It’s that time of year again when Facebook promotes it’s “Your Year in Review” algorithm as well as everyone starting to talk about what resolutions they’ll be making. “Christmas is over, and now, now it’s time to get back to reality and change things that we never got around to changing this past year.” I’ve done this may times before. In years past, I’ve spent a few days around this time of year to pray through and plan out what I’d like to do in the coming year. It could be new opportunities, fitness goals, family goals, or areas I’d like to grow in.
But I’ve noticed a problem. The problem isn’t planning for the coming year, it’s planning without taking an honest look at what just happened in the past 365 days. If I don’t have a clear handle on what has gone on in these past 52 weeks, what makes me think that what I plan will actually happen without being affected by the patterns and habits in my life that are positive and/or negative? The truth is no matter how much I plan, I can’t control everything nor everyone around me. The second truth is if there are things in my past, even this past year, that I haven’t fully dealt with/explored/grieved/understood/acknowledged or reflected on, those things will haunt me in all of my future plans.
I’m not suggesting that my hurts, hang ups and habits won’t affect me negatively at all if I take the time to examine the past year. I am suggesting that if I don’t take the time to examine, they will have a far greater affect on me this coming year. And it’s not just thinking about and focusing on the bad, it’s also taking the time to celebrate the good that has come about. Perhaps it’s cultural, but it seems we in the West, don’t take time to celebrate the good, no matter how small, that comes into our lives. Especially if that good comes via a path of great pain and difficulty.
Earlier today, I finished going through a set of questions a friend of mine posted to help reflect on this past year. Dr. Steve Brown sent a list of questions as a way to help to navigate the past. He encouraged us to take 60 minutes to do so. Mine took a few hours (it’s been an incredibly hard but formational year for me), and this was just a good start to process what has really gone on. If you don’t have that kind of time, I really encourage you to take 2-3 questions and that 60 minutes and reflect on your year. Even if you think it was the same, mundane year as always, you might be surprised by what has actually gone on under the surface.
I also encourage you to lean into your community/support circle and process through some of this. God designed us for community. Having those around us who can speak truth and an outside perspective is more valuable than the purest gold.
Start by simply writing down things that happened. Think of holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, etc. Then prayerfully think through these questions and journal your answers. Here are the questions:
- What’s been hardest?
- What surprised you most?
- What are you thankful for?
- Where did you fail? What did you learn?
- What’s been disappointing?
- Who or what do you need to grieve?
- Where have you been stretched? Where have you grown? What have you learned?
- What have you been encouraged by? What should you celebrate?
- Where do you see blessings from waiting? From struggle?
- Who or what have you invested in?
- How have you seen God at work? What have your learned about Him?
- What’s on God’s heart for you this next year?
- What are your big priorities for the year ahead?
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For me, I noticed patterns of feeling as though I was in the wilderness and God was silent, lots of time simply waiting and the difficulty of waiting for a guy like me. But through that hardship, I have a greater understanding of peace and trust in Him. This isn’t exhaustive as to what I wrote down, but a good start to the conversation.
So, what about you? What were things that you noticed? Where was God in all of this? And in what areas did you grow? Sharing our stories and experiences helps us to know we are not alone on the journey!