With the New Year racing past us, we can still look back and hope that we don’t make the same mistakes we made last year. It’s not too late! But we need to do more than just hope. We need to put more effort into our making our “hopes” actually happen. That is our New Year Challenge to you, even in February. Be intentional to look back and then push forward to grow—not just hopeful that you won’t fall into old “mistakes”.
It’s actually healthy to approach each year that way. And it’s equally healthy to face challenges like this even when you’re well into the next year. Who wants to get stuck in a negative rut year after year? How can you grow your marriage in a positive, loving, connected direction if you keep dragging your negative habits along with you?
Didn’t you marry to grow in your love for each other? So, make it your New Year challenge, even in February, and your continual mission to keep working on your love story. Don’t allow this year to roll along in negativity and neglect. Get back to or stay in your “first love” relationship with each other; but also make it a continually growing “new and improved” love relationship.
THE NEW YEAR CHALLENGE
In this New Year Challenge, the following points are written by William Arthur Ward. They point out a few “Mistakes to Avoid.” William’s advice is capitalized. But we also added scriptures, plus a few marriage tips below them. We hope they inspire you in the ways you need.
This year (and beyond), the following are some MISTAKES TO AVOID. Avoid dragging along:
“Remorse Over Yesterday’s Failures”
Here’s a perspective to embrace:
“…I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
“All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.” (Philippians 3:13-15)
We all suffer from regrets. But it’s what you do with them that’s important. Do you examine them and partner with God to learn through them? And do you learn and grow, despite them? Keep in mind that it’s not as important what we live through, but what we learn and grow through. (Have you heard that before?) It’s important that we work with God to redeem that, which could take us and/or our marriage down.
Next, avoid carrying:
“Anxiety Over Today’s Problems”
“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Matthew 6:27) “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)
Worrying about your problems won’t solve them. It will only complicate them. Instead, offer them to God, and release them as best as you can. When worry starts to creep in again, keep offering it to God. Pray for wisdom, strength, and whatever help is needed.
And then here’s another difficult mistake to avoid. It’s especially difficult because we live in such uncertain times. Avoid the mistake of carrying:
“Worry Over Tomorrow’s Uncertainty”
“Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34)
If you stress about tomorrow’s worry, you’re taking on too heavy of a load. Ask God to show you what to do with all you have facing you today. It’s not that you aren’t to consider tomorrow at all, but don’t let it zap you of the strength you need to face today. Take one day at a time. Don’t weigh your marriage and your life down with worries that you shouldn’t be carrying.
We’re reminded of something that Peter Jenkins said a number of years ago as he was walking coast to coast across America. He was asked by a reporter how he was able to find the strength to do it. Here’s what he said,
“I don’t look at the big picture. That is too daunting. I look at what is right before me for this day. I do what it takes to be prepared and I take my first step. That is how I start the journey, by taking the first step and then another and another. I take one step at a time and eventually, I’m surprised at how far I’m able to go as I look back.”
We hope that for you as you release the uncertainties before you. Don’t:
“Waste the Moment’s Opportunity”
“Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? (Matthew 6:25)
This sounds easier than it is in reality. We get that. We struggle with the same dilemma (in different ways). But it’s better to put our energies into that, which we CAN change, rather than allow ourselves to continue to be dragged down into feeding our pity party.
Don’t allow the problems of today sabotage you and your marriage of potential growth. And beware of:
“Procrastination With One’s Present Duty”
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:1-3)
Don’t allow your spouse’s or anyone else’s bad behavior taint your standards for how you should conduct yourself. As the old saying goes, “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”
The Bible tells us, “If I don’t understand what someone is saying, I am a stranger to that person. And that person is a stranger to me.” (1 Corinthians 14:11)
Right now, your spouse may be acting as a stranger to you in many ways. It shouldn’t be. But it is what it is. Ask God to give you wisdom in how to deal with this (strange) stranger and proceed as He guides. “The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge; the ears of the wise seek it out.” (Proverbs 18:15)
Concerning your “present duty”: “Apply your heart to instruction and your ears to words of knowledge.“ (Proverbs 23:12)
Also, don’t fall into the trap of:
“Unbelief in God’s Providence”
“As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.“ (Ecclesiastes 11:5)
If you are facing “Doubt Storms,” it’s very understandable. We all face them at various times in our lives and marriages. My husband Steve and I have faced them many times. But afterwards (sometimes long afterwards) as we are able to look back, we see God’s fingerprints all over our lives. We just couldn’t see it at the time. However, we’ve lived long enough to know to look for “gentle lights” when “Doubtstorms” cloud our vision.
You need to know that there are hailstorms. There are rainstorms. And there are doubstorms. Max Lucado talks about them in his book, In the Eye of the Storm.
“Doubtstorms are those turbulent days when the enemy is too big, the task is too great, the future too bleak, and the answers too few. But then there are Gentle Lights.
“Gentle Lights… God’s solutions for doubtstorms… not thunderbolts… not explosions of light… just gentle lights… visible evidence of the invisible hand. It’s soft reminders that optimism is not just for fools.
“‘When God comes,’ we doubters think, ‘all pain will flee. Life will be tranquil, and no questions will remain.’ But because we look for the bonfire, we miss the candle. Because we listen for the shout, we miss the whisper. But it is in the burnished candles that God comes. And through whispered promises he speaks: ‘When you doubt, look around; I am closer than you think.'”
Keep the faith, even when you and/or your spouse are facing:
God tells us in the Bible in Daniel 2:22, “It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things; He who knows what is in the darkness. And the light dwells with Him.” Hope, like an anchor, is fixed on the unseen and upon whatever light we can envision and see.
We need to look for His Light and trust Him through the darkness that we encounter —through the Doubtstorms.
If you are facing or will face a “doubt storm” we pray that for you. We encourage you to look for God’s light amidst the darkness. And don’t give up looking. It’s there. Trust and keep looking and you will see it. And when you do, it will be enough light for you to see the path you are on and the next step you should take, as well. And then you will see the next and then the next, as He reveals where you are to go.
Keep in mind the words spoken in the Bible as a reminder of God’s love and care for us. When all seems dark ask yourself, “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” (Isaiah 49:15)
God hasn’t and never will forget you (no matter what the enemy of our faith tries to convince us).
Partnering With God
May your New Year, even in February and beyond be blessed. This year, may we partner together with God to do all we can to be the spouse He has ordained that we become, and reflect the love of Christ in every way possible. May we take on this New Year Challenge together to learn from our mistakes and not repeat them! That is our hope for all of us.
In closing, with a little humor intended, we share with you the following challenge (author unknown):
“Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming — WOW! What a Ride and Thank You Jesus!!!”
With that we pray:
“May the Lord direct your heart into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.“ (2 Thessalonians 3:5)
Cindy and Steve Wright
— ADDITIONALLY —
To help you further, we give a lot of personal stories, humor, and more practical tips in our book, 7 ESSENTIALS to Grow Your Marriage. We hope you will pick up a copy for yourself. (It’s available both electronically and in print form.) Plus, it can make a great gift for someone else. It gives you the opportunity to help them grow their marriage. And who doesn’t need that? Just click on the linked title or the picture below:
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