Culture

Can this year be any different?

Tam Wai Jia // January 4, 2022, 3:29 pm

This year any different - Newfeat

I get it. It’s a new year. And everyone is making resolutions.

Yet, we all know, it doesn’t take two weeks before we realise that we’re behind our Bible reading, sabotaging our fitness routine with Chinese New Year snacks and using way more social media than we set out to.

How can the new year be any different? I want to be different, I want my life to change, I want to know God differently. But how can I?

The world tells us to dream big — set timelines, measure outputs and challenge yourself beyond your limits. Yet, as the past year came to a close, I began to ask myself: Is that even biblical?

As the last days of the year closed in, I lay in bed, heart heavy. So thick was the silence that my husband, Cliff, turned to me and said: “What’s wrong?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “It feels like I’m so far away from my…” I was about to say “goals” or “dreams” but Cliff, my wiser, better half, knew better and said, “expectations”.

I had an epiphany.

The truth is, while many of us measure our fulfilment and success based on what we’ve achieved, God’s yardsticks are vastly different from ours.

If you’re entering the new year already with the burden of discouragement on your shoulders, here are a few practical ways to embrace the new year with new lenses.

1. DITCH YOUR TIMELINE

When I looked back at the year gone past, I was filled with a bittersweet mix of gratitude and grief.

Wow, we survived another year of the pandemic. But gosh, were there many cancelled events, missed opportunities and unprocessed disappointments along the way.

Everyone else seems to have achieved, conquered and accomplished more than me.

I forget that God measures our achievements differently. And His timeline is often far longer than ours.

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When Noah built the ark, I can’t imagine the ridicule he faced — for years.

Imagine if he felt disappointed with himself for not hitting his goal of completing it in a month. He’d either give up prematurely or meet his expectations, but with a flimsy outcome.

The truth is, nothing great is built in a day.

We are pilgrims in progress, and what God requires of us is not the highest achievement in the shortest timeline.

He cares about our hearts, and the relationship of trust, obedience and faith built with Him through the process.

A friend reminded me recently: God rarely works in a straight line.

While we might want a roadmap from Point A to B and everything we need to get to our destinations ASAP, reality might bring us on a couple of detours.

The fact is, He doesn’t care about our results and timelines as much as our heart condition, the unseen things that truly matter for eternity.

Hebrews 12:6 tells us that the Lord chastens those He loves.

So, if that chastening slows us down and takes Him longer to produce the fruit of character He wants for our lives, what does it matter? What does the expense of a human lifetime on earth mean if it means we can spend an eternity with Him?

“Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath!” (Psalm 39:5 ESV)

Our lives are but a blip in the light of eternity. So, if you haven’t achieved what you intended to in the previous year, take heart. What matters to God is not what the eye can see, but what is within our hearts. 

2 Corinthians 4:18 is a great assurance:

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

2. DUMP HUMAN METRICS

As a public health doctor, numbers are important to me. I spend a great deal of my time focusing on health messaging strategies to make numbers grow.

My job is to get the right messages to as many people as possible on multiple digital platforms to save lives. Man, I’ll do what it takes.

But gosh, was it a mistake to adopt the same mindset for my personal life.

Friends, don’t let your performance-oriented mindset at work creep into your personal lives.

You see, when I first started using Instagram a few weeks ago, my anxiety surprised me.

I am embarrassed to admit. I looked at my own social media platform numbers and thought to myself: This is humiliating. I have 4 followers on Instagram. What would people think of me! People must think I’m unpopular or uncool.

Delving deeper into those emotions, I realised I was putting inordinate importance on social media metrics, as if they measured the person I was.

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Friends, don’t let your performance-oriented mindset at work creep into your personal lives.

I understand — in our performance-driven society, numbers are everything. It makes sense to look at the number on the weighing scale, class ranking or social media followers to determine our level of success. 

But while metrics are useful, extrapolating their meaning further than what they ought to say can be dangerous.

After all, it can be easy to believe that our level of influence is based on our social media following. It can be tempting to believe our self-worth is tied to a magic number on a scale or report.

But unless we anchor our self-worth in God, no magic number will ever bring us the fulfilment we seek.

Besides, God’s perspective of numbers is far different from ours.

We need not allow the following we don’t have to discourage us from the sphere of influence we do have.

Instead of beating yourself up for the “pathetic” following you have, the “sorry” number of people you’ve shared Christ to, the needle that never moves on the scale, ask yourself:

  • Have I been faithful to what God has asked of me?
  • Beyond what I can see or measure, what is truly important?

After all, our social media influence is just one facet of our lives. We need not allow the following we don’t have to discourage us from the sphere of influence we do have.

If God has called me to go off social media to minister personally to three friends, that means everything to Him if I am faithful to that.

If the number on the scale has not moved, can I not be encouraged that I have nonetheless been faithful to exercising more and eating healthily to honour the body God has given me? Is that not worth celebrating?

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Mother Teresa said: “God does not require that we be successful, only that we be faithful.”

This year, choose to measure your goals by your level of faithfulness, not by human metrics.

Watch and be surprised at what God, the ultimate multiplier, can do.

3. DROP “WHAT IFS”

Many of us would give up the world to be a certain way, to have a certain body, to achieve certain goals.

We might even spend a great deal of time wondering: What if… I had more time, a better body, a boyfriend/girlfriend, a bigger following?

I, too, have wandered into that dangerous mind space of coveting what others may have. In those times, I declare Psalm 16:5-6:

Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;
you make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.

As I drop my “what ifs” to embrace the boundaries God has placed in my life, I realise I start to thank God for the limitations He has given to me and see them not only as blessings, but also at times, even launchpads.

When we stop looking at the life we could have to focus on the life God has given us, we can reorient our pining to praise, and truly start living.

Sure, many of my colleagues have climbed far higher up the corporate ladder, but Cliff and I have an unbelievable shared experience of serving in the mission field together, something we would never exchange.

Sure, mothering two little toddlers has limited the time and energy I have in ministry and work, but God has also used the very platform of motherhood to propel me into loving and serving young women, and other hurting mums.

When we stop looking at the life we could have to focus on the life God has given us, we can reorient our pining to praise, and truly start living.

EMBRACE THE NEW YEAR

As you move forward into the new year, would you ditch your timelines for His, dump your human metrics for faithfulness and drop your “what ifs” for what God has already given to you?

For when we do, perhaps we’ll be amazed at what God will do in the new year ahead.

What a difference that could make.


Wai Jia is a humanitarian doctor, author, international speaker and the founder of Kitesong Global. To read more about her reflections on life, you can follow her on Instagram and on her blog

THINK + TALK 

  1. Are you carrying over any discouragement into the new year? Bring them to God and ask Him to help you to see them with fresh eyes.
  2. How faithful have you been with what God has tasked you to do? 
  3. In what areas can you begin to reorientate your life to turn pining into praise?