A New Perspective: Four Ways to Reflect on 2017
End of the year reflections have always been a struggle for me. When I reflect back, I usually see disappointment or failure. I rarely see hope when I look at the goals and plans I had made at the beginning of the year. 2017 was a year of transition, a season of change. Although it included a lot of suffering and uncertainty, it ended with a lot of hope and movement toward Christ. Being diagnosed with bipolar disorder two years ago, this past year has been a slow and painful transition out of a deep, mixed episode filled with four hospitalizations, three therapists and one psychiatrist. It’s been messy to say the least. When you suffer with a mental illness, it’s really hard to look past your illness and see God moving in your life. But what if this year wasn’t about suffering or disappointment but about overcoming and persevering? How can we see our year differently? How can we choose Christ even when it feels like he’s abandoned us?
Here are four ways God has taught me to look at 2017 differently:
Produce Hope in Disappointment
Disappointment is heavy. We come into each year with a lot of hope and expectations. When we don’t live up to our own expectations, or when this world fails us, we either feel broken-hearted or like we’ve failed. Perhaps our disappointments can bring us more than just pain. When we are disappointed in this world or in ourselves, we are living proof that this world and our own strength cannot sustain us. We can have hope in Christ; he can sustain us and only in him can we ever be at peace. Being dissatisfied in ourselves and this world can bring us hope in Christ. If we shift our disappointments to see that only God can satisfy us, we can be hopeful knowing that “he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things” (Psalm 107:9 ESV).
Grow From Your Suffering
Suffering is blinding. It produces a sense of hopelessness and makes us see God as a distant, neglectful father. It feels as though he’s abandoned you and left you out in the cold. Nothing could be more devastating than the absence of God in our lives. But God is never absent from us, for “he will not leave [us] or forsake [us]” (Deuteronomy 31:6 ESV). Although I could not feel God, it didn’t mean that he wasn’t present. It meant that I had to choose to see God even when it meant that he wouldn’t reveal himself to me in ways I wanted or expected. Do we truly believe in him when we can’t see him? Do we take a step toward Christ even when it feels like he’s not moving toward us? Is this a mutual relationship or are we waiting on God? Persevere and pursue Christ in your suffering; choose him and remember him for who he is, a God who “shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 ESV). For “we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope“ (Romans 5:3-4 ESV).
Celebrate the Victories
Sometimes the difficult part of our year becomes the main focus of our year. We forget anything else, and label the year as a bad year. Hardship after hardship is heavy to carry, and lifting our hearts to God in worship becomes increasingly difficult. But there are victories. I used to call my victories small, but nothing is small. A victory is a victory, and there is absolutely nothing small about overcoming hardship, even if that means you’ve simply gotten out of bed in the morning. This year, God has taught me a lot about having a sober perspective on my life. I have been seeing my achievements and successes in Christ. I can know that through him, I have conquered more than I can imagine, and persevered through the hardest days. But it’s not just about recognizing our victories. We should be celebrating them with cheerful hearts.
Pray Over the Year
Oftentimes, we spend a lot of time praying into the next year and maybe even fasting. That’s a wonderful way to begin a year, but why not end the year in prayer as well? Pray about the past year and ask God to reveal to you his faithfulness and goodness. Use the end of this year as a jumping board for the next. Carry God’s challenges and move into a year with a more willing heart, and become more obedient to his will. Acknowledge God’s presence in your life now and reflect on what he’s done this past year, and worship him with all of yourself. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7 ESV).
I hope that through these methods of reflection, you may see 2017 in a new light, and worship and praise God for his faithfulness and goodness. I pray that you may hold onto this perspective throughout the new year, and continue to choose Christ always.
Happy New Year, Trinity Life family!
By Jamie Nguyen