For the last two years, I’ve made it a practice to adopt a word of the year—a word that is a focal point for growing closer to God and learning more about the love of Jesus. In 2017, my word was “Selah,” a word found in the Psalms that means “pause, praise, and pray.” And in 2018, my word was “timing,” a word chosen to focus on God’s timing, not mine. Both words have had a tremendous impact on me in their respective years, as I spent time studying and applying them to my life.
I began praying about my 2019 Word of the Year back in October. The word I’ve chosen is going to be a challenging one. It’s a word most people struggle over—an easy word to give, but even easier one to take back.
In 2019, my word is “forgive.”
The decision to embrace “forgive” and take up what I’m calling “The Forgiveness Project” is one I’m both excited for and challenged by. But I feel the Holy Spirit prompting me to dive deep into the word, and I strongly suspect that I’m going to come out at the other end of 2019 with a brand new understanding of it.
As of now, my understanding of forgiveness includes the basics. I know I’m a sinner who is forgiven because of grace, not because of anything I’ve done to earn it (Ephesians 2:8-9). I know we are to forgive as our Father has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:32). I know Jesus told us to forgive seventy times seven (Matthew 18:21-35). And I understand the forgiveness of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32).
I understand what forgiveness is supposed to look like, but like many, I struggle to forgive when I feel I am wronged. When people hurt us and disappoint us, the temptation to throw up a wall and be guarded is so great. We can give lip-service to the concept of forgiveness, but it’s the aftertaste of bitterness that gives evidence that the forgiveness we claim hasn’t quite processed.
And when I think of bitter hearts, I can’t help but think of The Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera. I know, not exactly a Bible story. But the Phantom is a perfect illustration of a bitter heart and how it can destroy us.
The character is a man of great talent (Madame Giry: “He’s a genius. He’s an architect and designer, he’s a composer and magician…a genius, monsieur!”) However, because of his past and a life spent in darkness, he is full of bitter anger. His hardened heart overshadows his greatness, and in the words of Christine, “It’s in your soul that the true distortion lies.”
How many of us live that way? Chained to memories that hold us captive and prevent us from living to our true potential? How many hearts are full of anger and bitterness at God for allowing pain? Bitterness is an ugly emotion that infects everything, if we let it.
Hebrews 12:15 says, “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.”
I know the danger of living in bitterness. And while there are past situations I’ve learned to let go of, I can’t say in all honesty that it’s based on the Biblical point of view of forgiveness.
My prayer for 2019 is to develop the kind of Christ-like forgiveness that offers restoration to relationships, rather than leaving them in shattered ruins.
I’ve made myself a note to return to this topic in December 2019. I have no doubt it’s going to be a challenging and rewarding year. And I look forward to sharing with you what I know I will learn.
Until then, I’m praying that you have a blessed 2019. Pray often, Friends, and let God guide and direct you to His great plan and purpose for your life.
If you choose to adopt a word of the year for yourself, I encourage you to pray about it. God will undoubtedly put a word in front of you that is exactly what you need for your own spiritual growth and development. Some suggestions for keeping your word in mind throughout the year include:
- Match your passwords to your word of the year.
- Have your word imprinted on a charm for a bracelet or necklace.
- Create a new wallpaper for your phone, iPad, and/or computer that reminds you of your word.
- Choose a Bible verse that reflects your word of the year and memorize it.
- Choose a Bible verse for every month of the year that refers to your word—and put them in your calendar.
- Select a couple of books based on your word and study throughout the year.