Happy New Year! As I’ve already said, this is when we look back on everything that has happened to us this past year. But the more I look back on 2016, the more it seems to depress me. This has been a hard year for a lot of us, in a lot of different ways. Yes, God has used it to draw me closer to Him, but remembering all the struggles isn’t a very pleasant undertaking (to say the least). And thinking about these things can make us anxious about the new year. There are times when all we can remember are the bad times, and that can really pull us down.

So what do we do? I realized a few days ago I was overlooking the whole point of celebrating the coming new year: looking forward to all the new year can offer. Think of all the opportunities God has for you, all the things you can do, and all the ways you can grow closer to the Lord. Imagine all the good the Lord will include and use you in this year. That’s why it’s a new year, not a repeat of this past year. It’s amazingly uplifting to ponder for awhile. So as you wonder about all the limitless opportunity for 2017, here’s something else I hope will help you.

Read James 1:22-25

James is writing to the believers about the importance of living out God’s Word. There is so much good information in the Bible on living for God it’s actually very ironic that people still say, “I don’t know what God’s will is.” The truth is this person has probably just forgotten what the Lord’s will is or has overlooked it on purpose. James uses the comparison of a person looking in a mirror to help the believers understand why they need to be living by God’s Word.

A person who only listens to the Lord’s instructions and does not carry them out is like someone who goes to a mirror and sees what they look like and then goes away and “immediately” (as James said) forgets everything about his features. But a person who does follow the Lord’s instructions is like someone who sees their reflection, embraces it, and continues in it. For the longest time, I had no idea what this actually meant. I actually thought it meant something to the effect of “How can someone forget what they look like? If you immediately forget God’s instructions and do not follow them, you’re being as foolish as this guy.” Thankfully, there is a much deeper meaning than that.

A couple days ago, I was looking in a mirror in my house and remembered that particular passage. I hadn’t even read it recently; God just brought it to my mind. I began thinking about it, and the Lord showed me what James was talking about. God’s Word shows us who we are, like a mirror for your life. When we read God’s Word, we see we are saved, forgiven, redeemed, God’s child, made new, and being made holy (and more). We can also see where we need to improve, since the Lord’s instructions show us who He has made us to be and what He is calling us to do. Not only does the Bible reveal Who God is and Who Jesus is, but it also shows us the One we are supposed to be imitating.

So anyone who listens to God’s Word and immediately forgets it is someone who doesn’t know who they are. These people let other things define their identity, like their job, grades, relationships, or monetary status, instead of their Father. But the one who hears God’s Word and continues in it is the one who knows who he is. His identity is secure in Jesus, and nothing can move that person. And God will bless His children who follow His plan. Go ahead and read the passage one more time.

So as we start a new year, let’s remember the importance of being in the Word, and let’s make sure we have no anxiety or fear about 2017. Pray to the Lord that He will make you strong, confident, and courageous for this year so you can glorify Him. After all, we are the ones “who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter 1:5) And just think, we’re one year closer to Jesus’ return!