It’s that time of year again: the time where we take an inventory of the last year and think ahead to the next.
In the past, for me, this not only included the immediate next year. It meant that PLUS the rest of my life. In fact, my whole life was a series of “what’s next… then what’s after that?” questions.
The world teaches us to live this way. Think about it: I bet in your pre-school graduation you shared what you wanted to be when you grew up. I know I did… I shared in my last book that I was pretty sure I’d be a country singer at that point (cannot sing, not a note). I then thought I’d go on to play college basketball, and do the whole school thing as a bonus. Instead, I found myself in school moping through 5 degrees and two universities before figuring out that God gave me the gift of words, and that it was my actual calling to figure out how to use them for his glory and not my own.
But I digress.
This time of year calls for thought, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. But, if our thoughts are a constant measure of where we are verses where we’re “supposed” to be, and what we hope to accomplish in the next year and beyond – especially if that’s apart from what we feel God might be directing us to pursue – we might be missing something… something big.
Again: I get it. I’m a planner. I’ve had life plans for as long as I can remember, and today I still have those dreams (and there are several). We’d love to move to Spain and do ministry there. I’d love to build my dream house here in the states in the country. I’d love to move to California. All of these exist at the same time in my head and heart. But, when I let the ball roll on them I realize that – more than anything – they’re a distraction from where God has me now.
Right now he has my family firmly planted where we are. He has us growing in his Word. He has us getting back to church after a long virtual year and a half. He has us building relationships in the neighborhood where he has planted us – relationships that have changed our hearts and opened our eyes in so many ways. He has our children building relationships with those right up the street from them.
Sure: there’s a lot of uncertainty. Are our kids at the right school? Are we doing the parenting thing right? Are we open to God calling us elsewhere should he decide that’s in his plan for our lives?
But even when we ask those questions, the certainty remains: we don’t know what’s ahead. We don’t know what the new year holds. We don’t know what he might call us to or bring us through this year, but, we know that he is the one who will lead the way. If we try to take the control, we’ll muddle it up and start to trust in our own plans instead of his, and that cannot lead in the right direction: it can’t.
There are biblical truths that back this up, that might help us as we take stock of 2021 and think of 2021.
The first is in Jeremiah 1:5, where we’re told: Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.
Read it again. We are formed by a good God. We are known by him and have been before we were a thought in anyone’s mind here on Earth. He has destined us to fulfill his purposes (this speaks to me: his purpose for my life doesn’t include my dream home in the country).
Then, in Psalm 33:11, we read: The plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations.
Once again, this doesn’t mention our plans at all. Instead, we see that the Lord’s plan trumps the rest. He has purposes that will be fulfilled through all generations. The plan doesn’t waiver. It doesn’t change. It’s not dependent on human actions or desires at all. His plan stands firm. Period.
Just a few verses before in Psalm 32:8, we’re also told: I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
See that? We don’t have to go about it alone. God will instruct and teach us. He offers us his counsel if we ask for it. His eye will be one us the whole time. Our God doesn’t blink or look away (what hope!).
And finally, in Proverbs 3:5-6, we see that we are to: Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
Our job isn’t to plan… it’s to listen and submit, trusting that a better plan is out there than we can imagine, whether we get to see it come to fruition on this side of heaven or not.
So – go for it. Look back on 2021, I know I am.
Acknowledge the hurts.
Look at the growth.
Talk and pray through where you’re confused, longing, or maybe even going astray. Ask God to point out ways that he may want you to make a change or two, or twenty.
Then think about 2022: thinking is good.
Ask him to direct your paths this year and beyond. If you’re a planner like me, you may need to ask for forgiveness for the ways you’ve tried to take your life plan into your own hands and to base it on your own desires. Ask him to grow you in the way he would have you grow this year. Ask him to open doors, to start conversations, and to point you toward his ultimate plan.
If that’s super hard (it generally is), ask for his strength as you do so. Ask him to allow you to simply trust and walk in him. Ask for reminders that his eye is upon you as you go.
Then, friend, leave it in his hands and breathe.
No one knows what’s up ahead. No one can plan for it. No one can say with certainty that we’re even PROMISED a new year. But, we can rest comfortably and confidently in the fact that this is okay. We can move forward with hope. In fact, we’re commanded to.
Can you rest in God’s plan and his timing this year? Can you find contentedness in this? Can you start today?