December can be a pretty dreary month, especially during Covid, so this article is about hope for the new year, and reflection on the past… I want this to be the entry point into a series about the seasons of life. Please read on if you would like to move into the new year with momentum!
The beautiful thing about the seasons and being able to appreciate them is that it’s a cycle. Our lives thrive on the ebbs and flow of life as we are able to make mistakes, learn lessons, and improve.
I want to explore the winter time not just as a few months in this current context, but as a season of our lives, a season of our circumstances, and, as a season of this particular rotation around the sun.
Winter in context of a lifetime
With winter comes beauty – not so much in a ostentatious sense as much as it possesses a more mature allure. I think that when we become old, our lives follow this characteristic of nature. Our later years might be the most painful, and there can be less novelty to life, but these years can certainly have some of the most rewarding moments, just like a snow day during a cold winter. As we grow older, our features may become less traditionally glamorous, but the gray hairs produce a more developed presence.
And as the seasons change, we look forward to the spring time after a long winter. Similarly, for the Christian elder, I can imagine that a brand new life, the one Jesus talks about in the Gospels, brings excitement and peace that those in earlier seasons of life may not be able to fully comprehend. We spend so much of our lives trying not to die, until we finally reach a point where death becomes something that we must face. As someone in his mid-twenties, I am not fit to describe the experience of someone in the later years of their life, but I can imagine reflection is a central of the experience.
Winter as season of life
In the cold weeks, and months, and years of our lives, maybe the ones that carry the weight of cancer, or mental health issues, or poverty, or depression, there is the hope of Spring, when things change and grow and become more beautiful. However, before we see this change, the winter calls for an extended period of reflection.
I believe our use of this time can be critical to how long our coldest seasons last – although we do not always control our circumstances, I think that sometimes, or maybe most of the time, God moves us out of tough seasons when we are ready. So its important then, to throw down our anchor, and make God the foundation for our lives.
While winter can feel like a lonely time, it is a time of reflection, of healing, and preparation for the Spring.
As we reflect on this past year, I think it’s fit to use a unique lens, untainted by past years, as this particular year has brought unique challenges.
2020 has brought a lot of pain, in the form of layoffs, depression, and death, and so when we reflect on the past twelve months, and especially these past nine, it’s appropriate to have the perspective of a survivor.
While our savings account, salaries, fitness, relationships statuses may not have improved to the degree that we had expected them to this year, we should look at the ways that we have grown in our independence, the ways we have persevered through the pandemic, productive hobbies we picked up, books we read, etc. I think that for many of us, this year has brought endurance that few other situations can produce.
6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:6-7 ESV).
In our reflections of this past year, it is fruitful to think about the good that blessings that came into our lives, as well as the things that we can to leave behind in 2020.
The end of the year is an opportunity to shed extra baggage like the trees shed their leaves, preparing ourselves for new life. This could mean grudges we’ve held against peers, bad habits, depression, alcohol, drugs, dead-end jobs, whatever is weighing us down from living a more fruitful life.
When we let our selves die to the harmful ways, and die to our old selves, we make room for the new.
24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. (1 Peter 2:24 ESV)
Recognizing these obstacles we put up for ourselves, confessing our sins to God, forgiving the people that have wronged us, are crucial steps to bettering our relationships with God, and helps us to keep from plateauing in our lives.
And while we look back at the bad habits that have kept us from our potential, we should look at habits that can replace these, habits that are productive and help develop out relationships with God.
This will help us to build a solid foundation for the year to come.
24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” (Matthew 7:24-27 ESV)
With endurance, we’ve made it near the end of 2020 – let’s take that momentum into a new year with new opportunities.
- What was the hardest part of 2020 so far?
- How have you grown in your relationship with God this year?
- Did you meet the goals you set for yourself in 2020?
- Did you grow in understanding/knowledge in 2020?
- Who are some people that you talked to about your faith in 2020?
- Have you felt a lack of control during the pandemic?
- What are some ways you grew in 2020?
- What are some habits you were able to break/wanted to break in 2020?
- Who did you forgive in 2020?
- Did you read scripture this year? What parts of the Bible did you read through?
Questions for the future:
- What are some challenges you think you will face in the future/in 2021?
- What steps would you like to take for you relationship with God in the future?
- What are some goals for next year?
- What do you want to learn about in 2021?
- Who could you talk to about your faith in 2021?
- What are some ways you could give up control to God in your life?
- What are some ways that you’d like to grow in the year 2021?
- Are there habits you want to create in the future (better eating, exercising, etc.)
- Who are some people that you could forgive in the future?
- What parts of the Bible do you want to read/re-read?
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