The new year is fast upon us! Every year I see posts bearing the hashtag “new year, new me,” which I always think is good advice since we are called in Ephesians 4 to put off the old self and our former manner of life and put on the new self and live in the likeness of God, in righteousness and the holiness of the truth. So here’s my list of ways to feel more confident, stronger, and happier in 2018, preaching to myself as much as anybody else.
1. Realise that you’re not in control.
I’m a planner and I love having a very specific diagram for how my life is going to go. But God always has a way of ripping up my spreadsheets and placing me on unexpected paths. “A man’s heart plans his ways, but the Lord directs his steps.” Proverbs 16:9 We all wish we could have full control over our lives and our future, but we can’t and this is for the best. We don’t always know what’s best for us; in fact, we seldom do. I’ve been able to see a good picture of this in my parenting. When walking through the parking lot at the grocery store with my toddler, she sometimes just wants to let go of my hand and run. I know that if she runs wild in the parking lot, she will be hit by a car. She doesn’t know this, so she fusses when I hold fast to her hand. Isn’t this how we are with God? Wouldn’t it be better for us to know that He is guiding us carefully and for our own good? Acknowledge that He is in control and rejoice in that safety!
2. Less “you” time, more “renew” time.
Let’s face it… we all like nothing more than a little “me time” every now and then. There is nothing more relaxing than sinking into the warm bathtub after a long week. But if you’re like me and prone to wallow, you know that often times that once in a while bath turns into a nightly simmering of lavender scented depression soup where you eat junk food while covered in bubbles and watching dumb tv shows on Netflix. Your self care turns into self destruction really fast if your mind isn’t focused. I always think driving around and listening to angst music will make me feel better, but it rarely does. What DOES make me feel better is digging into the Bible and putting on some praise music. Whether it’s taking my Bible into the bathtub or plugging into a spiritual life podcast on my daily drives, I’m going to make this year more about the renewal of my mind and less about temporary fixes.
3. Ignore your feelings.
This is really a tough one for me because I’ve got a lot of feelings. But our feelings aren’t necessarily reflective of truth. Nowhere in the armour of God is mentioned the fuzzy sweater of feelings. Instead we are told to stand firm and gird up our loins with truth. Just because you are feeling unloved does not mean you are unloved. And if you’re Christ’s, you most definitely are loved. Rest in that and stand firm.
4. Focus your energy on others and God.
Countless times in the Bible we are encouraged and commanded to love one another. Sometimes the call to serve others feels like a spiritual way of saying “Keep as busy as possible so that you don’t have time to feel sad.” But honestly… it’s good advice. When your schedule is full of service to others, you don’t have as much time for wallowing. When your heart is full of the riches of God’s love, there’s no space to dwell on sad thoughts.
5. To borrow a page from Elizabeth Elliot, just do the next thing.
Step by step, we move forward, even if it’s just one faltering step at a time. There are tasks ahead of us, projects we have to finish, objectives we are called to complete. God didn’t call us to be quitters, He called us to follow Him. He gives His people rest, but that doesn’t mean we have permission to put our heads in the sand and ignore the life we’ve been given.
When we take our eyes off Jesus, we sink into the waves just like Peter. But when our eyes are fixed on the cross, we are more than conquerors. Let’s make 2018 a year of victory!