New Years Aspiration by Dr. Michelle Bengtson

The clock strikes twelve and then the pressure is on. At least that’s how it always seemed to me.

As Aud Lang Syne is sung around the globe and another year is festively rung in. Hopes and dreams of new achievements rest on the best intentions of resolutions.

Even as a child I was never a fan of New Years’ resolutions. I heard too many adults moan and groan of failed resolutions within days of making their promises, followed by weak excuses for their lack of results.

Rarely did I hear resolve to tweak the plan and start again the next day. To me, resolutions sounded like a recipe for failure. Yet failure seemed inevitable in life, so I was unsure why we needed to plan for it.

Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not against goal-setting or working toward improving ourselves. In fact, I’m all for it. I’m just not enchanted with New Years’ resolutions.

Over the past few years, however, I have taken on a yearly “challenge” of sorts. It’s the idea of selecting a word or theme to focus on for the next year. That one word may sum up who you want to be or how you want to live for the year. Unlike a New Years’ resolution, however, I’ve never actually chosen my word or theme. It’s more like it’s been impressed upon me by the Lord.

I can’t even tell you how or when this practice began for me. Yet these annual words or themes have born much more fruit in the long run than I’ve ever seen come from even the best-kept resolutions.

In a recent discussion with friends about their practices, I’ve heard a wide variety of words chosen as their annual theme: believe, ignite, diamond, love, new, intentional, awe, faithful, discipline, and more. Their words intrigued and fascinated me…some I was so enamored with, I even wished they had been mine.

In my own practices, I have found that when He gives me a word or phrase, it’s usually quite a challenge. Every year it seems the word He gives me is almost too difficult. It’s never too difficult for Him, but it almost always seems too difficult for me.

Every year, regardless of the specific word or phrase, the experience always brings me back to the fundamentals: am I going to trust God? Will I trust Him in my inherent lack? Will I trust Him to be for me what I cannot? Will I trust Him to take my surrendered heart and finish in me what He started?

This past year He gave me the phrase, “boldly courageous.” It seemed around every corner was yet another opportunity for me to practice bold courage. Time after time I wanted to crawl back into a hole and choose to be invisible. And yet I would hear the whisper, “Is that what boldly courageous looks like?” and out I would go, to face the challenge, trusting in Him with each trepidatious step. In the end, I never regretted one of those challenges He set before me.

This year, I’m still uncertain what word or phrase He has for me, and honestly, I find myself having a touch of uncertainty because I know how difficult the words have been before. So I’m wondering what next year’s word will be. Wondering what I’ll be faced with, challenged with. Yet, in the end, I know that whatever it is, it will grow me and mature me in Him, and that is always a good thing. A very good thing.

So whether you are making New Year’s resolutions, or choosing a personal theme for the year, commit your efforts to the Lord. As you stumble, and you will because we all do, go back to the source. Trust Him. Look not to the left or right, not to what your friends or neighbors are doing, but only to the plan He has for you. He knows the plans He has for you and they are good. They are plans for a future and a hope, plans to prosper you and not to harm you (Jeremiah 29:11). When the challenge is hard, remember that the reward in Him will be greater.

“Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people” (Colossians 3:23 NLT).

Happy New Year!

Because of Him,
Hope Prevails


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