Look Back Before You Look Ahead: 6 Lessons from 2019


Something stopped me from full-throttle resolution-writing this week.

I realized the last 365 days have been some of the most pivotal in my life. I don’t want to leap into a new year—much less the next ten—without stopping, looking over my shoulder, and saying, “God, you’ve done lovely, mighty things.”

Before we speed into January 2020, let’s pull off and look into the rearview mirror.

What did God teach us in 2019? What truths can we remember and reflect on before 2020 unfurls?

Here are six from my own life I hope you can apply to yours:

1. God’s Word is a book of God’s words.

When I plunged into my read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year plan last January, I was cynical.

I don’t stick with things like this.

But then I stopped shrugging off the obvious and started basking in it— that God’s Word is a book of God’s words. He has spoken truth to us and made it marvelously accessible.

God has spoken truth to us and made it marvelously accessible.

Let’s not take that for granted.

How can you better relish God’s words this year?

2. God knows no strangers.

We went West last summer and I decided to talk to strangers. It was a stretch to enrich my writing, but the adventure challenged my heart too:

I don’t love people like God loves people.

God reminded me he intimately knows every Native potter and gas station clerk and outdoor gear guru I chance to meet (Ps. 139). What’s more, he loves them.

Across the gospels, Jesus acts out that otherworldly love and compassion toward unlikely people.

And Jesus, looking at him, loved him… (Mark 10:21a)

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd (Matt. 9:36).

Who are the people you need to look at and love in 2020?

3. God’s sovereignty is thanks-worthy.

Anxiety stole my joy more than once last year. I sweated over test results and a grandpa’s surgery and even the wobbly timing of our Nashville trip. When fear clenched my heart, I didn’t want to say, “Thank you, God.” But I did anyway.

And do you know what? It calmed me.

But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hand… (Ps. 31:14-15a)

What lies on 2020’s horizon that you need to thank God for holding in his hand?

4. Writing is about serving and loving.

I wrote a long article back in October after Brett Harris (co-founder of The Young Writer’s Workshop) edited an article I’d written (with my permission). His comments, concerns, and rebukes forced me to ask questions like:

What is my motive for writing?

Have I been using God’s Word to embellish my articles, not inform them?

Do I love my readers enough to think, study, and work harder?

For the first time, I saw more than a poorly constructed, cliché-laced article.

I saw sin.

Because writing isn’t a performance for you (my readers) to clap at. It’s an act of serving and loving you with beautiful truth. Brett’s edits helped me see I’ve often let pride pollute my motive for churning out articles.

Writing is an act of serving and loving you with beautiful truth.

So I readjusted my blog schedule to let Scripture nourish me before I try to nourish you with its truth.

Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual (1 Cor. 2:12-13).

What about you? Is there a skill, hobby, task, or calling you need to start serving people with?

5. Jesus is real.

Here’s something I forget: Jesus was a real person with fingernails and sweaty palms and a stomach that churned for food. I get snagged in the net of thinking abstractly about God’s Son. The gospels get too familiar and the stories grow distant.

I forget Jesus breathed, walked, slept, spoke, touched, healed, died, and rose on this planet. He was here.

He is here.

Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for ‘In him we live and move and have our being’ (Acts 17:27-28).

My callousness to Jesus’s humanity started softening at Christmas. The absolute miracle of the Incarnation shook me with the truth that God in the flesh is with us (see Matt. 1:23, 28:20).

What areas of your life need to be arrested by the reality of Jesus in 2020?

6. Eternity will be gloriously warm.

I thought a lot about eternity in 2019 because I wrestled a lot of things. Fears and anxiety and distrust and pride and selfishness reminded me the world is bleeding. It’s not where I belong.

I’m shivering out in the darkness, looking up a hillside to a home. Its windows are colored with light and songs waft from inside. I’m walking toward its glorious warmth, but I’m not there yet.

Every new year, though, brings us closer.

So gaze behind you, savor what God has done, and then look ahead with joy to this glorious hope:

“Surely I am coming soon” (Rev. 22:20).



2 thoughts on “Look Back Before You Look Ahead: 6 Lessons from 2019

  1. Bethany, thank you so much for this – I really needed these reminders. I have also felt convicted about writing for my own glory, using Scripture as embellishment. May this year be a year of glorifying God and being transformed by Scripture for both of us. 🙂


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