You may have heard of the “Word of the Year” New Year’s Tradition. The New York Times and Dictionaries such as the Oxford Language Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, and others select a word near the end of the year to summarize the events and important themes of the year that is ending.
However, what if we flipped this idea upside down? What if we chose a word at the beginning of the year to express our intention for the upcoming year? I have to admit that this is not my original idea; I first heard about it from my English teacher during my freshman year of high school and have been doing it ever since. I think it is a way to look forward to the upcoming year without the restriction of New Year’s Resolutions that so often get tossed out the window in February, or even before. Choosing a word of the year makes your year like a scavenger hunt—an exciting exploration for when we may find God working.
My word for 2021 was “More,” a very ambiguous word based off of John 3:30, which says “He must increase, but I must decrease.” I wanted 2021 to be characterized by seeing more of God and less of me, but I knew that by the end of the year, my word would take on so much meaning. That was certainly true; though I saw God move more than ever before, a lot of his work in me took root through unideal situations. Yet that is the beauty of choosing a word—God surprises you in the ways your word takes on new and deeper meanings throughout the year. After a year that has been hard and unexpected for many, myself included, choosing a word for 2022 can represent hope and intention.
Though this practice isn’t found directly in Scripture, remaining purposeful about the upcoming season of life demonstrates biblical wisdom. Proverbs 4:25-26 says, “Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure.” Pondering or giving thought to our path can help us walk in it. Additionally, “The wisdom of the prudent is to discern his way, but the folly of fools is deceiving(14:8).” As you pick a word for the year, I pray you exercise wisdom and abide by the guidance of the Holy Spirit to discern what you need to focus on, grow in, or change this year.
Be encouraged by the words of Jeremiah in Lamentations 3:23: “His mercies are new every morning,” not just at the beginning of a new year. We as believers should receive such mercy as an invitation to consistently work towards becoming more like Christ, remembering that “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).” True change requires true repentance and must occur every day with the help of the Holy Spirit.
Nevertheless, I also understand how the visual of starting a new planner or calendar and throwing out the old one as we start another trip around the sun can offer encouragement for change. It is a tangible reminder of a new opportunity but also of our need to consistently refocus on Christ through the messiness of everyday life.
Therefore, as we embrace the opportunity to do just that, I invite you to choose a word of the year. Here are a few pointers on how to select a word that will point you to Christ and draw you closer to Him.
Firstly, we must begin in prayer for the Lord to give us wisdom and the Holy Spirit to guide us as we set an intention for the New Year. Then, I would recommend for you to “look back in order to look forward” (Matt Maher). Remembrance enables us to see how God has worked in our lives, recall what he has taught us in previous years, and identify recurring themes and areas of growth. If you would like, write these down so you can visualize the things that you learn about yourself.
Now, it is time to choose your word. Something important to note is that it is crucial for your word to have some Scriptural background so that you can reflect on the Word of God as you consider your word. By meditating on the Scriptures you will experience true growth in your life. Here are some examples of what your word may be inspired by.
- A word from a Scripture passage that you want to live by
- Example: Abide (John 15:4: “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.”)
- An image the Holy Spirit places on your heart
- Example: Rooted (Psalm 1:1-3: “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.”)
- A character quality you want to develop
- Example: Humble (Philippians 2:1-3: “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”)
- An attribute you want to see in God
- Example: Faithfulness (Exodus 34:6: “The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”)
After taking some time to reflect on what your word should be, you can develop goals that align with it. For example, some questions to aid your reflection as you plan your goals are:
- What are lessons that you learned this year that you will apply this year? How will you apply them?
- What are some actionable steps you can take to developing a character quality or to apply the word in your passage?
Finally, evaluate your goals. Are they for God’s glory or your own? Are they actually achievable? Make sure that you have people who can hold you accountable to work on your goals consistently! If you would like, create a visual that will remind you of your word and your goals, like a vision board.
Finally, I want to encourage you as you enter this New Year abounding in hope and expectation. Remember that your life doesn’t have to be full of perfect days. The truth is, they will most likely appear ordinary. You will wake up, eat, sleep, and do your daily tasks; but, in the midst of that, may you remember the goodness of God and the beauty of who He is, has always been, and will always be.
I pray that this new year will be filled with a deeper understanding of who God is. Whether 2022 brings immeasurable blessings or insurmountable difficulties, I pray you see His hand graciously taking care of you. May you experience His faithfulness and love in new, special ways.
I encourage you to seek the Lord in prayer and through the Scriptures daily. Even if you miss a day, remember that His grace meets you where you are and his new mercies beckon you close again. I am so thankful for you.
Thank you for reading! Read more blog posts at Yours Truly, Isa.