So, in a few days, I’m going to attempt to compile a top ten list not just for the month like usual, but for the entire year of 2015. This is a daunting task, as I’ve done and learned SO MUCH this year! But as the year draws to a close, I wanted to share what I’ve learned about my faith and relationship with God this year. Here are six things I learned:
- DON’T OVERDO IT. Last year I made a last minute decision over Christmas break that I was going to read the whole Bible in a year starting January 1, 2015, and I spent about 45-60 minutes a day reading what was on the reading plan and taking notes on what I read. I was so busy with homework and activities, but I was determined to still read as much of God’s word as I could. However, I didn’t have time to stop and soak any of it in and my prayers were short because I had so much I needed to read. I was merely reading the text and the long footnotes in my study Bible so I could check off a little box on my plan. I was doing it out of habit and not out of desire. I began not enjoying reading this much every day, and it began to tire me out, when time with God is supposed to ignite and refresh us. So, in August, I QUIT. I didn’t stop reading the Bible but began to do some short and interesting plans. I also tried just working through a book of the Bible at my own pace, taking notes in my journal, and relaxing in the presence of God. And it felt so refreshing to not be confined to following a strict plan. God doesn’t want us to feel forced to read a certain amount of his word everyday, and it’s so nice to know that if I miss a day now, I can pick up where I left off without feeling “behind.”
- HUMILITY IS KEY. That’s been the word I’ve been trying to teach myself to become better at this year. I have prayed I don’t know how many times for God to humble me because it’s so important that we don’t put ourselves up on a pedestal. We are nothing compared to God. As my faith has gotten stronger this year, it has become increasingly hard for me to not think of myself as better than certain people. Thoughts like “I can’t believe she did that” and “Wow, I would never do anything that bad” are in my head sometimes, but they’re so flawed because no matter what others do, I sin. That’s what matters. Other people’s sins don’t matter. Because all sins are the same in the eyes of God, I am just as horrible as people I would refer to as “partiers” or “druggies.” And I may even be worse off because I have judged them. But God forgives us all the same, and I’m trying to learn how to extend his mercy and love to others.
- THE HATERS GONNA HATE, HATE, HATE, HATE, HATE. Let’s face it, Taylor Swift said it best. We live in a country where so many have stopped believing in God or at least stopped caring about their faith. It’s not easy being a seventeen-year-old Christian trying to make disciples in my school, just as it’s not easy being a 50 year old trying to make disciples in your workplace. Earlier in 2015, I did a huge research project at the governor’s school and the whole thing was based on seeing if peoples’ religions correlated to their happiness levels. Apparently people were not happy being asked about religion because I got some very negative comments on it, using words such as “ignorant,” “pretentious,” and “naive.” My friends and I also got referred to as “The Holy Rollers” earlier this year, which I actually didn’t take offense to because I’d much rather have that reputation than other ones. But the point is, people are out to get Christians. A lot of people hate us because we are “hypocrites” or we think we are better than them or because they want what we have. I’m not scared to be outgoing about my faith because Psalm 118:6 says, “The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”
- YOU CAN’T TAKE IT TOO PERSONALLY. I am a people pleaser 100%, so when people say offensive things to me or I feel like they don’t like me, I take it personally. I get upset and try to fix whatever I can so I can please them because I can’t stand grudges or hateful feelings. But when it comes to faith matters, sometimes the problem doesn’t lie between you and that person, but between that person and God. So I’ve learned that I can’t “fix” the problem when I’m not really part of it in the first place. When our youth group had a party at the Valley Mission last week, I was SO excited because we bought each of the kids there really nice Bibles. Since I knew the children from tutoring, I specially picked out each one with their interests in mind, so I was ecstatic to see how they would respond when they got the gifts. However, the response wasn’t what I hoped for from some of them. One teenage girl tried giving it back to us, saying she “hated it” and she threatened to throw it in the trash can because she “will never use it.” I’m not going to lie… I got very offended and hurt by this, and my mood after that was slightly sour the rest of the party. But I thought about it after and realized that it wasn’t me who should be offended. I did what I could, and now it’s between her and God.
- CHRISTIAN FRIENDS ARE WORTH MORE THAN GOLD. I have certainly found out who my true friends are this year more than ever before. And what do you know, all my best friends are strong Christians. These people encourage me, care for me, pray for me, inspire me, listen to me, and hold me accountable to others and to God. They live out Proverbs 17:17, “A friend loves at all times.” They embody Christ’s love and joy, and I can only hope that I do the same for them. (Shout out to Shelby, Morgan, Grace, Micah, Abby, and Kelley for being absolutely AMAZING!) I’m so thankful for my friendship with each of these people and I know that they are relationships that will last a lifetime because they are built on God.
- WHEN YOU SLOW DOWN AND LOOK CLOSELY ENOUGH, GOD’S BEAUTY IS IN EVERYTHING. For some reason, this year I have been truly able to grasp how beautiful God is. Like, his beauty is in every single thing on this earth. I used to judge people by appearance, but God has been teaching me to see his image in everyone. I used to look outside in the bleak winter and call it ugly, but God has taught me to enjoy the little things like the birds chirping in the cold morning air. I used to never appreciate the mountains or the stars that surround us, but now every time I look at them, I think of God creating them out of nothing. I took all his blessings in my life for granted, but now I am so much more thankful for all he has done.
So these are just a few of the things I have learned this year. I’m sure I could write more, but it already got really long, so thank you for making it this far! I want to challenge you to get a piece of paper or journal and write what you have learned this year in your relationship with God. It’s so important to reflect on the year because that is how you’re going to keep growing in faith in the future! I hope you’ve gained a nugget of wisdom from these things I’ve learned. Have an amazing last few days of the year!
“I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ.” -Philemon 1:6
Will you pray with me?
Father, thank you for loving us and giving us another year on this beautiful earth you created. We thank you for teaching us and shaping us into the person you want us to be. Please help us to follow you this coming year and for the rest of our lives. Help us to spend time in reflection of how you have shaped us so far. You’re a good, good Father. In Jesus name, Amen.