2021 was 1 part joyful, 2 parts sorrowful. For me, at least.

2021 was hard. It was sanctifying. It was edifying. It stretched me. There were mistakes and regrets. There were many heartaches and moments of darkness. To top it off, the year ended in sickness and isolation. You get the picture.

So, how does one move forward with hope?

It would be easy after the last 12 months to continue on a path of discouragement or even despair. If you're like me and had a tough year, this is how I'm looking at 2022 with renewed hope:

Define your areas of growth

Instead of looking back at mistakes and dusting them under the rug, I've been examining the lessons I can learn and how I can grow from there. For example, I procrastinate (or avoid altogether) when I view a task as difficult or intimidating. To make matters worse, rather than doing the proper work of delegating, I would abdicate the task altogether, which only nipped me in the bud later and caused more long-term strife. Be honest with yourself, examine areas where you need work, and replace them with good habits. Build stronger foundations. If needed, have people you trust keep you accountable. Do the work of redeeming or strengthening these areas of weaknesses.

Find your tribe

"Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn" (Romans 12:15). This past term, I wrote a significant research paper for graduate school on empathy through the view of the phenomenology of Edith Stein and its importance for the clinical mental health field, and I included Romans 12:15 in the conclusion. This verse has stuck with me since as I continue to reflect on it, and to be honest, this is probably one of my hardest lessons as I go into 2022. As a recovering people-pleaser, I've let the negative or insecure voices of others sabotage the good and beautiful, giving these voices power and influence that should have never had power in the first place (Boundary struggles, anyone?). These type of relationships are emotionally expensive. The reality is: Some relationships will always be a source for discouragement, and that may never change. Let those relationships go. Thankfully, 2021 wasn't void of life-giving and beautifully edifying friendships, centered on truth and love, and this is where I need to be intentional and surround myself with these kinds of relationships. Surround yourself with people who make you a better person, bring out the best in you, and give life. Find those people who will rejoice when you rejoice and mourn when you mourn.

Lower your expectations while keeping standards high

Goals can be ruined when we set unrealistic expectations, which can also sow resentment -- not just within yourself, but with your loved ones too. Being a melancholic, I need this to keep myself from getting lost in discouragement and completely giving up. Goals sometimes need refining, tweaking, re-adjustments, and ultimately surrender. Therefore, doing a regular check-in (monthly or quarterly) with yourself or with a mentor to refocus your goals and plans is a good idea. This will help give yourself and others grace, while also having some accountability. Set your standards high, but if life happens (i.e. illness, death in the family, sudden move, etc.), you can give yourself grace while resetting the pace for your goals.

Set a foundation of truth

Piggybacking off the negative voices from point 2, I lost focus on the Voice of Truth and the transcendent reality of who God created me to be. In other words, I listened to the discouragement of the enemy. As a Christian, this probably seems "duh". I need to go back to the simplicity of a child, and as Scripture says, renew and strengthen my mind. I need to immerse myself in the truth, so the voice of God is louder and prominent. So the next time I'm hit with a temptation for discouragement, I can rest in God's word and face it with peace, because then Truth would have the greater stronghold on my heart, not the world or false prophets.

Focus on healing

2021 left me bruised and exhausted, and I need to be honest with myself that I need healing, redemption, and recovery. Even the best athletes after an injury have to take time to rest and heal to get stronger later. How many athletes have we seen return for the gold or first place after being out due to injury? That didn't come without proper attention and due diligence with healing the injury itself, and even that takes a team of medical experts. What if we did the same emotionally and spiritually? I believe taking the 4 points I previously mentioned will foster the healing process: Immersing oneself in the truth; keeping standards high, keeping room for grace; finding and nurturing life-giving relationships; and doing an honest assessment for areas of growth.

Therefore, prepare your minds for action. Be calm and fix your hopes completely on the grace that you will be granted at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Like obedient children, do not yield to the evil desires you had in your former ignorance. - 1 Peter 1:13-14

May your next year be fruitful, abundant, and blessed! I hope you experience your best year yet!