It is the beginning of yet another year, a time when people reflect on the past and resolve to make changes, to do better, to enhance their lives. For some that is an invigorating thought, but for others it is depressing. Maybe your life is so far from the place you wanted to be ten years ago that you can hardly recognize yourself. Or perhaps your life is going well, but there is one important area that you have difficulty facing and overcoming. I read a NY Times article about how living with regret negatively affects people. The author stated:
“Over the past decade and a half, psychologists have studied how regrets — large and small, recent and distant — affect people’s mental well-being. They have shown, convincingly though not surprisingly, that ruminating on paths not taken is an emotionally corrosive exercise. The common wisdom about regret — that what hurts the most is not what you did but what you didn’t do — also appears to be true, at least in the long run.”
– Benedict Carey
Have you ever tried to encourage someone, but everything you say just doesn’t stick? It is like the surface of their hearts is made of Teflon, preventing encouragement, hope and faith from penetrating and bringing positive results. But others have a past that reads like a tragic Russian novel, yet they have overcome to the place that you cannot believe they are the same person. Whatever the case may be, the New Year is an opportune time to learn from the past, leave it behind, and invite God into every area of life to fill you with hope.
“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)
1) Learn from the past
You probably know the expression, if you don’t learn from the past you will end up repeating it. Consider the outcome of your current lifestyle and where it will lead if you do not make changes. If you don’t like where you are in life, you need to map out a path to reach a different destination. Ask God to direct your life so you can focus on what really matters. Remember to travel lightly and don’t bring regret and past mistakes into the new year. Also, consider the impact of your life on others, which can give you fresh incentive to change.
2) Start fresh
Before God, we are held accountable for how we live, but the great news is that we can start with a clean slate because of His forgiveness. Changes do not happen unless you are deliberate about changing. Don’t overwhelm yourself with too many goals. Choose one or a few areas that you need to focus on, and then write out a clear, practical plan that you can follow on a daily or weekly basis. Enlist a friend or family member to stand with you and encourage you along the way.
3) Invite God in to fill you with hope
Jesus Christ is our hope and our example, because He conquered sin and death so we can freely walk in new, abundant life. But we have to invite Him in, even into the areas where we are afraid to change, and walk with Him every day. Ask Him to specifically fill you with hope and faith in every area of your life so you can have a positive outlook and have the power to change.