I’ve always loved the week between Christmas and New Year’s. I love the quiet days without any bustle of activity and still marked by the lingering effects of Christmas.
It’s a week of both looking back well and looking forward wisely.
This is the time I usually figure out finances and make a to-do list for the house. I sit down and think about what I want to do next year, what it will hold, the changes I want to make. I’m not really a resolutions girl but I do love to make a list of big dreams and envision goals and changes, additions and deletions for the next year. And I listen for God’s direction to focus on one thing.
That’s how this week feels to me. These slow days let me look back over the year we’ve had: its difficulties, celebrations, familiar routines, new opportunities, daily provision, unexpected blessings.
This is the first year I’ve not used a paper planner. I used to love sitting down with my iced tea and calendar and reading back through its entries. It helped me remember all that made up our year. Sometimes, only after flipping through the weeks and months could I see connections between what I was praying or hoping and the doors that God opened and shut. I miss doing that and I’ve already determined to get another hard copy calendar for next year.
But this week is also a look ahead to next year. What might it hold? What do I need to change? What projects do I need to tackle? Where will my kids be? What are my goals spiritually, personally, professionally?
Scripture tells us we to look back to thank God; look forward to trust God.
Looking back can be a bit dangerous. It’s easy to look back and wish things were like they used to be. When we’re in a place of huge change and loss and life has taken twists we never expected, looking back can lead to unhappiness and regret.
Looking back only with disappointment cheats us from all the good that God still has for us.
Scripture warns us about looking back only to pine for what was. God punished the Israelites when they complained in the desert, wishing they were back in Egypt. (Nu 14:21-23) Jesus told his followers not to put their hand to the plow and then look back. (Luke 9:62) And then there’s the infamous account of Lot’s wife. When God rescued Lot and his family from Sodom, he warned them to flee to the mountains and not to look back. When Lot’s wife looked back, she was turned into a pillar of salt. (Genesis 19:17)
But there is a right way to look back. The Bible instructs us to look back to remember all that God has done.
Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced. (1 Chronicles 16:12)
Looking back well is looking to God with thankfulness.
Looking forward can be dangerous as well. It’s easy to map out our plans and goals first and only later ask for God’s blessing. Looking ahead can also make us fearful of the hundreds of hard things that could happen. We have no idea what the New Year will hold.
James tells us it’s foolish to make plans and presume God is on board with it. (James 4:13-16) Nor do we have any reason to fear the future.
God designed us to look forward with trust. We’re called to walk by faith.
Looking forward wisely is looking to God in trust.