When I come to the end of one year and am on the cusp of the next, I’m generally optimistic about what’s ahead. I like to rejoice in the victories of the past year, the progress made, the challenges overcome, and the joy experienced. I also try to set in the past those things which didn’t come to fruition—failures, unreached goals, unmet expectations—and start the new year with determination to do better, work smarter, progress more, and reach my goals.
Standing on the threshold of the new year, I’m excited about what’s ahead. At the same time, I have a feeling of foreboding. The optimism I feel regarding potential and opportunities causes me to look forward to what God has in store. At the same time, caution about developments in the world lingers in the background. I’m trying to reconcile these clashing opposites of optimism and pessimism about the new year.
Each of us can take action toward pursuing the opportunities that will be available to us as individuals in the new year. After all, the results will be based at least partly on the goals we set, our choices, the effort we put in, our prayers, and seeking God’s will. World events, on the other hand, aren’t something we personally have control over. Our human tendency is to fear, and in that fear, to become more concerned about ourselves and our own community or nation. This can result in a rise of nationalism, intolerance, and hatred, which are in direct opposition to the teachings of Jesus.
How to reconcile these two outlooks to find a balanced perspective? In pondering this issue, I made some personal commitments going into the new year.
Regarding pessimism due to the state of the world:
- To not succumb to fear. It’s important to face the troubles of this world with faith in God. While there are atrocities, injustices, and many sad and terrible situations throughout the world, as Christians we are meant to put our trust in God and have His peace in our hearts, no matter what situations we and others face.
- To not let the sad state of the world, and regularly hearing about it via the media, cause me to focus primarily on the negative. There is much evil in our world, but there is much good as well, and I’m committing to remind myself of the good, to fix my thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. “Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”1
- To focus on what Jesus taught—to love our neighbors in general. While those who commit wrong deserve retribution and justice, our attitude toward them should not be one of revenge and hatred.
- To pray for those in power. For their wisdom in dealing with volatile situations, and for them to be motivated by truth and justice over national or personal pride.
Optimistically, there is of course much to praise God for in this past year, and also much to look forward to in the new year.
Each of us can look ahead to our personal future with optimism, knowing that the God of the universe loves us individually and is personally involved in our lives. As we pray about the upcoming year and seek Him for guidance and help, He can guide us in our decisions and direct us toward paths that will help us achieve goals that are in alignment with His will.
I find it worthwhile to seek Him at this time of the year about what goals He may want me to work toward, be they spiritual or practical. It’s uplifting and faith-building to know that my goals coincide with His overall plan for my life.
Some areas of personal growth that I plan to focus on in the year ahead include:
- Giving more attention to spiritual growth. Spiritual growth is important to me, and I know that it takes intentionality to grow spiritually.
- Investing in my friendships. Friends are an important part of life, but it’s so easy to take them for granted. I plan to put more time and effort into strengthening these relationships.
- Minimizing stress. I’m praying about and seeking ways to avoid stress, rather than merely working through it when in a stressful situation.
- Doing what I can to bring those around me closer to God. There are some wonderful people in my life who unfortunately have strong prejudices against Jesus. I’m praying for the wisdom, patience, and love to help them come to know Him.
I also pray that as you enter this new year, you will do so with a sense of purpose and direction. That you will take time to receive God’s guidance for the coming year, and that as you work toward your goals, you will find joy and satisfaction.