Step by Step!
“The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in Him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with His hand” (Ps. 37:23, 24 NIV).
Here we are. Standing at the brink of the unknown. Ready to take a step beyond the trailhead. Holding our pen above a fresh page.
January. For each of us it’s a beginning. No matter what one plans or imagines, there’s just no way to know for certain what will come in the days that follow.
For some, the unknown holds excitement. For others, trepidation. Some jump headlong, ready with a lengthy list of goals while others keep their resolutions short and sweet. Some pick a word, phrase, or scripture passage to focus upon—that which will take them, as the Psalmist says, “from strength to strength” as the days add up to weeks that wind their way through seasons.
Much research has been conducted on the matter of the new year. Polls have been taken, telling the success and failure rates of resolutions, especially having to do with weight loss and physical fitness routines, which seem the most popular this time of year.
One fact has remained over the passing of time—less is more. Setting realistic goals where one experiences smaller achievements over time increases the overall likelihood that he or she will succeed.
Take, for example, a personal goal of mine. In the past, I’ve simply stated I’m going to read more—even scribbled it down in a journal somewhere, as if writing it makes it easier, more attainable. Perhaps I’ve then done well for the first month or so, started and finished a book or two. But life happens, and I miss a day. Then another. And another. Before I know it, I’m no longer cracking the cover, that book I’d started just collecting dust on the shelf. Too many times, I’ve ended the year without having increased my reading much at all, and I’ve been left feeling like a failure.
This year, however, I intentionally—prayerfully!—chose some particular books from my library, some I’ve read before and others I’ve been wanting to read. I then added up the number of pages the stack of books totaled and divided it by 365 days. As it turns out, I only need to read ten pages per day to complete more than 3500 pages for the year.
If I simply said, “I’m going to read 3500 pages this year” without a more manageable, intentional plan, I’m quite certain, like years past, I’d fail. But knowing that I’ll be reading less than a dozen pages per day (not counting my Bible and daily devotional) gives me a sense of order and propels me toward more probable success.
Such is true, too, for my friend Jennifer**. Several years ago, she faced the new year desiring to lose over one hundred pounds. “It felt daunting,” she admitted, “until I broke the total up into more manageable amounts, even telling myself it might take more than a year. Then I discovered I could succeed—one pesky pound at a time.”
And she did—losing even more than she’d first planned, in fact. Today she’s a vibrant encourager of others, cheering them on as they face what often feels like a mountain, discovering mountains aren’t climbed in a day. Rather, step by step they are conquered.
In the words of one of my favorite encouragers, the late Elisabeth Elliot, “Just do the next thing.” She wrote and spoke of this many times—a gentle reminder that we’re not called to do everything at once but bit by bit. And most importantly, as the Lord leads. As the Psalmist sings–
“The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him…” (Ps. 37:23).
So, too, we should seek the Lord, asking Him what it is He particularly desires for us to accomplish, for His glory and the good of others, as well as for our own betterment. As Moses sang in Psalm 90–
“May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us—yes, establish the work of our hands” (v. 17 NIV).
Finally, a friend of our family–an avid motivational speaker and writer who’s overcome his own mountains–recently shared in a blog, using the creative acronym K.I.S.S.–
“Keep it super simple (KISS). Less is more” (J. Meyer, EagleLaunch Inspiration).
Again, this affirms the notion that keeping one’s goals, resolutions–whatever one might call them–smaller and, thus, more manageable, ensures a greater likelihood that one will be successful in achieving the desired outcome when December 31st again rolls around.
And be encouraged. Though we all fall short, stumbling along sometimes as we plod our way upon the path of the next 365 days, the Lord makes firm our steps. Though we falter, with Him we will not fall–
“… for the Lord upholds [us] with His hand” (Ps. 37:24).
Blessings in 2022!
- What are some of your goals for the new year?
- Do you have a strategy for keeping / achieving them?
Dear Lord, thank you for being our Guide–for promising to never leave us, to never forsake us. Thank you, too, for Your Word, which is a lamp to our feet, a light to our path (Ps. 119:105). Humbly, we offer our expectations–our goals and resolutions–to You, asking that You’ll hold us firm as we walk the path that’s set before us, all for Your glory and our good. Amen.
(**Name has been changed for privacy purposes.)