I love New Years. Something about new beginnings and chances to improve always gives me a feeling of hope and excitement. Plus, I just love champagne. It’s almost as invigorating as the idea of letting go of “the old” things you want to forget or habits you want to change. Like running like an Olympian to catch the kids’ bus every day. Or drinking that second (okay fourth) cup of coffee before three.
I think the innate desire to get better, go further, and stretch stems from God. He seems to be quite the opposite of stagnancy and comfortable familiarity, or boredom. But many times in order to evolve and be closer to our best selves, we have to let go of some things, and even experience some growing pains. It can be admittedly difficult, especially when we’re letting go of people or habits that have been with us for long, or bring us extra comfort. But if you feel God’s calling out of something, it’s only for our best, and there will be joy and freedom on the other side of the struggle. It helps to focus what we’re being drawn towards, instead of what we’re ‘losing’ or giving up. And when change gets tough, remind your heart to trust that anything we’re letting go of, is for our own good. God knows what how we’re built, what we struggle with, what we need, and how we’ll get there. Here are six things to let go of, in order to make this year a great one.
Negativity is just a result of thoughts existing out of God’s will. 2 Cor. 10:5 says to take every thought captive to Christ. That means literally transferring every thought that whispers ‘you can’t do that,’ or ‘I wish I was her,’ or ‘ I’ll never get this right,’ and handing it over to the Lord. It can be tough, especially negative thinking seems justified, by the world’s standard, but positivity is a mental exercise that trains your heart and your brain to see things through God’s eyes. If we focus on God, His goodness, His love and faithfulness, we can see past our negative thoughts. If you feel like you have greater chances of discovering life on Mars than losing that last 10 pounds, focus on the fact that you’re healthy and have the ability to exercise and move, when so many don’t. If your co-worker almost insists on slacking, or just plain drives you nuts, try praying for them, asking for grace, and be thankful you don’t share their same weaknesses. Like any spiritual exercise, it takes some practice, but it helps to think, “How would Jesus think and act in this situation? Even if we’d be right, in the natural, to feel and act negatively, God calls us to let go and think differently. With a willing spirit, nothing is impossible with Him.
This is one to toss out, and never look back, this year. No one likes the feeling of failure, but hanging on to memories of things you wish you did differently can be so paralyzing. We might have real wounds, and regret that we wasted time on the wrong relationship, made a poor business investment, or regret not apologizing to that friend quick enough. But God calls repent, meditate on how we can do better, moving forward without feelings of guilt. Dwelling on our failures brings a sense of defeat, hopelessness and keeps us stuck in the past, instead of trusting God still has a plan. A great scripture for the New Year is Romans 8:28: “For God works all things together for those who love the Lord.” No matter what, God has been and is still working to make sure we’ll prosper, despite anything we wish we did differently in the past.
3. Unhealthy Relationships
Whether romantic or platonic in nature, unhealthy relationships can be toxic, wrongfully influence us, or simply drain our energy. Sometimes we exist on auto-pilot, without examining the state of our lives- how and whom we spend our time with, and where we allocate our energy. Whether it’s a quasi-ex who’s still in the picture, or a “friend” always giving ungodly advice or ushering in temptation, it’s worth transitioning out of unhealthy relationships this year, as painful as it may be. We’re called to love others, even our enemies, and serve others before ourselves. But there’s a difference between being kind, and being doormats. We have to have boundaries. Even Jesus withdrew from others and said the word ‘no,’ from time to time, escaping into nature for days on end to be alone with God. If you sense God pulling you away from a relationship, ask for wisdom and help moving in a different direction. It will be worth the admittedly difficult process, in the end, and we’ll have the energy for those He’s put in our paths.
It’s been said that nothing great has ever been accomplished without passion. One of the best ways to guarantee we have a fulfilling new year is to say ‘yes’ and simply live more. The definition of apathy is indifference, and a lack of interest or concern. Sometimes we approach life with a lack of expectancy and adventure, simply because the distractions and pressures of daily life snuff out the magic, wonder and belief that there are always new and exciting things to learn, ways to grow and experiences to have, even when it feels we have ourselves and our world figured out. We often become dormant without realizing it, sinking into the comfortable plateau of behaviors and activities we’ve become accustomed to, but miss out on the next great friend, or move of the Lord, or just plain fun adventure because we know what we like, and we do what we do. God has so many opportunities and new ventures waiting for us this year, but it takes us being stretched out of our comfort zones, and saying ‘yes’ to more in life, this year.
5. Wrongful Patterns of Thinking
Those ugly fears and self-doubt, come to mind. These are killers. We’re all plagued by fear and worry to some degree, but in God’s strength, we are able limit the place these thoughts have in our minds. We all know those especially damaging lies we sometimes believe – that it’s too late, or we’ve made too many mistakes for those secret dreams- the really sacred ones you barely share with anyone- might not come to fruition. The worry that our kids will make bad choices, or we’ll never “get it right” in a certain area. The thing about fear is it only has the power we give it. We have the daily, and if need be, moment-to-moment choice to either believe the Scripture ‘perfect love casts out all fear,’ is true, and we have authority over fear, in Christ…or allow it to dwell. Fear not only stops us from feeling hopeful, but it robs us of our joy, and squelches the abundant life we’re created for. Pray for increased faith, and the strength to say no to wrongful patterns of thinking – He will answer!
6. Our Will
How many times have we seriously tried to do the same thing, over and over again, and either come up short or fallen flat our faces? When pondering another new year, many of us dust off the journal or open a fresh Word doc, listing off all the goals and hopes for the next 365 days, and then ask God to bless them. “Lord, help me to find a better job in this specific industry, more success in the ministry I’ve chosen, and better communication with the boyfriend I’m not sure I’m supposed to even be with. And abs. Better abs would be stellar.” Many of us have been programmed to believe that if we love God, and our intentions are good, the plans for our life will just naturally unfold. But I’ve found God will still bless our life- our health, our jobs, our kids, even when we’re not operating in the fullness of who He’s called us to be. This year, instead of asking God to come alongside our plans, let’s spend time asking what He desires, for your life. When our hearts really align with the truth that God is good, we’ll understand He wants better for us than we can even imagine, and trust His plans, alone. He wants us to be happy (He did make chocolate and espresso beans). The best year is surely ahead of us, with Him, leading the way.’
Life can feel eternal, especially when thinking of a whole new year, but it really is a vapor. Life is too short to give fear, regret, bad habits or anything outside of God’s will for us, a place in this next year. Let’s run towards this next season, free of anything that holds us down, and embrace newness and freedom. Cheers to the adventure!