Posted by Cat & Stephanie on 1.6.2018
Happy New Year, friends!
Throughout the last year, one of our writers, Stephanie, decided to chronicle lessons learned in 2017, and she was gracious enough to allow us to publish some of her list on 412teens. I've added some of my own lessons from this year too. We are only sharing 17 lessons here, but the last 12 months certainly had plenty of opportunities for growth. Here's a note from Stephanie:
"If I had to choose one word that summed up 2017, it would be SURRENDER. True freedom is found in obedience and surrender to God. When we walk in obedience to Him, joy, life and peace will fill our hearts like it would no other way. This was a year that was, especially in the last six months, characterized by surrender. Surrender of relationships, dreams, and plans. And surrendering these things was not always easy. However, it was through my surrender that some of the most powerful lessons came about, many which are listed below. May these strengthen you in your own walk with Christ and in seasons to come in your own life." —Stephanie
The Bible tells us that surrendering your life to Jesus is about choosing HIS way over yours. It's about TRUSTING that He is in control of the outcome. It's about deciding that your sin is not as important as fulfilling God's will. If surrendering sounds scary to you, take heart—God’s plan for our lives will always benefit us (Jeremiah 29:11), unlike our own plans, which often lead to self-destruction (Proverbs 14:12).
- Your obedience to God, no matter what you're losing now, will always be worth it in the end. This was one of the most powerful lessons I learned this year, and one that I repeat to myself over and over again. When you obey God, you may be losing something now, but no matter what it is, it will always be worth it in the end (Philippians 3:7-11). [ST]
- Loving others sometimes means shutting your big mouth. Communication is a vital aspect of having successful relationships of any kind, be it romantic, friendly, or familial. Often, we find it easy to speak our own minds, but we forget to hear the other side. Taking time to really listen to others, asking good questions, leads to greater understanding and bolsters our connection to the people who matter to us and to God (Proverbs 18:12-13; James 1:19). [CNK]
- Above all else, pray for God to guard your heart. Guarding your heart is one of the most powerful things you can do. God can help guard your heart against temptations, emotions, and sinful desires. Pray this as many times a day as you need to. It works, and it's commanded in Scripture (Proverbs 4:23)! [ST]
- Unexpected money often signals an incoming financial hardship. Maybe this doesn't happen to other people, but this has been God's M.O. in my life for the last couple decades: Whenever I receive a financial windfall (e.g. a big tax return, monetary gift, or even a big payout from a client), that usually means there's some expense coming down the line in the near future. In 2017, I had to purchase a new washing machine, a new fridge, and a new water heater, plus we had to rebuild a shower that had literally crashed in on itself. Every single one of these expenses was preceded by an unexpected increase of income, prior to the knowledge of the need. God indeed takes care of us—even in finances (Luke 6:38; Hebrews 13:5). [CNK]
- Live today and consecrate yourself as though God will do amazing things tomorrow. Right before the nation of Israel was about to cross the Jordan River and enter in to all the fulfillment of the promises of God, Joshua gave them this command: "Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you" (Joshua 3:5). Basically, Joshua was saying to set themselves apart, to make sure their hearts were ready for the amazing things God was going to do tomorrow. So, always have your heart in a posture that if God were to drop a miracle or hit the start button on something in your life tomorrow, you'd be ready to receive and walk in it. [ST]
- Take time to care for you. Over the last couple years, I've been in the process of learning to take better care of myself, and 2017 was a time of honing that habit of self-care. Our home has sheltered anywhere from 3-5 housemates over the past 12 months, and with me and my 2 kids, that's a lot of people—and a lot of needs to be met (Acts 20:35). Jesus knew the importance of caring for ourselves—even in the midst of taking care of everyone else. It's OK to go off alone to pray, be refreshed, recharge, and be strengthened by the Lord (Psalm 28:7; Philippians 4:13). [CNK]
- Pray for people to share the Gospel with. I did this a few times this year, and God answers this prayer. God will bring people into your path to share the Gospel with. He may do so without you praying this, but if you're having a hard time sharing the Gospel, pray for God to bring those people into your life, and He will. And then He'll help you carry out that mission to share the Gospel with them (Matthew 24:14; Matthew 28:19; Psalm 96:3). [ST]
- Use your time wisely. With as crazy as my household can get, with anywhere from 6-8 people living here (plus 7 cats), with places to go and people to see, I was losing track of my priorities in 2017. Ephesians 5:15-17 hit me hard: "Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is." Asking God each morning to help prioritize your to-do list (and help you stay on task) can do wonders for your productivity. [CNK]
- Every no is a yes to something else. And every yes is a no to something else. Every choice you make impacts something else. Think about the end result of your choices before you say "yes" or "no" to something (Proverbs 14:15-16). [ST]
- Whenever possible, extend grace. When people say or do hurtful things, it's easy to feel frustrated or angry to the point that we conclude, "This person doesn't deserve my kindness," or "I'll treat them how they're treating me and see how they like it." But Colossians 4:6 tells us, "Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person." Give people the benefit of the doubt. They don't always mean to hurt you. Sometimes they're just having a really off-day; you know what it's like to have an off-day. Whenever possible, extend grace, understanding, and peace (Romans 12:17-18). [CNK]
- Run your own race. God has called and set everybody on a different course in life. Don't compare and certainly don't judge others based on their lane in the race. And don't listen to others who try and distract or discourage your way in life. God has ordained that too (Romans 12:2, 4-8). [ST]
- Kindness always wins. My son has been struggling with bullies at school, and we've talked about how the Bible gives some good advice about how we should treat the meanies: "Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing" (1 Peter 3:9). Romans 12:20 says we shouldn't try to get even or get back at them, rather we should overwhelm them with kindness. That'll confuse 'em. ;) [CNK]
- You don't lose or waste any time by waiting on God. He knows the exact, right time for everything (Proverbs 3:5-6; Psalm 37:3-4). [ST]
- Worrying means you suffer twice.
I absolutely love this quote from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. It's so true. Worrying doesn't solve problems; strategizing does. Worrying doesn't make the problem easier to deal with; facing the problem will either get the process started or get it over with. God has your back; you can do this (Matthew 6:25-34). [CNK]
- Don't waste or despise times of singleness. Don't stand around waiting to be "cured" of singleness when God has plans for you RIGHT NOW (Ephesians 2:10; Ecclesiastes 3:1-22). Go discover God's adventure for this season! Whether or not you ever have a boyfriend or girlfriend or if you ever get married or if you stay single forever, God will work it out for good (Jeremiah 29:11). [ST]
- Find joy in the LITTLE things. Not everything that happens to us is going to be astounding or life-changing. Not everything is going to provide a euphoric spiritual high (John 16:33). In fact, I'd wager that most steps on your faith journey will NOT blow your mind. Along with days of soaring like eagles, there's a lot of crawling on your belly in messy ugliness. That's why it's important to allow small joys to linger. Joys such as seeing a beautiful skyline, an adorable animal or child, a median covered in wildflowers, or even your new favorite movie releasing on Netflix, uncontrollable giggles at 12:58 a.m., long texts from friends, sharing inside jokes with a glance. Thank God for those moments. Let them sink in. Hold onto them as long as you can. [CNK]
- Ask God to show you His best. Oftentimes, I think we settle for "okay" because we don't have patience to wait for God's best. But it's so vital to know what God wants in and for your life—and what He doesn't. So pray, "Jesus, show me Your best for me," but also be prepared to have Him show you what's not His best. Either way, needing to know what God's best for you is incredibly important. You don't ever want to settle for what His best isn't—even if it looks best to you at the moment. His best is so much more than we could ever hope or dream of (Philippians 2:13). [ST]
From Cat: If your 2017 wasn't as great as you would have hoped, I hear you. Life can be a real pain sometimes. I've found that a little introspective reflection on unpleasant events and circumstances helps me better cope with disappointments and frustrations. Having a godly perspective on the "bad stuff" often helps us see God's work more clearly through the chaos. As Stephanie said, during life's challenges, especially during challenges, we are given an opportunity to learn and grow that we would never experience during happier days.
"In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls." —1 Peter 1:6-9
From Stephanie: I was stunned when I looked back on the pages of pages of things I had written down last year! It's been such a blessing to me to look back on these lessons, and to carry them forward with me into the future. I hope these are an encouragement to you too. (You can read my whole list here.) Thank you for all of you who take the time to read what I write and for those who have been an encouragement to me over the past year. I can't wait to see what God has in store for 2018. May it be a year of growing in Christ, loving Him more, and watching His marvelous plan unfold.