Words for the New Year

Over the years, I’ve noticed that instead of setting New Year’s resolutions, some people choose a word to define their year. That word may be a pursuit of some character trait, an overarching goal instead of a list of resolutions, or perhaps just wishful thinking.

Over the past few years, I have done the same, though not necessarily with the intention of making it an official theme of each year. I’ve simply spent a lot of time meditating on sanctification and the ways in which I am least like Jesus. Doing so naturally leads to the pursuit of particular aspects of Christlikeness—character traits or fruits of the Spirit on which I need the most work. Though I always need to grow in godliness in general, there are also specific qualities that I struggle with and each year seems to reveal a different one.

A Brief Background

I have written before about bad habits, my struggles with my emotions, and the subtle-yet-serious ways in which I lost my taste for the Lord and His word. Through that season, the Lord revealed the myriad of ways in which I had leaned into sinful thought patterns and how they manifested themselves outwardly. I was discontent, ungrateful, and self-centered.

On paper, those traits don’t seem like that big of a deal. In fact, others may read this and scoff, wishing they could trade their sin struggles with mine—for discontentment, ungratefulness, and selfishness are tolerable, what Jerry Bridges would call “respectable sins” in his book of the same name. But, subtle sins left unchecked are just as disastrous and are just as responsible for my separation from God as more “overt” sins.

In 2020, I had everything I’d ever wanted (pandemic notwithstanding). Instead of being grateful for the generosity and kindness with which God had given me all of these gifts, I was filled with entitlement and discontent. I was fearful that though I had a good life, things would still not go how I wanted them to go. I did not trust the Lord and I doubted His goodness even in the midst of his blessings. I was marked by an utter lack of joy.

I finally began to see just how much my “subtle” sin was an affront to God, who had poured out His blessings on me—first and foremost in the gospel, but also in every other aspect of my life. I realized if I struggled with discontent and ingratitude in a season of abundance, I would most certainly crumble when actual trials come, as Scripture assures they will.

Words for 2023

As the Lord has increasingly and graciously revealed the depth of particular sins in my life, the converse of each of those sins has become my pursuit over the last few years.

In 2021 and 2022, I intentionally pursued contentment and gratitude, studying Scripture on these qualities, building in habits, and working to replace sinful thought patterns that led to these qualities in the first place. Contentment and gratitude may always be a struggle, but I can say that the Lord has been gracious to soften my heart and develop a more content and grateful spirit within me over the last year.

As I continue to work towards contentment and gratitude, the Lord has impressed upon me the importance of pursuing another Christlike quality—that of joyful sacrifice. I am only just beginning to understand the depth of my self-centeredness, which is most often revealed as I relate to my family.

Recently one of our kids was having trouble sleeping at night—something I very ignorantly thought we were past now that we’re out of the baby phase. Though this only lasted for a couple of months, I was really struggling to be compassionate with our child. But, through a conversation with my husband during this time, he reminded me that the Christian life is not one of self-preservation but one of joyful sacrifice.

Again I realized that my ability to serve and sacrifice for my family was so weak as to be shaken by a very normative phase in a toddler’s life. How would I react when our kids go through actual trials? It was through this phase and conversation that I realized I need to practice joyfully and intentionally sacrificing for others.

In 2023, joyful sacrifice is at the forefront of my mind. I am passively given many opportunities to do so every day with my kids and husband, but I also want to seek out ways to do so that aren’t necessarily required of me. If Christ can joyfully lay down his own life for my sake, then I certainly can joyfully sacrifice my time, money, and other resources for the sake of those around me. I don’t know what the future holds, but I want to practice joyful sacrifice with what I have now, so that I may be ready if more is asked of me.

Photo by Eliott Reyna on Unsplash