And just like that, half of January is already over. But I believe it’s still not too late to start the year—or the remaining days of the year—right.
January always brings for me a sniff of fresh hope. It’s the month where people usually planning out the year, coupled with writing down their goals for the year. I wrote about pre-planning a couple of weeks ago, followed by how to start the year with faith goals too.
But, try as we might, our year never really turns out the way we thought they would, does it? We plan and plan and plan, yet some things are just really out of our control. In cases like these, what do we do?
Before I move on, here’s some short disclaimers: I did not write this with the intention of giving you a guaranteed way to avoiding surprises that will come in the way of your plans. I did not write this with the intention of saving you from all those unexpected twists and turns. Life is already messy, no matter what we do.
As Psalm 90 goes, “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” With this psalm in mind, here are some of the ways that could help you prepare for those plot twists, respond to them, and at the same time, make the most out of the year.
So how do we number the days of 2018 well? I believe that we can start preparing for this in January. Here’s a list of important things I wish I started doing every January. You don’t have to commit to doing all of them, but I hope some of them help you as they have helped me.
1. Start reassessing yourself in the year that went by.
What were some of your biggest mistakes the year before? What did you do to cause or contribute to them? What does this reveal about the areas you lack in or need to improve on? How can you process and reflect on these with God as you move forward? What needs to be done in order for you to grow from this?
What were some of your biggest breakthroughs the year before? What was the process you went through that led up to this? How did you grow in your faith and character through this? What did God reveal to you about Himself and your relationship with Him through this? How can you commit to continue to grow in God after this?
Introspection can hurt sometimes, as it reveals our flaws and sins; but a truthful picture of yourself will help you determine certain characteristics about yourself that you and God will need to work on or continue for this year.
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
2. Start committing your plans and big rocks to God.
There are two verses that are on repeat whenever I’m in the middle of planning something major.
Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.
Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.
No matter how much we plan, the truth is that we are not God. God, being God, can always move things around to suit His will and He doesn’t need our agreement or permission to act on it.
In the same way, the practice of planning is also biblical. Think of King David writing down all the plans needed to build God’s temple, before turning it over to his son Solomon. Think of the planning it took Noah in order to build the ark, bring all the pairs of animals on it, and store up food to last the duration of the great flood.
Here’s what’s common about these two stories: they planned all they wanted and all they could, but in the end, they committed their plans to God. Committing your plans to God is a step of faith that will allow you to be aware of your smallness and remove the burden of being the person who needs to carry it out.
Sure, there’s hard work needed. But if these are plans that are surrendered to God so that He can use them for His glory, you can rest in the truth that while you start and do what’s possible, God will finish it and do what’s impossible.
3. Start documenting important lessons.
We humans are forgetful creatures. Chances are that we will forget what happened to us years ago—the lessons we learned, insights we gained, and stories we’ve experienced—if we do not document at all.
I personally like to carry around a small notebook where I jot down lessons that I feel are important enough to go back to. I do not recommend you doing the same if this isn’t yourself style of learning.
I do, however ,recommend you finding out how you best learn by observing yourself, then sticking to a method that works for you.
I’m not sure if God is a tactile learner, but one way that He documented His teachings for the Israelites in the Old Testament was by writing His commandments on stone tablets (Exodus 20). This was to be given to the Israelites to remember His precepts. Later on, during Joshua’s time, there was such as thing as the Book of the Law and here was the instruction given regarding it:
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.
All growth comes from finding God’s truth in every lesson and experience, storing this truth in our hearts, and applying it in our lives. We will not be able to consistently apply God’s truth if we forget it. At the same time, we will not forget His truth if we documented it. In addition, finding a great way to document God’s truth serves as a great memorabilia to look back on years from now.
4. Start making a gratitude list.
One surefire way to remain grounded, humble, and away from pride and self-entitlement is be always being grateful for what God has blessed us with. But here’s the problem.
We humans are forgetful creatures. See what I just did there?
That’s why a gratitude list is how we could keep our hearts in check, joyful, and grateful to God. We need to remind ourselves to remember that there’s always something to be grateful for.
I highly recommend finding a schedule that best works for you and your commitment to doing this. It could be daily, weekly, or monthly; but I highly discourage you from going over a month.
We humans are forgetful creatures. We will surely forget.
A gratitude list helps keep our minds at bay and focused on God’s faithfulness when things don’t turn out the way we hoped they would, and remain in faith and excitement for what He continues to do in and through your life.
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.
You’ll only be this age for 365 days of your life. You’ll also only go through this year once. So as you enter the second half of January, I hope that you step into it with the wisdom to number your days well.