Are you ready for the New Year? This question gets thrown around a lot. Being ready isn’t just about mustering up bold-faced confidence or seismic goals; being ready for the next chapter entails reflecting on all that God has been doing up to this moment, and is continuing to do. It’s not always about turning over a new leaf, but rightly interpreting the journey we are still on—perhaps even digging our cleats in deeper in those trenches to which we are assigned (finding fresh kingdom vision and rekindled passion to serve and empower others).
Many people rush into the New Year with lofty ambitions and New Year’s resolutions without properly evaluating, reflecting, or learning from the past year’s experiences. When we don’t take time to reflect on our previous season, we miss opportunities to grow and to potentially decipher what God may be up to in this moment.
Below is an exercise we have been doing for many years during the New Year’s transition. I encourage you to grab a pen and your journal (or a piece of paper), and walk through each of these questions with other family members, those in your missional community, or by yourself in your quiet time. When reflecting on the following questions in a very honest way, there comes spiritual cleansing, strength, courage, healing, forgiveness, reconciliation, peace, growth, re-imagined dreams, rekindled passion, fresh perspective, and renewed vision.
Questions for Introspection
- What are my fondest memories from this past year? Who and what made them special?
- Was there a beautiful moment(s) in which God revealed himself more deeply to me? (a relationship, a revelation, a success/failure, an experience of serving somebody, etc.)
- What were some of the most meaningful events, accomplishments, or activities I engaged myself in this past year? What underlying factors made them meaningful and how can I build these factors into my core values for the New Year?
- What did I procrastinate with this past year? What was possibly lost from that procrastination? What discipline can I add to my life to eliminate procrastination in the New Year? What was the single biggest time-waster in my life, and what will I do about it this coming year?
- Am I closer to my friends and family from my activities this past year? If so, what activities brought me closer so that I can practice them more this coming year? If not, what goals or boundaries do I need to set to achieve greater relational intimacy with my family and friends?
- The things that excite me most reveal much about my priorities. What did I celebrate most (displaying passion, enthusiasm, excitement, etc.) this past year? What does my passion reveal about my priorities? Do they touch the heart of God?
- How committed have I been to my missional community (church family)? Am I invested in helping to nurture this spiritual community so that it can reach outward and serve others with greater gospel fluency?
- Did I miss an opportunity to step out in faith this year? What fears or concerns caused me to shrink back and what do I regret most about not stepping out and taking a necessary risk?
- What happened this year that needs to be remembered, memorialized, perhaps recorded in a journal so I can return to it in the future and recall the blessing (or the rebuke) of God? Making such a record is like those monuments and altars God had the Israelites raise up when great things worth remembering had happened.
- What have been my prevailing feelings and emotions (and what are they at the moment)? What has been my dominant mood this year? Has there been a preponderance of sadness, depression, fear, anger, regret, joy, gratitude, emptiness, or enthusiasm? What is at the core of these emotions and how has that mood affected others?
- What have been the “blessings,” those acts of grace that have come through others or—as I perceive it—directly from God himself? Can I express praise and appreciation (sometimes even written in a thank you note or other expression of gratitude to someone)?
- Who inspired, mentored, or empowered me this year? Should I let them know how much they influenced my life?
- Have things happened for which I need to accept responsibility, perhaps leading to repentance? Why did they happen? Were they avoidable and how can they be prevented in the future?
- Is there a possibility that I am living in denial of certain realities—painful criticism, sloppy work, spiritual apathy, habitual patterns that are hurting others or myself? Is there a specific sin or sinful habit that remains unconfessed in my life? Do I need accountability in dealing with it?
- Are there any resentments or ill feelings toward others that remain unaddressed, unforgiven? If I don’t deal with them appropriately, I will carry toxins into the next season of my life. What must I do to deal with them? Do I need to release someone who has hurt me or apologize to someone I knowingly hurt?
- Is there an overarching message God has been speaking into my life this year? Through Scripture? Through books? Through sermons? What has He been saying through those in my inner circle of relationships? Through critics? What insights swirl up and out of the deepest parts of my soul? Which of them needs to be repudiated, and which needs to be cultivated?
- What are the things I might do and say that would make the people in my inner circle feel more loved, valued, appreciated, and even empowered going into the New Year?
- Am I mindful of the socially distressed, the poor, the suffering, the oppressed, and those at the margins of my community? Does my heart break for the things that break God’s heart? If not, what can I put into place this New Year to help me become more attuned to how God wants me to serve the needs of the hurting and spiritually destitute around me?
- Am I closer to God now than I was at the beginning of this past year? Why or why not?
- What have been the biggest disincentives to my God-inspired dreams? Will I allow those deterrents to cause my vision to shrink and my view of God to become smaller, or will I expand my vision by a willingness to grow through every setback, overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges, and live with a bold determination to see God bigger now than I’ve ever imagined Him before?