gain leverage over us. It’s okay to feel sad or troubled; God created us with a variety of emotions for a reason. Even Jesus grieved the deaths of His beloved friends. When John the Baptist was killed, Jesus didn’t pretend to be unaffected or indifferent. He retreated from the crowds to mourn. He recognized that grief is something that needs to be dealt with.
Maybe you, like Jesus, just need some time alone to pray and let your sorrow pass. Maybe you need to talk to friends and spiritual mentors. No matter what it is you’ve been grieving, you can always leave the worst of it in the year you leave behind.
Examine Your Heart
2 Corinthians 13:5 says, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” The world is a harsh and difficult place, but often the biggest challenges we face are within us. We are sinners from birth, and so we should constantly be repenting and seeking to become more like Jesus. In order to do that, we must examine our hearts and do some much-needed self-reflection.
Now, there comes a point where too much reflection can actually be detrimental to your spiritual and emotional health. In Drake Baer’s article “The Right Way(s) to Do Introspection”, he says
…things go off the rails when you start interpreting and reinterpreting your emotional state. If you start feeling bad about feeling bad, that’s rumination.
The purpose of examining your heart is not merely to point out your weaknesses and make you question your identity. The purpose is to build your faith by convicting you of sin and directing you to God’s truth.
Set Lasting Goals – Not Resolutions
New Year’s Resolutions have a bad reputation for a very good reason – they rarely last. That’s not because they are inherently bad ideas, but because people go about them the wrong way. They start out with a grand vision and expect to get there without putting in effort each and every day. But in order to achieve lasting change, you first have to work toward forming good habits.
In Susan Weinschenk article, she names three steps for creating new habits:
- Picking a small action
- Attaching the new action to a previous habit
- Making the new action easy to do for at least the first week.
This process makes change much more achievable and lasting compared to the short-lived trends we see happening every January. This year, work toward greatness not because it’s a so-called ‘resolution’, but because it’s a real goal that will ultimately improve your life.
Encourage One Another
Finally, you can’t go through this year alone. We were not made to struggle through life on our own. First and foremost, we have the comfort and grace of Jesus, who will strengthen us in our weakness. God has also given us fellow believers to build us up and encourage us in all that we do that is good. Don’t be afraid to reach out to those around you for help and support.
In the same manner, don’t be afraid to reach down and offer help and support to those who need it. We are the body of Christ, made to bring each other closer to Him, and that should be the goal of every believer this New Year.
What are some New Year Resolutions that you would like to work on?
Leave your thoughts below!