Why a Word for the Year?
Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path (Psalm 119:105 CSB).
***Read to the end for a chance to win a wonderful new book!***
You’ve heard it asked. What’s your word for the year?
This inquiry is everywhere come late December—people blogging about it and posting their word (and often the story behind it) on social media.
But does it matter?
Like many, I began choosing a word several spins around the sun ago. I’d heard others speak about the difference their word made. How it brought clarity. Direction.
Last year, for example, mine was intentional, and this year, it’s calm. While I don’t know what the next 365 days will bring to challenge this word, I do believe there’s a reason it’s important. And likely, at the close of 2023, I’ll have some stories to share.
But how to choose?
From the plethora of options, how does one pick a single word to guide them into and through the unfamiliar territory of a never-lived-before year?
I’ve wondered this, so I spent some time asking.
After prayerfully seeking our Guide on the reasons behind choosing a word, asking God why it’s important, the following two steps is what my listening heart heard. First, He said–
So I prayed—Father, you know what the year will bring. You know the end from the beginning, just what I’ll need to walk like Jesus in the coming days. If there’s a guiding word that will bring You glory and blessing, resulting in Your favor, then that’s reason enough. Help me know what word that is by confirming it for me in a manner that will leave no question. I’m listening.
And what does the Bible say about seeking God by calling out to Him?
Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and incomprehensible things you do not know (Jeremiah 33:3 CSB).
From this passage, when one calls on Him, God promises to answer. Period.
Knowing what He knows, He’ll not only help us choose the word for the year, but He’ll show us why it’s important as we walk with Him, day by day.
A personal story. I mentioned my word for 2023 is calm. When I asked God to show me the word He had for me, He not only told me, but He confirmed it—something I’m a firm believer He desires to do.
At dinnertime on New Year’s Day, I pondered my options. Then, taking a bowl from the shelf, I saw it. A friend had given us a set of white dishes—each with a word inscribed in black. As I ladled warm broth into the bowl, the word caught my eye.
Hmm, I thought. Was God saying something?
Minutes later, while watching television, a commercial came on advertising an online app. Suddenly, the screen was filled with the word calm in white script against a blue background.
No way. That’s twice, and within only moments.
But God, who I’m convinced has a sense of humor (and sometimes sounds like my husband Bill), wasn’t finished. Perhaps because I’d procrastinated, having waited until the first day of January to really consider my word or maybe because He knew I’d need that word in the coming days, He confirmed quickly.
Only moments after this commercial, Bill sighed as he sat on the couch. “Don’t you love the calm after the holidays?”
Three confirmations and in less than fifteen minutes.
Okay. Calm, it is, I prayed.
And nearing the end of the first month of the year, I can say there’ve already been several occasions when, wanting to respond with anger or react in a frenzied manner, I’ve heard in my heart—Calm.
Just that little reminder has been what I’ve needed to stop, breathe, and reply to the situation in a slower, more relaxed manner.
Not to mention, only two days after making calm my 2023 word, we were headed over the Vail Pass toward Beaver Creek, Colorado. Blinding snow made the windshield wipers work overtime, and despite his dozen years’ experience as a transport driver, the stranger at the wheel was going too fast for my comfort.
Calm. Calm. Calm, I silently prayed from the backseat.
Yes, God knew just the word I needed less than a week into the new year.
But after a word is chosen, what next?
Seek God’s Word.
Indeed, find a scripture passage that relates to the word you feel God has spoken to your heart.
Ask Him—If this is the word You have for me, then what foundation from the Bible is my bedrock for the coming days? I desire to stand on Your Word first and foremost—in my relationships at home and beyond, as well as in my work as a writer, that I might bring You glory all throughout the year. You, Jesus, are The Word. I believe You’re calling me to share Your messages with a world in need. I want to start in Your Word, knowing everything else that pours forth from my life should begin with truth.
And what does the Bible say?
Your words were found, and I ate them. Your words became a delight to me and the joy of my heart… (Jeremiah 15:16 CSB).
What better place to begin with regard to one’s word for the year than with a foundational verse upon which to stand.
Take the word you feel God has given you. Then do a search on Bible Gateway or another similar source. Read passages related to your word and prayerfully choose one. Write the words down. Share them. Commit them to memory.
Yes, hide them in your heart!
Personally, once God confirmed that my word for 2023 was calm, I did a search. Though there were several passages, the one that stood out to me, that which has become my theme verse for this year, is Psalm 131:2—
…I have calmed and quieted my soul like a weaned child with its mother; my soul is like a weaned child (CSB).
The image the psalmist creates is one of a child at rest with a mother. A little one who’s hungry cries out, fusses. But when the mother feeds her, offering her sustenance, the child grows quiet, having been satisfied.
Furthermore, a weaned child is one who no longer looks to another for fulfillment. Rather, he rests, finding delight in his mother’s presence.
With calm as my word, I believe the Lord is reminding me to find my satisfaction in Him, my Abba. As a writer, I sometimes battle feeling competitive, insecure, or like I’m a failure. In turn, I may look to others to satisfy a longing for approval, to offer me fulfillment in some way. God, however, wants me to face each moment knowing, no matter what—even with rejections, criticism, or shortcomings—He’s my satisfaction. Resting upon Him, I’m calm, content.
And the outcome? In the quiet, I can better hear Him, as He shares with me His thoughts on what to write. Furthermore, He’ll remind me that He’s pleased with my efforts when I walk in His will. Thus, I, too, should be at peace with my efforts—trusting God to establish the work of my hands for me (Ps. 90:17).
Finally, when I asked God why, specifically as a writer, having a word for the year matters, I heard His whisper to my waiting heart.
Just as Peter had to fix his eyes on Me—The Word—to stay above the water and keep from sinking, you, too, will fix your eyes on the word I’ve given. Yes, I am giving you a focus that will bear the fruit of peace and joy—even pleasure—in the coming days, no matter the storms you’ll face. I know everything, and I know just what you need to accomplish My will, for My glory and the good of a wounded world. The words you’re to write will come as you focus on Me and the word I’ve given you. Now go! Write and watch as I use you to perpetuate calm in the world’s chaos.
Perpetuate calm in the world’s chaos. But fill in the blank. Perpetuate _______ in the world’s chaos. Could it be God desires you perpetuate…
Dear friends, I encourage each of us to seek God. Ask Him what His word for you is this year. Then dive in and search His Word for a passage pertaining to it. This verse will serve as something upon which to focus your gaze in the coming months.
Jesus, You are The Word. If You desire I live by a particular word this year, please tell me what it is and guide me in Your Word to find a passage that offers support and a deeper perspective. I want to walk like You in the coming days. Amen!
My dear friend Lori Hatcher just released her new book Refresh Your Hope–60 Devotions for Trusting God with All Your Heart (Our Daily Bread Publishing, 2023).
For a chance to win a copy of this timely and beautiful devotional, leave a comment below. Tell us what your word of the year is, or explain why you’re particularly hungry for HOPE in 2023.
I’ll draw one name from those who participate and announce the winner next Wednesday, February 1st.
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I love your word, Maureen. Mine for this year is yours for last: INTENTIONAL. So important to me as I mark another decade milestone in 2023. I already have Lori’s new book (I’ll be giving away a copy also) so you can exempt me from the giveaway, but i’m joining you in your desire for CALM this year in every blessed way.
Intentional is a very good word. It helped me hone in… focus… which, in turn, brought a sense of calm last year. So it’s no wonder this year is a continuation of last… Because I’m a slllloooooow learner! Glad we are journeying together! Love you so!
Thanks for sharing Maureen. Psalm 131:2–delicious!!!! I too enjoy His sense of humor. What a rich adventure you will have traveling through 2023 with CALM as your focus.
Rich! That, too, is a great word and description of traveling in 2023 with CALM as my focus. Thank you! I appreciate your comment. Do YOU have a word?
You’ve given a good word with a wonderful explanation. Mine is “prepare.” “So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do.” (Ephesians 5:15-17 NLT)
Oh, PREPARE is a wonderful word, and that foundational truth–Perfect! Thank you for sharing! Blessings!
Maureen, I’ve never had a word for the year. It never seemed needed. For that matter, when I heard people talk about their word for the year, I figured they were following a fad, something someone did because someone else did it. Til this year.
The end of last year I found myself writing an article about Living Light and then a blog post titled Let There Be Light. I thought to myself as 2023 entered the scene, if there could be a phrase for the year, mine would be “Let there be light!” Those words have stayed in my heart and come to mind multiple times the last few weeks.
With my past opinion of “a word for the year”, thinking about a phrase for the year was odd for me. But somehow the Light of Life and our Lord’s redeeming me from the kingdom of darkness wouldn’t leave my mind. What a dark world we’re in and what joy the light of our Lord brings.
As 2023 continued, I began to think (to myself only of course, never out loud) that if I had to have a word for the year, it would be Light. That would be my word, but “Let there be light,” would be my motto or phrase or sentence for the year. Mind you, I don’t usually talk with folks about their word for the year because I’ve never run with those who have one. Or if I do, they keep it to themselves.
Your post not only helps make “a word for the year” make sense, it helps me see it as important. You show it has purpose. I love how you make it clear that choosing a word for the year is another way for God to speak to us and guide us and help us focus on Him in a certain way.
Thanks, Maureen, for your words. And your heart. I’m so glad we connected via FB recently. You’re a blessing!
Oh, thank you so much for sharing, Carolyn! I love the word LIGHT! And I’m thankful if God used me to further “shed light” upon your knowledge / understanding of the beauty of having a guiding word and a passage from THE WORD! You are a light to the world, and it is a dark place indeed! I, too, am thankful we connected on FB. Blessings, sister–as you walk in the LIGHT of Christ in 2023! Oh, what a difference you’ll make!
Maureen, thank you for sharing how your word for the year presented itself to you. You are so inspiring! My word for 2022 was acceptance. Oh how appropriate that word acceptance was for me.to accept myself as I am. To accept that my earthly father was dying. To accept that my sister, Christy, is 60 years old and is able to stand on her own two feet and that she is in God’s hands. To accept my shortcomings of leaving many things unfinished.
My word for 2023 is “awareness”. Habakuk 2:14 (NLT) For as the waters fill the sea, the earth will be filled with an “awareness” of the glory of the Lord. I vow to be aware of the things that are going on around me in nature, how my words sound when they come out of my mouth, that God transplanted us here for a reason, that I will finish my memoir in God’s perfect timing. Awareness.
How wonderful, dear friend. I love your word choices–last year and this year. God will guide and direct! He is faithful. I love you so! Thank you for sharing.
I really like how you share in your post how to seek God for your word for the year, so clearly written. The word God gave me for the year is Release. I am still searching for a verse or bible passage which links to this. I know that this year God is not only calling my husband and me to release our hold on some things, and also that he is going to release us into something new.
Oh, He WILL direct you to the foundational truth from His Word to fully undergird your word. Release–such a good one! Thank you for sharing. Blessings abundant as you RELEASE to Him and RECEIVE from Him all He has for you!
I enjoyed your message, Maureen, especially your prayerful response to the question, “Ask me.” I’m grateful for your encouragement to use this time to discern God’s purpose for us through study of His word. Thank you for your inspiring message. (I’m blessed to already have Lori’s book so please don’t include me in the drawing). Happy 2023!
Thank you for your kind and encouraging words. You are a blessing! Like you, I’m so thankful for God’s Word, a lamp to our feet and a light to our path!
Mine for this year is listening. I’m trying to hear God more
That’s a wonderful word! And listening is always good. Don’t forget–we are promised He’ll answer when we call to Him (Jer. 33:3). Our job is to discipline ourselves to create quiet space so we can hear. But know–He can always get through to us, even in unique, noisy ways! What He desires is a listening, attentive heart! Blessings!
I have never had a word for the year but God has always given me a scripture for each place I have lived. It has always been one to cling to and challenge me through the ups and downs.
Oh how wonderful for Him to give you a scripture to hold to. He is so good and faithful! Thank you for sharing and many blessings in the coming year!
Congratulations to Annie Yorty! She’s the winner of Refresh Your Hope! Thank you to all who shared with me! Many blessings in the coming year!
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