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Looking Back Before Looking Forward

man looking over shoulder
Looking back and remembering what God has done for us will help us look forward this year.

The people of Israel should have expected this.

They had followed Moses into the desert, but now complained because of the lack of water. Most deserts are low on water, but the Israelites — more than anyone else — should have known better than to complain.

Not long before, they had been slaves in Egypt. In fact, the Israelites had been slaves for four hundred years, generations upon generations. Until God changed things.

The Israelites saw God turn a river to blood — then back to water. They watched as He brought the mighty Egyptian kingdom to a halt by sending hordes of frogs and gnats. They heard the wailing of the Egyptian people when their firstborn sons died. Yet none of these catastrophes harmed the Israelites.

Finally, after ten plagues against the Egyptian kingdom, the Israelites were set free. Not only did they walk out of the country their forefathers were chained to, but they were given gifts as they left.

Then walked on dry land as the waters of the Red Sea stood on either side of them. They ate bread that God rained down from heaven.

Again and again, God provided for the Israelites. Miraculously. Faithfully.

But then, just a few short chapters after all of these incredible acts of God, the Israelites questioned Him. They accused Him. Blamed Him, even. They stood in the desert, with the sun beating down on them and burning out all memories of recent miracles, and complained, asking, “Is the LORD among us or not?” (Exodus 17:7).

New year, same God

I love New Year’s Day. The new year feels so open and full of possibility, like a blanket of untouched snow. It’s easy to jump into it with both feet, full of plans and hopes, ideas and resolutions.

But this is also a great time to reflect on the year that just ended. Let’s look back on the last 12 months and remember the ways God took care of us — just as He took care of the Israelites. Ask yourself a few of these questions. You might be surprised at what you had already forgotten from the past year.

  1. What has changed this year? Which changes were unexpected?
  2. Where did you go this year?
  3. What have you learned this year? (Take some time on this one.)
  4. What did you try this year?
  5. Who did you meet — or get to know better?
  6. Name a couple favorite books you read this year. Now do the same with movies or songs.
  7. What goal did you meet? What goal did you not meet?
  8. How did your plans for your future change?
  9. What responsibilities did you take on?
  10. What did God show you about himself?
  11. What did God show you about yourself?
  12. Think back to some of your hard days this year. What soul-searching did you do because of those hard days?
  13. Think back to some of your favorite memories from this year. What can you thank God for?
  14. What internal struggles have been resolved? Which ones are you still working through?
  15. Who challenged you?
  16. What surprises you about where you are in life right now?


Give thanks

Psalm 68:19 says, “Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up.” We have no idea all that God does for us on a daily basis. As John Piper said, “God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may be aware of three of them.”

Our health, safety, financial stability, friendships — everything —depends on Him. And if we struggled in any of those areas this year, He sustained us when we were at our lowest. He carried each one of us all year long.

This is the perfect time of year to take some time to give thanks to Him for all He brought us through, taught us, and gave us.

He is with us

The Israelites were thirsty. As they complained about how long they had already waited for water, they wondered if God was really with them. They doubted the faithfulness of the God who had rescued and redeemed them just a couple chapters earlier.

As we stand overlooking a brand-new year, we have already seen God work in many ways. A week ago we celebrated Christmas, when we remember that Jesus is our Emmanuel, “God with us.” In the coming year, we may have days we wonder if God is really working in our lives. Circumstances may be difficult. Life changes may confuse us. We may feel forgotten or stuck or as thirsty as a desert wanderer.

But we have seen God work for us before, and we don’t have to question His presence like the Israelites did. Whatever the next 52 weeks hold, we can know for certain that He is with us.

Copyright 2020 Lauren Dunn. All rights reserved.

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About the Author

Lauren Dunn
Lauren Dunn

Lauren Dunn is an education reporter for World News Group. She loves stories (especially the good ones), making pizza (usually double pepperoni), and spending time with friends and family. Lauren has lived most of her life in Wichita, Kan., but still regularly gets lost when driving around town.

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