Are you actually responsible for how your year turned out?

Are you actually responsible for how your year turned out?

As you reflect on 2023, how did your year turn out? How do you judge if it is a good year or a bad year? One measure is financial: did you meet your budget or your goals? Another is by achievement: did you get everything done that you hoped to? These are the kinds of things that are easily measured. We know when we have met these goals.

Yet, if we are honest with ourselves, many of the things that happened in the past year we didn’t plan or expect. We probably were unwell at some stage. We might have lost a job or had an unexpected job offer. Any number of things might have happened that we could never have known in advance.

It is like James reminded his readers of when it came to planning:

13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”– 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.

                                                                            (Jas. 4:13-16 ESV)

Older generations of Christians often had the habit of saying, “Lord willing” after making any kind of plan. We need to be constantly reminded that however capable we might be, what actually happens is so often different to how we planned it. God knows how our lives will turn out but we can never be certain.

When I reflect on my past year, some of the things I prayed for and planned for did come about. Yet many things were unexpected. One of my co-pastors became very unwell. Many people joined the church and some people left. Many things, both large and small, happened that I could never have known in advance. It makes me humble knowing that I have far less control over my life than I often think I do.

How does this impact our thinking this time of year? In at least two ways:

  1. We should take time to thank God for what has happened instead of being frustrated that they didn’t happen exactly as we planned. Often God’s plans are different to ours and lead to our good even if they are difficult at the time (Rom 8:28).
  1. We should not just measure our lives on whether we achieved what we planned. If our focus is on God and not on us, we should be measuring our lives in comparison to God and his kingdom instead. Have we grown in our knowledge of God and our faith? Have we served God faithfully with whatever resources and gifts He has given to us? Are we more generous and exhibiting more of the fruit of the Spirit now compared to last year?

God has been kind to us for another year. Let’s thank Him for this and not only consider the things we controlled and planned.