2016: Looking Back, Gazing Ahead

December 23, 2016  - By Gretchen Saffles

  Photo by Emily Weaver

Photo by Emily Weaver

2016 didn’t turn out at all like I expected. I entered January 1st with big expectations and well thought out plans, but I quickly realized that the coming year wasn’t following my dreams. To be completely honest, when January 1, 2017 arrives, I will breathe a big sigh of relief to see 2016 in the rear view mirror. 

While I was walking through this past year, I couldn’t seem to see ahead of me because of the thick fog unknowns that clouded my vision. In looking back, I can see more clearly that God was working in bigger ways than I ever could have imagined, and He is still using the experiences, trials, and lessons of 2016 to scrub my heart and prepare me for what is to come.

Failed Resolutions

When December rolls around each year, I join the rest of the world in making a dreamy list of resolutions. Come January 1st, I’ve got all the motivation in the world to tackle all of life’s problems, change habits, and make big dreams happen. But something seems to change as the days go by and February comes around. Life happens. Disappointments come, challenges arise, and hurdles present themselves.

This year, I faced hurdles of overcommitment, exhaustion, and health problems that led to surgery. My husband and I walked through the unknown and I had to step aside from this ministry to rest and recover from having my gallbladder removed in the fall. Nothing was what we expected. In the midst of all of these speed bumps, the long list of resolutions I had made was set aside. Instead of getting things done, I ended up quitting more than I had started.

I shared about the Taste and See Challenge last January to encourage women to read through the Bible in a year and ended up quitting halfway through! Yes, I quit my own challenge (talk about humbling). I didn’t even share about it at the time because I was so overwhelmed. I couldn’t keep up with the daily reading and started to view reading the entire Bible in a year as a “to-do” more than a joy. I knew this needed to change and decided to slow my pace when reading the Word.

I also didn’t memorize the book of James…though I made it through chapter one.

I quit Periscope at the beginning of the year to create boundaries with social media in my heart and phone. I started using Snapchat and quit using it after a month.

I quit many personal commitments during a time I needed rest.

I even quit all of social media for the entire month of October!

As I look back, 2016 could look like a year of failure and quitting. But God always has a different way of seeing things.

Fueled Devotion

We have a choice to make when we look at our failures: we can wallow in a puddle of self pity, or we can learn from them, make changes, and glorify God for His grace. I am choosing the second option. Wallowing gets us nowhere in life. 

When we admit where we fall short and come to Him with our brokenness and weaknesses, He supplies us with abundant grace and a fresh start. Failed resolutions shouldn’t be a means of giving up, they should fuel our worship to God who is so gracious to give us a second chance. After all, we work from grace not for grace. Therefore, failed resolutions should fuel our devotion to Him and our understanding of the gospel of grace.

2016 in the Rear View Mirror

Though this year felt riddled with failure, God still did mighty things for His glory, both in my heart and all around me. He used the things that I thought would break me to build His kingdom. He allowed me to walk through anxiety and depression and was with me every step of the way. He redeemed my life from the pit and set me free from the shackles of pride and comparison. 

The unexpected trials of life are the tools God uses to shape us to become more like Him. In planning and preparing for a new year, no one expects to encounter suffering. We make plans because we want to be in control and know what to expect! There is one major flaw in this, though, only God knows everything and has complete control. When the unexpected comes our way, we can rest in the fact that God knew it was coming and will give us all we need to make it through. He redefines our dreams to be centered around what will last: Him.

The perspective that we always need to keep at the front of our minds is that we will never know Jesus is all we need until Jesus is all we have. To know Him intimately is the greatest joy of life, and suffering is often the avenue that provides the greatest communion with Him. It is a joy to be stripped of ourselves so we can be clothed in His righteousness. 2016 felt like a great stripping of my pride and plans, but God has also used this process to dress me in the truth of the gospel.

2017 in the Front Window

As we move forward to a new year and begin to rewrite our resolutions (or maybe even use the same ones from the previous year), keep the past in mind. Remember what God has done, what He has taught, and how He has been faithful. Having a good memory is important in the life of the believer. We are a forgetful people and often need to be reminded of God’s faithfulness.

When you make your plans, surrender them right back to Him. Dream your dreams, then ask Him to shape them, scrub them, and steward them for His glory. Don’t be surprised when things don’t go as you planned in 2017. Expect the unexpected, and expect God to be good in the midst of every hurdle. Run with all your might towards Jesus. Have a soft heart and an open ear to His voice. When He says slow down, trust Him, let go, and slow down. When He says move forward, take each step of obedience with your eyes on Him.

No matter what your 2016 looked like, know that God is writing a new story and granting a fresh start. Hand Him the pen, and walk confidently into 2017 with His grace as your guide. 

walking in grace and truth,



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  1. Jaclyns Designs says:

    May God bless you as you plan for 2017. I do appreciate hearing that you trust him in your plan-making. I, too, have had to let go of some ‘plans’ to focus on what God wanted this year. And I accept the change, and yes, I can go back to my plans when he tells me so. I learned how to be carried through depression and anxiety as well, and I know truly now that he will not leave when I need him most. Thanks for this entry, have a beautiful Christmas.

  2. snillet7808@gmail.com says:

    I just want to say a big THANK YOU!! Your words of truth and encouragement speaks volumes to me every day. You are always pointing on Jesus! So thank you, may your christmas be blessed!
    Greetings from Sofia, south Sweden

  3. Gretchen,
    As someone who follows your work and ministry, and is inspired by your goals and the grace you give yourself, I am really glad you shared the details here. 💐 It makes me love you and my Redeemer even more to know exactly what happened. It also helps me to know that sharing with honest vulnerability has a far-reaching ripple effect ❤ so thank you, Gretchen! Wishing you grace for today and bright hope for tomorrow.

    • gretchen@lifelivedbeautifully.com says:

      Oh thank you for this encouragement Lynne! You have no idea how much it blessed my heart today. I am so grateful the Lord has allowed me to meet so many women through this community!

  4. marais.elzahn@gmail.com says:

    I discovered your blog today and it has really belssed me in more than one way. I am at a place in my life where I don’t see or understand what God is doing. It is almost as if what is NOT happening is more clear to me than the blessings that is (getting married next month – YAY). I was just reminded now that sometimes things do not go as planned but that God still has a great plan and that we should just walk in simple trust.

    Thanks for sharing what you went through. I pray that God would bless you and your ministry. That He will keep on encouraging you to be YOU. And that He would use you MIGHTILY!!

    • gretchen@lifelivedbeautifully.com says:

      You have so many changes coming up, and let me tell you that is such a great place to be and to see Him be so abundantly faithful!! Thank you for your encouragement today! Praying that your marriage is blessed with so much fruit as you abide in Jesus and learn to love your husband sacrificially!

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