Two steps forward, one step back. That pretty much sums up 2021, doesn’t it?
Just when we thought that things were finally looking up—with vaccinated numbers going up, social restrictions easing, and travel opening up—we’re slapped with news about Omicron, the most contagious Covid variant to date. And since our current vaccines may not work against it . . . restrictions are beginning to tighten all over again.
So how do we approach the close of the year in light of news like this?
Surely, moping isn’t the answer. If the past two years have taught us anything, it’s this: don’t wait to do what you should, want, need to do. But, throwing caution to the wind and living our lives however we like is probably not the wisest course of action either.
Ecclesiastes offers us a better middle ground: because life is short and unpredictable, we’re told to relish whatever gifts in life God has given us (Ecclesiastes 9:7-10), yet at the same time, to keep Him the central part of our lives as we go about our daily activities (Ecclesiastes 12:1)
So before 2022 swoops in and hits us with new challenges and uncertainties, let’s take some time to consider where we are at now, and let’s check in with God and ask Him to lead us in the way ahead.
1. Rest, reflect, and recharge with the Lord
Studies have shown that the pandemic has resulted in many of us working longer hours than usual, and more and more of us facing mental struggles.
So stop. And take a real break. Apply for a few days of leave if you need to. Switch off your mobile devices and go somewhere tranquil where you can spend solitary time with God and reflect on your life. Think about and journal your answers to these questions:
- What were your biggest highs and lows this year?
- Are you happy with where your life is at, right now?
- What are some things you’ve learned about God this year?
- What are some things you did well that you can keep doing?
- What are the mistakes you made that you’d want to avoid?
In fact, why not factor in regular checkpoints throughout the year? Just as Jesus frequently took time to withdraw from the crowd and pray (Luke 5:16), spending time in solitude with God should be something we do frequently. Another good practice is to reread the Gospel accounts at regular junctures to help us refocus on the bigger picture and be reminded of the truth and beauty of God’s salvation plan for us. We’d be surprised how many important details we missed in previous reads!
Taking time to reflect, refocus, and recommit our lives to God will help us stay (or get back) on track.
2. Declutter to make room for what’s truly important
Getting rid of things we don’t need can do wonders for our physical and mental space. Surely there are many things—books, clothes, documents, paraphernalia, etc.—piled up in our closets that we haven’t used or even looked at for months (or years).
Not only is the process of clearing things therapeutic and freeing, it can also be very beneficial in helping us retrace valuable or sentimental items that we have lost track of, and even bring to mind past experiences and lessons that have made a difference in our lives.
From a spiritual standpoint, we are also reminded not to hoard or accumulate stuff in our lives (Matthew 6:19-21). As we learn to let go of things that we don’t need or don’t add value to our lives, we can make space for “things” that really matter and have eternal value. (Think material items that serve the needs of others, or even other intangible things that help us show Christ’s love in our interactions.)
3. Set realistic goals and start on them
Perhaps one reason why our new year’s resolutions usually fail is because we limit them to the “new year” and we expect ourselves to go from 0 to 100 on the very first day. But who says you have to wait till the clock strikes midnight on January 1 to start implementing your new plans?
Starting from tomorrow, wake up 15 minutes earlier every day to read the Bible or pray. Go for a run or long walk whenever you have an open window. Buy that juicer or blender you’ve been eyeing and start freezing your fruit packs today. Schedule one or two dinners every week with a friend or family member. Hop on that donation portal you’ve been thinking about and make a donation today.
As the preacher reminds us, let’s take every opportunity to sow diligently and leave the outcome in God’s hands (Ecclesiastes 11:6), instead of waiting for the perfect timing or opportunity (Ecclesiastes 11:3-4). After all, anything (like Omicron) can happen out of the blue, and we have no control over it.
4. Rekindle those neglected relationships
Life, as God intended it, was never meant to be lived alone (Genesis 2:18). But the pandemic has made it challenging for us to reach out, given the intermittent lockdowns and tightened social restrictions throughout the year. For some of us, it’s been two years since we last saw our extended family or met up with our church friend or university classmate. And the truth is, absence can sometimes make the heart forget.
Relationships need to be cultivated and nurtured in order to grow and flourish. And the Bible states explicitly the importance of “meeting up” to stir each other to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24-25). We are called to show hospitality (1 Peter 4:9) and do good to one another (Galatians 6:10). So let’s be intentional about meeting face-to-face, to catch up on each other’s lives and see how we can meet each other’s needs in a practical way.
So as the year comes to a close, let’s work on ending the year well, remembering that how we end is more important than how we start (Ecclesiastes 7:8). The sooner we see what went well, what needs work, and what truly matters in the long run, the fewer missteps and heartaches we’ll go through in the year ahead!
If you’re feeling a little light-headed just reading through this list, don’t worry. Go at a pace you’re comfortable with. The most important thing is to make full use of the next two weeks, even if it means dedicating most of the time to rest.
Let’s make the next two weeks count before we ring in 2022!