Every year, many will spend December planning for January. We create goals, vision boards, and resolutions that fall by the way side within the first few weeks of the new month. Statistically, only 8% of people actually accomplish their goalsfor the year.
If I’m honest, I still have New Year Resolutions that are almost a decade old and remain “unfinished.” Sadly, like so many others, I have found that these random plans are simply attempts to create quick fixes for the deeper issues at hand.
Years ago, my mentor challenged me to find a word of the year versus creating a list of resolutions. In an ideal world, “words of the year” are different from resolutions. Resolutions are typically inward-focused. For this coming year, you may desire to be at your goal weight, launch your business, and better manage your time. However, choosing a word of the year provides an opportunity to reframe your perspective and develop true heart change that has the potential to impact everyone you encounter.
For example, if your word of the year is forgiveness, you will be more likely to give others grace and forgive yourself when you miss the mark. Your word of the year should be the filter for every interaction. Coincidentally, your word of the year should also empower you to complete your goals.
Here are six questions that can help you choose your Word of the Year:
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1. What are your areas of struggle?
As Christians, we must always seek to improve and grow to be more like Him. Although we are aware that each of us have sinned (Romans 3:23), we also know that He calls us to be holy (1 Peter 1:16). In other words, we must recognize that we are not perfect but still seek to live a life that is honoring to Him.
The new year is a great time to evaluate our personal areas of struggle and choose a word or theme that will empower you.
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“…We are not perfect but still seek to live a life that is honoring to Him.”
A great example of this can be found in the word “joy.” Suppose you have experienced so many hurtful situations that you struggle with receiving God’s joy. With joy as your word of the year, you can now focus your energy on what it means to be joyful.
The books that you choose and the way you read your Bible should be to truly seek out traces of joy in each verse. Furthermore, when faced with a difficult choice you can ask yourself, “Will participating in this rob me of my joy?” This word would also cause you to gravitate towards people who bring you joy and situations where you can be a conduit for making someone else’s life more joyful.
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2. What Bible verse speaks to your heart?
In 2017, my word of the year was “victory.” This word came from my love of the verse, “For the LORD your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory,” found in Deuteronomy 20:4. With this word in mind, I spent the year asking the Lord to give me a perspective of victory. In fact, every time a situation would arise that made me feel defeated, I stood on God’s Word that He would fight my battles for me.
My word of the year empowered me to learn all that I could on the topic and share my knowledge with others. What was even more amazing is that God took my word of the year and turned it into an entire book that now empowers so many to walk out their victory!
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“…ask the Lord to illuminate a verse that speaks to your heart.”
In the same way, ask the Lord to illuminate a verse that speaks to your heart. If you are struggling with anxiety, the Lord may direct you to Philippians 4:6-8. From this passage, we see that God directs us to pray with thanksgiving and supplication when we feel anxious. In doing so, you would find that the Lord will give us a peace that “surpasses all understanding” when we choose to pray in such manner. Thus, the word “peace” may be your word of the year.
You may find that by asking the Lord for a word for the year, He gives you an entire verse that changes your life! There’s no need to settle on one word if the Lord is speaking for you to do more.
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3. What areas in life to you remain “unsurrendered”?
Most of us make every attempt to be a “good” Christian. Outwardly, we check the boxes of going to church, reading our Bibles, and sharing Christ with those we encounter. However, each of us has an area of our life that we would be embarrassed for the world to see.
These aspects we may even try to “hide” from God by not praying about them. Perhaps your lack of organization causes your home to be unkept or greed causes you to spend more money than you know you should. You may even struggle with deeper issues like severe shame or bitterness.
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“Ultimately, our goal is that God would mold us more and more into His image.”
A careful look at these unsurrendered areas will illuminate a need for change.
For example, if you secretly struggle with greed, you may find that your word of the year should be “contentment.” The word contentment should not only help you with spending frenzies, but also with overeating and being jealous of others. Thus, by focusing on one area of your heart, multiple areas of your life including your health and relationships will start to evolve.
Ultimately, our goal is that God would mold us more and more into His image. This means we must be willing to allow Him into every part of our hearts.
“But now, O LORD, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand.” (Isaiah 64:8)
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4. What are you passionate about?
The things you love the most may be the key to your word of the year. For example, if you are passionate about your family, your word of the year may be “intimacy.” With this as your word, your goal would be to create intentional moments of family time and foster environments of trust. This word will also help you to prioritize what is important when presented with opportunities that will take you away from your family.
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“Your passion may be what God uses to change another person’s life.”
Another example of this can be seen if you have the heart of an advocate. Your word of the year may be “compassion.” Just like with the other words, you would naturally seek ways to be compassionate to those who are disenfranchised or neglected by society. Your passion may be what God uses to change another person’s life.
This method is a great one because your word will align to what you already believe. This will help your corresponding actions to flow effortlessly.
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5. Which Fruit of the Spirit most resonates with your heart?
Galatians 5:22-23 provides us with a bit of a spiritual “cheat list.” By considering each of the themes of these verses, we can easily find a word that resonates with our hearts. In these verses, we are reminded that those who are planted in Christ (John 15:5) should display these characteristics at all times. How beautiful would it be to spend an entire year focused on any of the below aspects of who God is!
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6. What is God telling you in prayer?
Although there are many great tactics to finding a word that can carry you through the year, the best way to proceed is to simply ask the Lord. Remember, He does not operate within the boundaries of time (Psalm 90:4). He knows what you will need to carry you throughout the year. He is well aware of the trials you will face and breakthroughs that you will need. Throughout the Bible, He reminds us that when we are unsure, we must ask for wisdom and believe He will answer (James 1:5, Ephesians 1:17, Psalm 16:7-8).
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“Ultimately, we should all desire for His voice to be what guides us through our year.”
When we trust Him for the plan, we can be assured that He will see us through every step of the way. Ultimately, we should all desire for His voice to be what guides us through our year.
May this year’s word for your life strengthen your relationship with Christ and empower you to be a vessel of hope for everyone you encounter!
Victoria Riollano is an author, blogger, and speaker. As a mother of six, military spouse, Psychology professor and minister’s wife, Victoria has learned the art of balancing family and accomplishing God’s ultimate purpose for her life. Recently, Victoria released her book, The Victory Walk: A 21 Day Devotional on Living A Victorious Life. Her ultimate desire is to empower women to live a life of victory, hope, and love. She believes that with Christ we can live a life that is ALWAYS winning. You can learn more about her ministry at victoryspeaks.org.
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Originally published Monday, 17 December 2018.