Ah, the holidays have come and gone and the season of New Year’s resolutions is in full swing. If you’ve spent the past few days writing out the typical New Year’s resolutions, that seemingly never come into fruition, join the club. So instead of writing down ideas that may resemble a “wish list” instead of tangible goals, let’s focus on our faith and how we can strive to make the best New Year’s resolution we have ever committed to.
When I think about strengthening my all encompassing faith, I try to focus on areas that keep me away from God. Times when I should be pushing into His Word and faithfulness, but instead find myself trying to figure life out on my own (which never works). Here are some ideas that I am praying will help me (and hopefully you) get to a place of peace and faithfulness that we all long for.
1. Commit to reading the Bible for at least 15 minutes a day.
When I say the Bible, I don’t mean a morning devotional or a Christian based book, I mean the living breathing Word of God. There is a HUGE difference between reading His Word and reading a book that references His Word. Don’t hear me wrong. Both are great. I think you all know how big of a book worm I am, but we must make time for conversation with Him through the Bible. You want to hear God speak? Open up the Bible and get to reading. And if the Bible feels slightly like a foreign language, there are countless commentaries/studies that coincide with every book in the Bible.
Note: I say 15 minutes as a starting point. Setting a realistic goal is key. Don’t get burnt out before you start. When I first started reading the Bible daily, it felt so over my head, other than the well known verses, I almost gave up. But a pastor in Texas, Todd Wagner, made a really good point regarding reading the Bible. It’s important to read an entire passage, or chapter, and not just the feel good verses. Why? Because verses can be taken out of context without reading the entire chapter. Doing this and studying the true meaning of the book will grow your faith exponentially.
2. Practice praying before talking.
How many times do we find ourselves calling our closest friend or family member to discuss our hardships and successes before praying? I know I do. Instead of praising the Lord or praying about whatever is sending us down a rabbit hole, we talk to others first. This has a tendency to form/confirm our conclusions (especially the difficult times) in a way that is not honoring to God. We get so worked up over what we think to be true, that when we finally talk with God, we have already made up our mind about how we believe the issue should be resolved. Does that make sense, or am I the only one who does this?
Scenarios: You’re having one of those days that feels like attack from the enemy. Maybe you recognize it, or maybe you just think that someone or something is being completely unfair toward you. You feel attacked, betrayed, or downright mad about a situation that you have little to no control over. Perhaps someone is making assumptions about you that are wildly false. Maybe you received criticism at work, making you feel like your boss doubts your ability to do your job well. It could be that your kids are all over the place and it seems like you’re talking to a brick wall. Possibly your significant other and you are in a season where you seemingly cannot find a common ground. You feel misunderstood, like he or she just can’t see it from your point of view. Frustrating, am I right?
So what do you do? You call someone you know will agree with you. Side with you. Give you the advice you want to hear. Also known as validation. So now, you’re not only upset, but you’re full of pride because, by gosh, you are the victim. Have you been there? Let me virtually raise my hand. I HAVE BEEN. And let me tell you, in case you don’t already know from personal experience, it brings out the worst side of you. The worst.
Try this instead: Put your phone away. Remove the temptation to call your validator. Walk into your room, or sit at your kitchen table with your Bible. Open it up. Pray over your situation; facts first. Then pray that God would remove any emotions that have completely overcome you by speaking to you through His Word. Ask Him to show you the blessings within the hurt and possibly where you are in the wrong. Then read. Read and read and read. Did I mention read? This will trigger the process of peace. And if you don’t feel any peace, well my friend, you better keep on reading. Keep on praying. If it takes getting on your knees and crying about it with God, girl, go on and let it happen. I’m a big believer in crying. Ask anyone who knows me.
After you have come to terms with the truth and not the natural tendency to become defensive, breathe and keep the situation to yourself until you have practiced whatever God put on your heart. If He is telling you that everyone falls short; that we are all human, then say that aloud. “My boss has bad days and gets stressed. He/She likely didn’t know how his/her words would affect me. I should have met that deadline. It was, in fact, my responsibility.” Take ownership in the areas where you should, even if you don’t want to (pride). “That person who is gossiping about me, doesn’t know my heart. They may not even know the truth. Hurt people, hurt people. I’ve disappointed people in the past too. I have fallen short as well.” Note: When this happens to me, I almost always pick up the phone to call and apologize to someone I realize I have hurt at some point. When you see the plank in your own eye, it’s much easier to accept that people aren’t always going to treat you fairly. It’s called life. This world is broken. End of story. Pick yourself up. Act with integrity. Don’t fire back. Forgive them and keep it moving.
3. Remove anything that takes you away from God.
This sounds extreme. I’m not saying you need to do a cleanse from everything in life in order to isolate yourself from the world. I’m simply saying detox. Learn a healthy balance. Identify areas in your life that trigger feelings or behaviors that don’t coincide with honoring God. Can’t think of anything off the top of your head? Well, lucky for you, I wrote out a list for my own life. Maybe some will hit home with you as well.
- SOCIAL MEDIA. Example: following people/pages on social media that lead to negative self-talk or comparing. I’m not talking about your friends who have adorable babies. That’s something that hopefully brings you joy. I’m talking about the accounts that breed worldly thought patterns in a negative light.
- Television shows/movies that project feelings of extreme false expectations or negative thinking into your life. For example, I steer clear of shows that are dark. Those movies leave me feeling downright sad with a slighted view on life.
- Friends who choose to spend all of their time complaining and gossiping instead of growing. (And if you’re that friend, the next bullet point is for you) It’s true; you become most like the people you surround yourself with. Choose wisely.
- Self-sabotaging habits. This one may be more difficult to pinpoint, but if you take the time to write out personal patterns that seem to be the root of your poor behavior, I’m confident you’ll recognize where you need to change. Maybe it’s gossip. Maybe it’s the need for control. Maybe it’s negative self-talk. Maybe you project your insecurities onto others and treat people poorly. Whatever it may be, identifying those behaviors will set the groundwork for accomplishing all of the above suggestions.
My hope for 2018 is as big as it gets. I am praying for this broken world. Praying that we all grow in our faith. That we strengthen our trust in the Lord. Believe in His plan. Adjust our hearts in areas that have become hardened. Love when it’s easier to hate. Grow content despite fallen expectations. But most of all, love the Lord more than we love the world. We are all in this together and I have faith our God can make today, and every day, more wonderful than you could ever imagine.
Cheers to the new year,