By Kile Baker, Crosswalk.com
Have you ever gone on a trip, a short vacation, or away for the holidays and realized you brought way too much stuff?
Some shirts never left the bag. You brought three toothbrushes “just in case.” You packed all the charging cables you own for the 12 devices you brought along. You even brought some of the wrong things: like shoes you didn’t have an occasion for, snacks that were never eaten, or your dog you wouldn’t leave at home with a sitter.
Packing for a trip is important. Taking the right items, and the right number of items for the right reasons, can make or break a trip.
Let’s pretend for a minute that 2022 is like going on an extended trip. We want to pack the right things, taking nothing with us that might only slow us down, waste our energy or time, or worse yet — cause us to regret the trip entirely.
Here are three things to subtract from your life for 2022 that will help you on the journey and add to your faith as you navigate next year.
1. Unpack the useless.
Have you ever gone through the drawer by your bedside, rummaged through the center console in your car, or sifted through your clothes only to realize you’ve been passing by items for a long time with no intent to use them? We all do it don’t we?
You couldn’t make an accurate list of the items in these places with a million dollars on the line. You have no clue how it all got there — they’re just there and you haven’t had the initiative to remove them. You’re never going to wear that shirt or use that extra USB cord. And let’s be honest you have some gift cards rattling around that you’ve probably already used and forgotten about, but there they sit, taking up space.
We have useless stuff in our lives too that we just continue to pass by. They may be physical objects we’ll never use like the ones mentioned above, or commitments to meetings and people we should have never said yes to. The problem we’re really talking about is our affinity to fill the space. For most people, an empty spot seems useless. We fill the drawers, the glove boxes, the calendar, our bellies, and our minds thinking that empty is the enemy of happiness.
Whatever it is, they take up space in our drawers, space on our calendars, and space in our minds. Worst of all, they take up the space that could be meant for something truly more valuable — space itself.
As Christians, we’re taught an unfamiliar word in our culture – “contentment.” It’s the attitude that what we have is enough, and for Christians, Christ is the ultimate “enough” in a culture of “more.” Being known and loved by Him and knowing and loving Him in return allows for us to remove anything that doesn’t suit that purpose, or simply leave gaps and space to discover new ways to know and love Him more.
Ask yourself this question: What space could I give back to God, if I got rid of _______?
What you add to your faith: Contentment. One of the biggest blessings can be the ability to have a space that isn’t filled. The second could be, that when we truly value what we do have, we don’t see the value in getting what we don’t have. In Christ, we truly have everything.
Scripture to reflect on:
1 Timothy 6:6-8 “Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.”
Philippians 4:19 “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Arthit Longwilai
2. Give up the guilt.
If you’ve ever carried something for far longer than you wanted to, but you just can’t seem to put it down and walk away, you know what baggage is like.
It’s the weight of a burden that you’d like so much to leave behind and that you may even know you should, but you pick it up and travel on anyways. Your travel is slow and difficult. You bump into people and objects along the way. You're easily tired and don’t get very far before you need to rest. In your worst moments, you swing it at others like a weapon.
This is what untreated guilt does to us. It slows or halts our joy. It kills the gratitude of the God who took it away. It hovers over us as a judge, behind us as an accuser, and in front of us as a bully.
For Christians, guilt has truly been dealt with. It doesn’t mean that we won’t sin and harm ourselves or others, but what it does mean is that guilt no longer gets a bulky portion in our pack. We don’t have to let it make the journey with us, unless we pick it up by the side of the road and decide to toss it in. What we can do instead, is to confess our guilt to God, where He is eager and willing to forgive us so that we can once again focus on Him. We can be truly grateful to Him knowing that although we may deserve justice or punishment, we have received grace.
Ask yourself this question: Why can’t I let go of this guilt about ______?
What you add to your faith: Gratitude. There may be nothing more alleviating in all of the world than to be forgiven when you’re truly guilty. True gratitude is life-changing in that it’s the realization that you’ve received something you truly do not deserve.
Scripture to reflect on:
Psalm 103:12 “As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us”
3. Pick your people.
Where you pack things is of great importance when you have limited space. Everything should have a place, and not everything can or should be easily accessible. Your often-used, important items should be within easy reach without much effort so you can access them as easily as possible.
To extend this packing metaphor to its end (hopefully), the people in your life need to be in the right place in your life too. Not everyone should have easy access to your time, energy, decisions, family, or values.
If you’re a Christian, there needs to be people within easy reach in order to help you stay on track to being Christ-like, help rearrange your priories, hold you accountable, or even be able to tell you when you’re being a jerk. If you’re a Christian, these people should hopefully be other, or more mature, Christians like you.
This may be challenging to hear, but your inner circle of influence should not have any non-Christians. This doesn’t mean we don’t associate ourselves with non-believers, but rather we don’t seek out their advice and guidance to help shape our values, future, lifestyle, or how we view the world. All of these need to be shaped ultimately by Christ, and those who are willing and able to point us back to Christ.
Ask yourself this question: How would my life change if _________ was no longer a big influence on me?
What you add to your faith: Wisdom. Having the right people, in the right places, at the right times is an incredibly wise move as you continue to live for God. You need people who will lead you back when you’re far from Christ; build you up as you grow in Christ; and hold you up to the standards of Christ as you mature.
Scripture to reflect on:
2 Corinthians 6:14 “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?”
1 John 2:15 “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
It often feels so much better to subtract something from our lives, because almost all of us feel overwhelmed, burnt out, or just plain stuck. We all probably have a list of what we would give up if we could. There are lots of things out of our control, so we must be sure to take control of the things in our lives that we truly have a say in. You don’t have to overload yourself, carry the heavy burden of guilt, or allow certain people to be a major influence in your life. Maybe the best thing you can do to go into 2022 with confidence is to remove what shouldn’t be there in the first place, and let it be replaced with something better from God. I hope you have a great new year and that it's lighter and more full of joy in Christ!
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/ Galeanu Mihai
Kile Baker is a former Atheist who didn’t plan on becoming a Christian, let alone a Pastor, who now writes to try and make Christianity simple. Kile recently wrote a study guide to help people “look forward to and long for Heaven”. You can get one on Amazon here. He also writes at www.paperbacktheologian.com. Kile is the grateful husband to the incredibly talented Rachel, Dad to the energetic London and feisty Emma and Co-Lead Pastor at LifePoint Church in Northern Nevada. He single handedly keeps local coffee shops in business.