Will This Year Be Any Different Than Last Year?
By Leslie Vernick
"Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating
more unintended consequences, and
failing to achieve anything useful."
Turning the page on a New Year always makes me press pause and reflect on where I’ve been and where I’m going. You can spend five days and hundreds of dollars in gas driving in circles around your neighborhood or taking a road trip out West. But without a plan and a destination, you’ll drive in circles. Sadly many people live their entire lives that way. They live a busy but meaningless life.
Scottish author George McDonald listed what he called three grand essentials—three things without which no meaningful life can be lived: He said it was someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for.
Do you have someone to love?
Everyone is looking for love, but we’re looking in the wrong places. Instead of loving God, our very source of life and goodness, we love lesser things, things that actually harm our relationship with God and others. For example, we love our way (James 4:1-4), we love being right, we love being first (Matthew 23). We love the world (1 John 2:15), we love money (Hebrews 13:5, Luke 16:14), we love the praise of humankind (John 12:43), we love sin (John 3:19), and we love positions of status and authority (Matthew 23:6,7; Luke 11:43).
Jesus warns us that who or what we love is crucial to our well-being because he knows that what controls our heart, controls us ( Matthew 6:21). Time, money, energy and talent tells us what’s worth living for and dying for.
God says that the only one worthy of our fullest love, greatest attention and deepest devotion is him. You do have someone to love. When you love God first and most, you will have a meaningful life.
Do you have something to do?
Often times we think that what we are supposed to do has to be big and bold in order for it to be significant. Anna was a multi-talented woman who felt like she was wandering in circles. She said, “Leslie, I just get through the chores and tasks of each day, taking care of kids, homework and household responsibilities. There’s no time for anything significant or meaningful.”
I asked her if she were to die what regrets would she have? She said, “I’d regret that I didn’t savor more moments now." When I asked Anna what were those important things she’d savor she said “spending meaningful time with my family like riding bikes, having a picnic and enjoying a walk. But I never have enough time to do that because I’m too busy with everything else.”
Anna lost sight of the important work she is doing. She values time spent with her children but saw only the fun times as significant. “Anna,” I probed, “what is the difference between savoring the time with your kids while riding bikes and feeling hassled with the kids during homework?” She looked up with a flash of insight and said, “just my attitude! Maybe what I’m doing is important and significant all the time.” Oswald Chambers reminds us that “it is not the work we do for God that keeps us fresh; it is the work we allow God to do through us.”
Paul tells us that we are “God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10). You do have important work to do. Start today to reflect Jesus in all you do and you will have a meaningful life.
Do you have something to hope for?
Everyone needs to put his or her hope in something. But just like we can love the wrong things and invest our lives in pursuits that, in the end, won’t matter, we can put our hope in things that have no real substance and that lead to disappointment and heartache.
When all is said and done, life is hard. Even while on earth we get tastes of hell. The hope that sustains us in the midst of hell on earth is the hope that God is good and he knows what he’s doing (Nahum 1:7; Psalm 119:68).
In the midst of great hardship, Paul expressed hope in the eternal reality when he said, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
The psalmist asked himself when he was especially discouraged, “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Put your hope in God” (Not in what God will do Psalm 42:5). Today, you can have hope as you trust God.
This New Year, be more intentional on these three things. Someone to love, something to do and something to hope in. They will help you be more intentional as you write your part of your 2018 story.