For the past several months social media has been filled with bad-mouthing 2020. It seems that everyone was glad to see it go, and almost everyone was sure that 2021 was going to be different. That somehow, turning the page of the calendar would make all things new. And bright. And shiny. And perfect.
I’m sure that most of the people making those posts and memes know the truth. There’s no guarantee that 2021 will be different or better. 2021, like 2020, can (and will) be filled with surprises—pandemics, riots, political ups and downs, natural disasters, or something we can’t even imagine. The circumstances of 2021 could be even worse than 2020! That’s just life, folks.
But I have a secret for you. Regardless of the circumstances you face in 2021, there are several keys to making it your best year yet.
“How?” you ask.
Practice these habits and you’ll be released from the emotional rope that has been swinging you around like a tether ball for the past twelve months.
Watch Your Language
Did you know that your words create reality? They do. You see, we are made in the image of God, and God creates by speaking. He spoke the world into existence (Gen. 1:3). We often forget that we live in a multi-dimensional world with a spirit world in a dimension that is invisible to us. But we aren’t invisible to it, and when we use our voices to make sounds, those sounds have real honest-to-goodness substance in the spirit world. So if I speak out how terrible 2020 was, it creates a reality of “terrible” in the spirit world. It’s basically a curse on time. But I’m not just cursing the past; I’m cursing time, which includes the present and the future as well. And I’m cursing a situation. So if I complain about Covid or lockdowns or masks or whatever, that curse has power in the spirit world.
So what to do? Watch your language. Bless instead of cursing. You can command the evil thing to stop, to be removed, to die. That’s using your authority as a believer in Jesus Christ. But then bless the frontline workers. Bless the fact that you still have a home or a job. Bless the fact that you still have life. Bless the guy who cuts you off in traffic. Just bless.
We are commanded to “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1Th. 5:18). Notice that little adverb “all.” We are not to just be thankful for the things we deem to be good. We’re commanded to give thanks in everything. That’s hard, but it’s one of the most important habits to develop as a Christian.
Several years ago I was ministering to a woman who had what I called an Eeyore spirit. She was unhappy and spread doom and gloom wherever she went. So I assigned her the task of finding ten things to be grateful for every day, with no repeats, and send them to me on email. Amazingly, she complied. And within a few months, her entire character and countenance had begun to change. I joined her a few months later. That was eight years ago and we’re still going strong. And what a difference it’s made for her, for me, and for the others who have joined us. The changes in her life are nothing short of miraculous in every way—physically, emotionally, spiritually, financially, relationally.
So develop a habit of being grateful in all circumstances. Exercise an attitude of gratitude and watch your year change for the better.
Decide Who and How You Will be in 2021
News flash! You are not a victim! You can actually decide how you will react to any situation you face. Sure, you have your MO. You get upset. You get depressed. You strike out in anger. But no one is making you do that. You have a choice. You get to decide you who will be.
Sounds hard, and I admit, at times it is. The emotion of the moment can overwhelm us. So here’s the key: decide in advance! You know the kinds of things that set you off, so take some time when you’re calm and pre-decide how you will react. It’s as simple as saying, “If ____ happens, I will _____.” Then think logically and calmly about a better reaction. Think about who you are and Whose you are, and who you want to be in such a situation. What would a person of your character do in such a situation? That probably rules out a frantic, screaming, fear-based response. You’re better than that!
So spend some time thinking (and praying) about what could steal your peace and practice a better response.
For me, 2020 felt like a football player in training, running through the inner tubes, trying to not fall flat on my face. I started the year with my goals set and my face and ministry heading in one direction. In March I was very sick. I slept the better part of five weeks. But in the few waking moments I had, God started downloading what I thought was a talk I had been invited to give, but which turned into a 160 page book! The first draft was actually pretty good for a book written in a stupor. I was excited and started editing it, with the goal of a fall 2020 release.
Then on June 14 I was standing in church worshipping and the Lord said, “I want (what was to become Kingdom Now: Pursuing Unity in the Body of Christ to Change the World) out now.” I had been in the process of editing and updating that bible study but was only a few chapters into it.
I argued with God. (Have you ever done that?)
“It’s not ready.” (By which I meant, it’s not perfect.)
“Now.” We went back and forth a couple more times before I realized I was losing. I said yes, set aside the book I was working on, and in two months, Kingdom Now: Pursuing Unity in the Body of Christ to Change the World was available on Amazon, complete with a Facebook group and two Zoom bible studies. It’s been awesome! The interruption made my 2020 more amazing than my plans would have!
Then I thought I could get back to the first book, but no. Through a series of circumstances, it became clear that I need to publish some of my leadership training materials. I’ve done leadership training for at least 40 years. It’s time to adapt that material to a Kingdom point of view and get it out. So for now, as of this minute, I think that’s what I’m doing in 2021.
But it may not be. God may have an entirely different plan. I intend to stay nimble.
When you face circumstances that seem awful, look again. Ask God what He sees. What He’s doing. He may have something far better in mind for you, if you’re willing to see things from His point of view. Just like switching to Kingdom Now has been amazingly timely, so is what He’s moving you to.
This is hard. Especially when your world is crashing in on you. It’s easier once you’ve developed the habit of deciding in advance. Look again. What treasure might you miss if you only complain?
Ultimately, this is your goal. We think God wants us to be happy, but the reality is, He wants us to choose joy. Even in the hard things. Consider Jesus, “who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross” (Heb. 12:2). It didn’t look like a good thing. It looked as if the battle was lost. It looked like defeat. But look again! He knew that on the other side of awful was an amazing victory. So he chose (decided) on joy.
Joy is a fruit of the Spirit, so if you’re finding yourself a little short of it these days, spend more time with Jesus. More time in worship. Seek the infilling of the Holy Spirit. Allow yourself to be filled with His joy as you face 2021.
And that’s how 2021 can be your best year yet, regardless of what the world throws at you.