Every December, I spend time in reflection, meditation, and prayer. In the midst of a chaotic holiday season, I specifically ask the Lord for one thing for the coming year. I ask for a word: one word to encapsulate what He wants me to focus my heart on for the coming year.
As an over-achiever and over-analyzer, I am often overwhelmed by all the areas of sin in my life that need work. When I am overwhelmed, I become anxious and unproductive. I stop looking to God and start desperately trying to patch myself up while forgetting that in Christ I am no longer condemned (Rom 8:1). I become easily discouraged and spiritually frail. The practice of focusing on just one word for an entire year helps with this.
The process isn’t anything magical. I simply ask for spiritual direction in prayer and then spend time listening. I journal, I meditate on scripture, and I think back on what the Lord has been teaching me recently. Over time, I become aware of things in my heart that need work, and out of that, a word emerges.
Sometimes, the word I get for the year surprises me. I don’t always see how I need to grow in a certain area until Jesus starts working. But this December as I prayed for my word, I was very quickly given an answer that didn’t surprise me at all: humility.
If you are anything like me, you just cringed a little. I am a proud person at heart. So you can imagine my sense of resignation (and maybe dismay) at being given humility as my word. However, in previous years I’ve never been disappointed in my choice of which word to study, so as January hit I started to dig into what God says about humility and how we can intentionally grow in it.
As weeks passed, I grew in my understanding of Jesus and his humility. However, after two months of study, I couldn’t see much practical improvement. I still felt the same proud bent in my heart, the same arrogance, and the same sense of self-sufficiency. Then 2020 took a twist.
Suddenly, my job was gone. Finances were uncertain. I went from using my master’s degree in sports medicine to working at a coffee shop serving people. I was lonely. I was worried. Emotionally I was a wreck. And it was in this perfect storm that the Lord began to move in powerful ways.
As it turns out, being driven to your knees in desperate prayer is a good way to kill pride. Being forced to trust the Lord for daily provision has a way of making you see your true state and be keenly aware of your own dependence. Having to ask for help tends to remind you of your own weakness. In my situation, living in constant uncertainty led me to understand the love and care of my Heavenly Father in ways I had never known. I was brought low, and in that place of darkness, I began to humbly seek my God.
This year has been painful. But the Bible teaches us we are often refined as gold through fire, and I have found this year to be a fire like no other. I have prayed earnestly for humility and the Lord has answered. But our gracious God did not stop there. In financial uncertainty, he poured out material provision far beyond what we needed. In the face of no job, I found work that taught me new skills and perspectives. In the coffee shop, I found a believer who has been a source of refreshment and encouragement. In my loneliness, I went deeper with Jesus.
The Lord is faithful to answer prayer. He does not leave us where we are but forms us in holiness in His own time. He is good. What biblical word might He be calling you to examine? Whatever it is, I promise, He does not disappoint.
“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” Psalm 51:17.