The beginning of a new year often sparks hope and excitement in those of us who are dreamers. There is something about shedding the sadness and disappointment of one year and stepping into the optimism that comes with a clean slate. What was this year like for you? Was it full of good friends, fun, and accomplishments? Are you excited to see what next year has in store? Was this year filled with heartaches and disillusionment? Are you happy to move into a new year, or are you sorry to see this year go?
The turn of a year is not only a good time to make plans and resolutions for the future, but it’s also a time to evaluate what’s been working in the previous year and what has not. What do you need to leave behind? An old Michael Card song says, “It’s hard to imagine the freedom we find from the things we leave behind.” Is that not the truth?
Have you ever had something you held onto for dear life? Maybe it was a hobby that was taking over your life, an addiction, or a bad relationship? There have been times in my life when the Lord would convict me heavily about television shows I thought I could not live without. Then, after I yielded to Him and decided to stop watching them, I felt such a freedom. Other times, I’ve been in relationships that made me feel so bound, even though sometimes it made no sense to me why I didn’t have peace. Then, many tears later, I would finally surrender the relationships. It hurt to give them up, but the freedom and peace that came as a result could not be matched! There is nothing in this world more important than being right with God.
Is there something in your life that you need to leave behind? Are you bound by something that seems to have a hold over you? Is there a relationship that you know you need to end, but you are struggling with the thought of being alone? Are there dietary changes you need to make, but you worry about what your life will be like without your favorite foods? Is there an addiction in your life that you want to leave behind, but you don’t know if you can? Now is an excellent time to lay them down and leave them behind.
Easier said than done? Of course. It’s never been easy to let go of those people and habits we’ve grown accustomed to. Hebrews 12:1-2 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (ESV). Christ was willing to leave His very life behind to do the will of His Father.
When we examine our lives, we need to find out what we have that is helping us run the race well and what we have that is hindering us. Maybe there are some gray areas in your life and you’re not sure if something is hindering you (e.g., television shows, movies, food choices, friend choices, romantic relationship, amount of physical activity in your relationship, too much work, avoiding work, etc.). In those cases ask the Lord to reveal to you what needs to stay and what needs to go. He’ll be faithful to show you.
One sin that holds many of us captive is unforgiveness. Unforgivness gets down into our bones and rots. Nothing good ever came from holding onto grudges and anger, other than a false sense of power. Keeping bitterness locked up inside doesn’t hurt the person who hurt you. It only hurts you and the ones you love. Ask God to help you forgive. My experience has shown me that it’s not something I can do apart from God’s grace. I can forgive others because God has forgiven me and I know the debt I owed Him is far greater than any debt any man could ever owe me. If you’re angry, bitter, and hurting, lay it down on the altar. Let God have that pain. Ask Him to restore your heart and ask Him to give you the grace to forgive and move forward with your life. Leave it behind.
Is this your year to quit smoking? Is this your year to finally cut back or give up those foods that are making your body sick? Is it time to let him or her go? Take some time on this New Year’s Eve and ask God to reveal those traps in your life that are keeping you from running the race well. Then, ask Him to help you leave those traps behind. It’s hard to imagine the freedom we find from the things we leave behind.
What do you need to leave behind before moving into another year?