Lean in this New Year

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.

James 4:8

I love how the New Year’s celebration comes right after Christmas. The new year has always represented a chance to start over for me. Clean the slate, re-focus, set some new goals and make it happen! As I head into the new year, I naturally inventory the past one. What went well? What didn’t? Am I happy? Am I fulfilled? Why or why not? What can I do about it?

For most of my life (40 years or so), I didn't have a real relationship with Christ. Because I grew up outside of the Church, I never really considered myself bad. In my mind, I wasn’t a malicious person, trying to hurt others. Truthfully, I'm more guilty of being selfish than being mean-spirited. I’ve always been aware of others’ feelings, and I’ve tried to respect those feelings and be a “nice guy.” And new year after new year, I tried to do good, feel better about who I am and value my life more. Each year, I would continually fail myself in some way. When I inventoried my life, I would find high points here and there, but by leaning on my own understanding and serving my own desires, I let myself down over and over again. I would try to wipe the slate clean and do it again.

I have been a Christian for about 14 years now. I am still a mess, and I still wrestle with a core selfishness and pride that makes me think “I got this” sometimes. But what has helped give me wisdom and peace is a relationship with Christ outside of myself. I find truth in following Christ's example, accepting His love for me and loving others in response. I have found His truth in my shallowest thoughts and deep in my soul. The more I obey my calling and respond to His leading, the more understanding I receive and joy I experience. I haven’t seen a reduction in life’s struggles, but I am making better choices--choices that are often the exact opposite of my natural response. Those choices are producing better results in how I feel about myself, how I interact with others and the value of my life experience.

So, as I head into another New Years’ celebration, I am reminded of a scripture my Pastor shared recently. James 4:8 invites us to draw near to God and God will draw near to us. I don’t know what struggles you may be facing. I can’t know your soul's depths and what troubling waters might be churning there. I may not know the overwhelming panic and hopelessness you are facing. But I can share this with you in good faith: whatever you’re facing and wherever you are, draw near to God and He will draw near to you.

Each new year, I want to draw closer to God and feel Him closer to me. Read my Bible, pray, worship, fellowship with believers and love my neighbors. That’s my plan for the new year. What’s yours?

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