The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is one of my favorite times of the year. After the rush of Christmas, as Courtney and I take off work to spend time with family, I love to look back on the last year, dream about possibilities, and make resolutions for the year to come. I have failed many times in my attempts, but on the whole, I accomplish more than I would have without making resolutions.
There’s nothing in the Bible that mentions New Year’s resolutions, but there are many places that encourage God’s people to recommit themselves to God and following God’s way of life. The beginning of a new year provides a great opportunity to stop, reflect on where you are, and resolve to grow in faithfulness in the year to come.
For the last few years, my wife Courtney and I have set aside time to reflect on the past year and make resolutions for the year to come. We take a look at the major areas of our lives, assess where we are in those areas, and make plans for the next year. You can access the reflection guide that we use here, but what follows is a basic outline of the process.
Begin by inviting God into the process. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you what you need to see and to guide you into God’s will. You might pray this prayer or another like it:
God of our past, present, and future,
All that we have and all that we are is from you.
As we stand at the edge of a new year,
Help us appreciate your blessings,
And guide us into your future
So that we might become the people you made us to be
And resemble Jesus more with each passing year.
In his name we pray, Amen.
Review the Past Year
Take a look at where you’ve come in the past 365 days. What were high and low points? What are you celebrating? What was disappointing? What are you thankful for? Where was God at work? Take time to give thanks, ask forgiveness, and celebrate with God.
Look at the Different Areas of Your Life
After looking at the past year as a whole, examine the different areas of your life. I include my vocation, family and relationships, spiritual life, health, finances, and service. For each of these areas, ask the following questions:
- Where are you in relation to where you started the year?
- What can you celebrate?
- What were some of the obstacles that got in the way, both internal and external?
- How do you hope to grow in this area in the coming year?
- What is the first step to making that happen?
Identifying the next step is one of the most important ways that you can improve the likelihood of success. “Spend more time with family” is a good intention, but it’s too vague to act on. “Schedule an hour each week to spend playing with my daughter” makes clear how you will spend more time with your family.
After taking the time to reflect on your year, examine the different areas of your life, and set goals for the coming year, commit to living them out. Ask God to guide you and help you live faithfully into God’s will.
It also helps to choose one goal to work on at a time. When you try to change too much, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and quit. When you work on one area at a time, you have more focus and you can build momentum that will help you continue moving forward.
I hope you have a blessed 2019 and accomplish everything you set out to do. But whether you succeed or not, I hope in the year to come you grow closer to Jesus, who loves you regardless of your accomplishments, and experience the grace of God in new and life-changing ways.