As I mentioned in my last post, 2012 was a rough year for my family and I. From hospital visits, to relationship heartaches, to financial struggles, last year felt like one slug after another. So when 2013 came around, we were quick to pack our bags and shout “Adios!” to the year before. The promise of a new year has never meant more to me.
But now that I’ve had time to look back, I can honestly say I’ve seen God’s hand in every situation we faced. Most of all, I’ve seen His redeeming power at work. And it is so beautiful to behold! But the revelation didn’t come without a fight. And it certainly didn’t come without a few wounds.
Maybe you can relate. Maybe 2012 felt more like one long disappointment than anything else. Maybe it only seemed to take you further away from dreams than toward them. It might have felt like a constant struggle, or a year of great loss.
Or maybe it was a year of great blessing for you! A time of rejoicing. Of seeing dreams come true, and impossibles made possibles! If that’s the case, I am so happy to hear that.
No matter what kind of year you had, there’s some things you’ll want to take with you into the New Year, and some things that are better left behind.
Let me show you what I mean by that.
When 2013 hit, I was focused only on the things I wanted to leave behind-hospitals, bills, and torn relationships, to name a few. But I’d forgotten about some of the many blessings God had given in 2012 that I did want to take with me.
Once I realized that I had a choice about what I carried, I decided to forgo New Year’s Resolutions and instead make a list of what I would and would not be taking with me into the New Year. I cannot tell you all of the many lessons God taught me in 2012, but I can tell you I was carrying a lot of baggage. And my list of what I would not take with me was much longer than what I would. But I’m so thankful for the opening of my eyes to see the difference!
Here’s some of what my lists ended up looking like:
What I will not be taking with me into the New Year (Baggage):
- An ungrateful, complaining heart
- A low self-esteem
What I will be taking with me into the New Year (What I’m Packing):
- A set aside time in the morning for just God and I, where I read His Word, pray, and listen to Him in return
- The remembrance of all that our Heavenly Father brought my family through last year
- Trying not to take anyone in my life for granted, but letting them know how much I appreciate them and treasuring my time with them
We always have the choice of what we carry. Sins like unforgiveness and envy are nothing more than unnecessary baggage and burdens. But we make excuses like, “Well, I’m nice enough to them, after all they’ve done to me. They don’t even know I haven’t forgiven them.” Or “What’s wrong with wanting what they have? This is America-land of dreams, right? It doesn’t hurt anyone.”
But something I learned last year is that God never forbids something in His Word that doesn’t hurt us in the long run. I’ve heard verses about envy all my life, and I know the Commandment that says, “Do not covet.” But I didn’t apply them.
I made excuses like, “I don’t covet. I’m not out there bowing down to my car or some kind of idol like they did in the old days.” Or “I know I shouldn’t envy the way she looks, but c’mon-she’s gorgeous! Who wouldn’t? It doesn’t hurt anyone.”
Let me tell you, I felt all the weight of that baggage last year. And it had grown to be a heavy burden.
But with God’s help, I’m learning how to shuck off those things that had weighed me down. If the sin in our lives isn’t hurting someone around us, then you can be certain it’s hurting us. For years I’ve been killing myself with envy and never knew it-even after I’d memorized the very verse that had warned me about it!
Through God’s grace, there were also many gifts I was able to pack and take with me into the new year. For everything I lost-ingratitude, unforgiveness, materialism-there was something even better to replace it with: gratitude, forgiveness, the treasures of heaven.
When my dad came home from the hospital after being unable to speak or stay awake, I told my mom, “I never want to forget this. What God brought us through.”
What I meant by that was that I never wanted to take the Healer’s gifts for granted again. To forget about the way He showed up in one of my darkest moments, or forget how scared I was at the possibility of never hearing my dad say my name again. The heart forgets quickly, and in the deepest part of my soul, I knew it was something I had to take with me-no matter what. Something I had to make room for and remember to pack.
God’s Word does that. It becomes like bread to a starving man, and if we don’t take it-if we don’t find some way to make room for it, we’ll die. But it usually takes losing some things before we realize just how empty we truly are.
Sins give us the illusion that we’re full, because we are. Full of things that make us full in the moment. But when trials of fire come and reveal our innermost being for what it is-everything burned away-we realize what we really are: emaciated forms shoveling sand down our throats to stop the thirst. And all along a stream lies right in front of us, tucked inside the nightstand and gathering dust.
Jesus said, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:30.) I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have the light burden! And how do we do that? By lifting off the yokes we’ve placed on ourselves through sin. God always wants the best for us, but sometimes He can’t give us His best when we’re loaded down with sins we can’t see.
One of the keys to a good trip is being careful and selective about what you pack. So as you journey into this new year, give yourself a greater chance of success by getting rid of some of the things that have been weighing you down like resentment, unforgiveness, or a low self-esteem.
It will only make room for something greater.
What will you and won’t you be taking with you into the new year?