2020 is going to be messy. I don’t mean that as an ominous prediction. It’s just a fact, because life is messy — despite my best efforts to tame it with preparation, organization, and excellence.
And this year, I’m going to be okay with that. Instead of spending all my mental energy trying to make everything perfect, I’m going to focus on being present. Present for my kids, present for my husband, present for God, and present for myself. Active and intentional in my relationship with God and others.
This year, I’m letting go of the illusion of perfection and control, because that’s exactly what it is: an illusion. “Which of you,” Jesus asked, “by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” And the answer is, Not me. As much as I like to think that all of my planning, worrying, and toiling are productive, they’re really just distracting me from being fully present with the people I love.
So rather than refusing to rest until things are excellent, I’m going to stop at enough. When I say “good enough,” I’m going to mean it. And I’m going to practice not cringing inwardly or feeling like a failure. Stopping at “good enough” isn’t admitting defeat; it’s setting my priorities straight so that I have time and energy for the people and projects that matter most.
I’m afraid 2020 is going to be sloooooooow. Too slow. Painfully slow. But also too fast. So fast that it feels dangerous and out of control.
Why? Because that’s how life goes — too fast and too slow, all at the same time.
But it will also be too fast and too slow by design. Because I need to learn how to move forward before I feel ready, and how to hold back when everything in me wants to go and do. My usual patterns aren’t working, so I’m going to try something new. I’m going to try leaning in when I want to check out, and backing off when I want to double down.
It will be a learning process, with a lot of trial and error. But I’m going to show up and give myself permission to win ugly.
Many of us start each new year with a plan. We have clear goals in mind, and we know what it will take to accomplish them. But then that initial burst of enthusiasm we felt on January 1st wears off. The year doesn’t feel bright and shiny and new anymore. We gradually lose our motivation and slip back into our old patterns. We forget about our goals or despair of ever reaching them. We encounter some difficulty and give up.
To follow through and reach our 2020 goals, we must constantly renew our minds. We must wake up each day and recommit. After a setback, we must pick ourselves back up and keep pressing on. When achieving our goals seems impossible, we must keep going.
That’s why we focused on mindset this week. In the daily devotionals, I highlighted verses that can help you maintain your faith and resolve throughout the year as you pursue your goals.
Here’s what we talked about:
Rejecting the Spirit of fear
We all have fears. It is inevitable that you will, at some point — or, more accurately, several points or even during long periods of time — feel fear. But we do not have to be controlled by our fear.
The voice inside you that whispers fear and doubt into your heart is not from God. The voice that tells you you aren’t good enough. The one that says you can’t do big things. The one that discourages you from setting goals and going after them with everything you have. The one that urges you to avoid all risk. The one that keeps you from being real and vulnerable. The one that constantly worries what others will think. The one that is terrified of failure.
That voice is a liar. It may seem like it’s building a wall between you and the world to keep you safe, but it’s really building a wall between you and God to keep you stagnant. As soon as you put your fear in the driver’s seat, you’ll start drifting away from the path God has laid out for you.
Action step: Refuse to be ruled by your fear. Instead, allow God’s spirit of power, love, and self-control to guide you.
Building With God
There are two ways to pursue your dreams: with God, or without Him. Obviously, the latter is the wiser choice. Why? Because any happiness or success we achieve without God will be fleeting.
This truth brings to mind Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:24-27, where he speaks of the wise man who built his house on a rock and the foolish man who built his house on the sand. After the storm, only one house was left standing. The other builder, as it turned out, had labored in vain.
Your foundation matters. That’s why Proverbs is full of exhortations to seek God, trust Him, and align ourselves with His will. When we take that advice to heart, we can labor confidently rather than anxiously and find rest even as we work hard.
Action step: Instead of making your plans first and then asking God’s blessing, invite God into the planning stages. Ask Him for wisdom and guidance.
Taking Care of Your Soul
As Christians, we know the here and now isn’t the whole picture. We know that below the surface, we each have an internal life — a soul — that needs God in the same way our lungs need air. And we know it is our souls that will endure long after our earthly achievements have been forgotten. Our souls are eternal.
It can be so easy to neglect your spiritual health when you’re chasing after physical, professional, or financial goals. However, our soul should always be our top priority. In both the Old and New Testaments, Scripture reminds us that when we focus on our spiritual growth, everything else tends to fall into place.
To accomplish big goals, we must have faith. You have to step out in faith, and you have to follow through in faith.
Scripture is full of stories where, in His name and through His power, God’s people accomplished big, impossible things by faith. Think of David defeating Goliath, Elijah calling down fire on Mount Carmel, or Gideon’s army routing the Midianites. These people certainly felt fear, but their faith was strong enough to overcome it — and that didn’t happen by accident.
You’ve probably heard the saying, often attributed to Sitting Bull, that compares “good” and “evil” to two dogs fighting inside us. The lesson is that the dog we feed the most will win. This principle applies to the struggle between fear and faith, as well. If we don’t feed our faith, it won’t be strong enough to overcome our fear when we need it to.
Action step: Be intentional about nurturing your faith, and see what you can accomplish.
Remembering the lord and fighting
We serve an awesome God. The same God who parted the Red Sea. The same God who toppled the walls of Jericho. The same God who made the sun and the moon stand still. The God who fights for His people and keeps His promises.
Sometimes we need to be reminded of just how great and awesome our God is — not so that we can feel warm and fuzzy inside, but so that we can push through our fear, doubt, apathy, or anxiety and FIGHT.
We can find several examples in Scripture where God worked miracles for His people. Time and again, we witness God working miracles, removing obstacles, and leading His people to victory against seemingly insurmountable odds. He fights for us and with us — but only when we step out in faith.
Action step: Whatever goals you set for 2020, step forward in faith and fight for them. When you feel like giving up, remember how great and awesome your God is and KEEP FIGHTING.
As we conclude our Gearing Up for the New Year Series, I wanted to leave you with one final challenge:
Make your relationship with God your number one priority. Don’t leave your faith on the sidelines or turn it into just another item on your to-do list. Instead, make it a central part of your plans. Commit to taking care of your soul, growing your faith, and seeking God in everything you do.
We all need community, both with God and with others. For our mental, emotional, and spiritual health as well as for practical reasons. We aren’t meant to do life alone.
This applies to your goals and dreams as much as anything else. Many of us (perhaps all of us) feel uncomfortable asking others for help, though our reasons may vary. Pride, fear of rejection, not wanting to feel like a burden, sheer stubbornness — whatever is keeping you from letting others in, it’s time to let go of it.
In Galatians 6:2, we are encouraged to “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul reminds us that we are all part of the body of Christ. In keeping with that metaphor, he declares “The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you” (v. 21). Indeed, “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (v.26).
In this week’s devotionals, we explored other verses that discuss where, why, and how to get the help you need to succeed. Here’s what we talked about:
Looking to God
As Christians, we know our primary source of help, support, guidance, and encouragement should be God. Again and again, Scripture underscores that our strength and wisdom come from God.
Of course, it’s easy to forget that. The people of Israel — who witnessed miracle after miracle on their journey to the Promised Land — forgot too. Psalm 106:10-13 recounts the parting of the Red Sea and Israel’s persistent lack of faith: “So he saved them from the hand of the foe and redeemed them from the power of the enemy. And the waters covered their adversaries; not one of them was left. Then they believed his words; they sang his praise. But they soon forgot his works; they did not wait for his counsel.”
As 2020 approaches, let’s determine not to make the same mistake as Israel.
Action step: Look to God first for help, seek His will, and follow His counsel — remembering what He has done in the past and trusting Him to continue providing the strength and wisdom we need.
Learning to Delegate
In Exodus 18, Moses’ father-in-law Jethro observes Moses spending an entire day judging the people and asks what he is doing. Moses answered, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God; when they have a dispute, they come to me and I decide between one person and another, and I make them know the statutes of God and his laws.”
Sounds good, right? The problem is, Moses was only one person — a real, human person with physical limitations. Knowing this, Jethro bluntly declares, “What you are doing is not good.” He knows if Moses continues this way, he’ll burn himself out, so he tells Moses to find some good men and make them judges. “So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. If you do this, God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace” (v. 22-23).
I promise, when you do it well, delegation isn’t laziness. It’s an investment in yourself and in others, and it frees you up to focus on the things that only you can do.
Action step: Look for things you can take off your plate. Some things you may be able to drop entirely. Or you may just need to find some help. It could be as simple as assigning your children a few extra chores or asking a friend to co-lead a ministry you’re running.
After calling down fire from heaven in 1 Kings 18, Elijah receives a threat from Queen Jezebel and flees into the desert, where he asks God to let him die. Why? Because he felt alone: “The people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.”
Elijah felt alone. But he wasn’t. Not only was God Himself with Elijah, but the Lord assured him that there were 7,000 other people in Israel who had never bowed to a false god. In fact, a few verses later, God brought Elijah to the man who would become his friend, helper, and spiritual successor — Elisha. Not only did God give Elijah direction when he needed it, but he also pointed the prophet toward something we all need: community.
Action step: Ask God to show you others who have walked or are walking the same path. Find a Facebook group, an in-person support group, a mentoring program, a life group, a club, or a Bible study group. Plug into your local church. Be intentional about finding people who can empathize, challenge, and support you. Find community.
ASking For ADvice
Just before reminding us that “with God are wisdom and might; He has counsel and understanding,” Scripture declares that “wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days” (Job 12:12-13). We are encouraged not only to ask for God’s guidance through prayer but also to seek counsel from wise friends.
Sharing our dreams and goals with other people and asking for advice can be scary, but we cannot afford to skip this step. In Proverbs, we are told that “without counsel plans fail, but with many advisors they succeed.” When we dream and plan in a vacuum, we’re setting ourselves up for failure.
Action step: Push past the discomfort and do the wise thing. Bring in some counselors — from close friends and family to a professional life coach, therapist, or mentor — and ask for advice when you need it (and even when you think you don’t).
Bringing a Friend
You’ve heard the saying, “That’s what friends are for.” But how often are we tempted to go it alone anyway?
None of us wants to feel like a burden, but friends who disappear during hard times aren’t friends at all. Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” Give your friends a chance to show up for you. Include them in your goals and plans.
It’s important to choose your friends wisely, but then once you have, it’s equally important to let them help you. Invite them to walk alongside you. Let them be there to cheer you on, offer advice, and lend a hand. Plus, working towards your goals — like many things in life — is just more fun with a friend.
Action step: As you chase your goals, bring some friends along for the journey. Ask for help when you need it, and trust them to support you.
As you work toward your goals, it’s important to actively seek and accept help — whether that means asking someone to babysit your kids for a few hours each week while you work on your novel, asking someone you admire to be your mentor, or asking a friend to be your gym buddy or accountability partner.
This weekend, think about what kind of help you might need to reach your goals in 2020. What can your friends and family do to support you? Who will you ask for help? What resources are available to you? What tools and strategies can you use to make life easier? How can you make sure you’re regularly inviting and accepting God’s counsel and strength?
Now that you’ve (hopefully) set some goals, it’s time to get down to business. You need to make a plan.
Planning comes more naturally to some people than to others. Some of us (raising my hand) feel like we can’t move forward without an exhaustive plan, while others like to wing it. The best approach, perhaps, lies somewhere in between.
We don’t want to become bogged down with planning out every tiny detail, because life is too short and messy and unpredictable. If you wait until you feel 100% ready, you’ll never move forward. However, that doesn’t mean planning is useless. Although we can’t plan for every contingency, we should factor known variables — like our own personal limitations — into our plans. An imperfect plan is better than no plan.
So in this week’s devotionals, we focused on grounding our big dreams in reality. Here’s what we talked about:
Counting the Cost
By the end of Luke 14, Jesus’ ministry must have looked like a huge success. Luke tells us that great crowds accompanied him. His followers probably expected a word of celebration or encouragement. Instead, Jesus chose this moment to preach about the cost of discipleship. Following Him, He told the crowds, would be an all-or-nothing endeavor. They would have to be prepared to forsake everything else to be His disciples.
Jesus said this not to discourage them, but to prepare them for reality. What sort of person, He asked, decides to build a tower without first figuring out how much it will cost and whether he can afford it? A foolish one.
Let’s not be foolish in our New Years’ resolutions. It’s ok to set big, audacious goals. But we’re unlikely to be successful if we don’t put some practical thought and planning into our dreams.
Action step: Spend some time thinking about what you’ll have to do to achieve your goals. Be honest with yourself about how much time and work it will take. Think about what you might have to sacrifice. Prepare yourself for the obstacles you might face. Count the cost and make sure you have what you need to finish — whether that’s emotional support, a step-by-step plan, an accountability partner, or time set aside specifically for working toward your goal.
The tortoise and the hare was NOT my favorite fable when I was a kid. It’s still not, because I’m not a naturally patient person. I don’t like to waste time, and I don’t like to wait. Once I set my mind to something, I want to go RIGHT NOW, AT FULL SPEED, WITHOUT STOPPING until I finish.
That approach works fine with some things — with simple projects, short distances, and small tasks. But it doesn’t work well for big, important things. You won’t win a marathon by sprinting, because running at top speed isn’t sustainable over long distances. You may start strong, but you’ll run out of steam before you finish. Similarly, you won’t achieve any big, long-term goals if you approach them the same way you do everyday tasks. You have to pace yourself.
In Galatians 6, we are promised that we will reap the fruits of our labor — but only if we don’t give up. So do what it takes to make sure you won’t give up.
Action step: Commit to chasing your dreams the way you would run a marathon. Give it your all, but be smart about it. Break big goals up into small, manageable steps, and celebrate every little victory along the way.
You can expect that as you make progress toward your goals, you’ll encounter adversity. Why? Because everyone does. Matthew 5:45 reminds us that God “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” Similarly, Ecclesiastes 9:2 says that “the same event happens to the righteous and the wicked, to the good and the evil.”
In light of this, there are a few things we should do:
First, don’t read too much into hiccups. Although difficulty doesn’t always prove you’re on the right path, it doesn’t mean you’re on the wrong path, either.
Look for the silver lining in adversity. Embrace it. As Paul wrote in Romans 5:3-5, we can rejoice in our struggles, “knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.”
Learn to let things go. Despite our best efforts to plan and prepare, we can’t control all the variables in our lives. Don’t waste too much time or energy trying to figure out why something happened — learn from your mistakes, but don’t let yourself wallow in bitterness or self-blame.
Action step: Go into 2020 with realistic expectations. Achieving your goals won’t be easy. You will face challenges and obstacles. There will be doubters and nay-sayers. You will struggle, and it won’t be pretty. But that’s ok — just keep going.
Picking Your Battles
As part of counting the cost, we need to pick our battles. Before going to war, a wise king would ask himself “whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand.” If the answer is no (as it likely is), then he should shift gears and try diplomacy instead. Surrender, retreat, concessions — though not ideal, these solutions are the wisest course of action in some situations.
That doesn’t mean you should avoid or abandon every battle that you’re unlikely to win. Sometimes the steep price of victory is worth it. But sometimes it just isn’t. There are hills to die on — and then there are regular old hills. It’s up to us to learn the difference.
Action step: Choose your battles wisely. Like every other human, you have a limited amount of time and energy, so prioritize the things that matter most to you.
You’ve probably heard the saying, “When you know better, you do better.” I think this wisdom applies to how well we know ourselves and how well we achieve our goals. The more we know about ourselves, the more we can accomplish, because our plans will take our strengths and weaknesses into account. When it comes to this, what you don’t know will certainly hurt you.
I think we’re all a little scared of what we’ll find if we look at ourselves too closely, but this step is important. Ignoring your weaknesses won’t make them go away; it will just ensure they take you by surprise. And you can’t assume your strengths will come into play automatically; you have to actively exercise your gifts.
Action step: Be honest about your strengths and weaknesses. Think about how they might advance or interfere with your goals and factor that into your plans for 2020.
This weekend, get out a sheet of paper (or open a Google doc) and start writing. List your strengths and weaknesses. Consider the obstacles you might face and how you’ll overcome them. Take some time and really count the cost of pursuing your goals.
Finally, come up with a plan. Break up your goal into smaller steps. Set some deadlines. Start with quarterly and monthly goals. Then set weekly and daily goals as you go along. These smaller goals will keep you moving toward your bigger goals without getting overwhelmed, and they give you something to celebrate along the way. ( I recommend Ruth Soukup’s method. Her (IM)Perfectly Productive Bundle, in particular, has a lot of great info and tools you can use.)
You may also want to consider investing in a planner that includes some sort of goal-setting component. Ruth Soukup’s Living Well Planner is one example, but you can find many others, too. The important thing is to find a system that will help you stay focused, organized, and motivated.
Ecclesiastes 3 famously says there is a time for everything.
This month, I think, is our time to plan. Our time to dream. Our time to decide what we want to accomplish in 2020 — to decide how we want our lives to be different a year from now.
Throughout the month, I will be posting devotionals on Facebook and Instagram to guide us as we gear up for the new year. This week, we focused on the first step: dreaming big, narrowing our focus, and setting our goals for 2020.
Here’s what we talked about:
STANDing BEFORE THE LORD
In the very first chapter of Mark — toward the beginning of Jesus’ ministry — Scripture says that Jesus woke up before dawn, sought out solitude, and prayed. Mark doesn’t say what, exactly, Jesus prayed, but this brief interlude is sandwiched between the very first acts of His public ministry (calling His disciples, healing “many who were sick with various diseases,” and casting out many demons) and his quick rise to fame.
I would guess that Jesus used this time to center Himself and seek His Father’s guidance, away from the distractions of the world. Not because He needed to, but to set an example for us.
Action step: Seek solitude and simply stand (or sit) before the Lord. Center yourself — away from the noise and distractions of everyday life — and listen for that still, small voice. Ask the Lord to clarify your purpose and set His will in your heart as you make your New Year’s resolutions.
DREAMing BIG IN JESUS’ NAME
Setting big goals and chasing big dreams is hard. It’s scary. As soon as we imagine what we want, we begin talking ourselves out of it. Our heads fill with doubts and fears. We worry about what others will think. We become paralyzed by “what ifs.” We convince ourselves we can’t do hard things, or that we should just be content with what God has already given us.
Where did we get the idea that God doesn’t want us to dream big? Scripture reminds us often of God’s omnipotence. Knowing that nothing is impossible for our God, how could we not dream big? We may not be able to accomplish much in our own power, and we are certainly not called to do big things for our own glory — but in the name of Jesus, when we work for His glory and through His strength, nothing is impossible.
Action step: Let yourself dream big, knowing that nothing is too hard for God and that it’s impossible to dream bigger than He has.
It’s easy to get caught in a cycle of self-defeat. We try and fail. We get discouraged. Things get difficult, and we have doubts. We struggle. We throw a pity party and give up.
You know what we don’t do, more often than not? We don’t ask.
Scripture often refers to God as our Father. Jesus draws on that image in Matthew 7, asking, “Which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?” (v. 9-10) If we know how to give good gifts to our children, Jesus explains, how much more so does our Heavenly Father, in His perfect goodness, know how to bless us? All we have to do is ask.
Action step: Take your big dreams and impossible goals to God — and ask.
Our adversary is always on the prowl, waiting for the perfect moment to pounce and destroy our faith. Big dreams mean big doubts, big fears, big obstacles, and big temptations. Whatever life throws at us, we must hold fast to our faith.
The author of Hebrews, assures us that because of “the unchangeable character of His purpose,” we “have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us” (Hebrews 6:17-18). He refers to our hope and faith in Christ as “a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul” (v. 19).
We may walk through dark times — times when we are beset by doubt, worry, fear, danger, and struggle — but we don’t have to succumb to the darkness. We can and should hold fast to our faith and walk as children of light, trusting in the faithfulness, power, and goodness of God even when we do not feel His presence.
Action step: Hold fast to your hope. Stand firm in your faith. Walk worthy of your calling. remember that God sees all and trust that He will guide you.
Running Your Race
The words I want to focus on are “your race” — emphasis on “your.” To run your race, you’re going to have to pass up a lot of other opportunities. You’re going to have to say no. You’ll have to narrow your focus by ruthlessly cutting out things that don’t fit in with the bigger picture. Some of those things will be perfectly harmless things. Good things. Things it will be hard to turn down.
But here’s the thing: You can’t do everything well. In fact, you can’t do everything, period. If you aren’t intentional about how you spend your time, you’ll look back and wonder where it all went. You have to prioritize. Carve out time to pursue your goals. Plan your life around your dreams. Remember that your time is limited, and “look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time” (Ephesians 5:15).
Action step: Lay aside every weight, and run your race. When you’re considering a new commitment or making your schedule, be discerning. Ask yourself, “Is this mine to do? Will it put me closer to or further from my goals? Is it really helpful or necessary?”
This weekend, focus on setting your goals for 2020.
How you do that is up to you. You can create a vision board, choose a focus word, or write a traditional list of goals. The internet is full of ideas. Ruth Soukup’s website, in particular, has a lot of helpful articles about setting goals.
If you feel comfortable sharing your goals, we’d love to hear them! Maybe we can help inspire and encourage each other. 🙂