How God is Using My Word for 2021


Here’s How God is Using My Word for 2021

At the beginning of every year, I choose a word or phrase to focus on. Sometimes it’s one I choose after making lists, jotting down things that have been rolling around in my head and finally choosing what fits. But other years, something immediately comes to mind and I know that I’ve found the one. That’s what happened this year. My phrase for 2021 is “God is using this.”

When I wrote about that phrase in my Christmas 2020 post, I didn’t think about it as my phrase for 2021. But since then, God has used those words to remind me that there’s another layer to everything I encounter. What is happening is not just an inconvenience, or a disappointment, or a devastating event – it is being used by God in ways I cannot see or even imagine. I am hoping that in 2021 this phrase will be the first thing that comes to mind when the unexpected lands on my doorstep.

3 Ways My Phrase Has Already Helped Me

I just learned a friend of mine was treated horribly by the company that she spent her career with. I was upset and kept wondering if there was any way she could have been spared this trial. But when “God is using this” popped into my head, immediately I thought about the ways God could be using this for her good. A better work environment. A more fulfilling job. Or perhaps simply an opportunity to depend on the Lord even more. I became convinced that God would use this not only to teach my friend something but also to spare her from other things. I still don’t know what the specifics might be, but I am trusting that God is using this for her good and for his glory.

A few weeks ago, I was reading a post on social media by someone listing the things that irritated her. Immediately I was annoyed, frustrated by what seemed to be a rant implying that people who didn’t agree with her were categorically wrong, ungodly and ignorant. I wanted to distance myself from her in real life but when I thought “God is using this,” I realized that perhaps God had put this into my life to show me my sin. To reveal my intolerance. To help me overlook and offer grace. Or perhaps to lovingly speak to her about what concerned me.

I made it a matter of prayer, asking God to help me both see her perspective as well as understand what my response should be. A wise friend once told me to sit with what irritates me, because it will reveal something significant in me. It’s an opportunity to see my biases and the hidden sin in me. Rather than dwelling on my annoyance, I realized that it was an opportunity for me to grow.

My memoir came out last month and I was preoccupied with it. Perhaps too much. I feared that despite my efforts, it would fail miserably, and no one would buy it besides my friends and family. But I also had the crazy idea of making a bestseller list, wanting my own fame and glory. In addition, I was afraid of the criticism that might come with being so vulnerable about my failures. As I reflected on each scenario, I saw that both my fantasies and fears were self-focused.

When I remembered “God is using this,” I realized that my focus shouldn’t be on me at all. I want God to use this book to encourage others in their suffering, so I can separate myself from both the visible success and others’ reactions. God calls me to be faithful, not successful.

Why Seeing God’s Hand Changes Everything

God is using this. That simple phrase has given me a new lens through which to look at life. There is always more to what’s happening than the simple facts of the situation, although I get mired in those details. What’s happening has a purpose beyond what I can see now. From a broken vase to a broken body to broken dreams, God is using it all. I don’t need to be focused on how I’ve been wronged or what’s wrong with the world as much as I should be concerned about what God is revealing in my own heart and what he could be teaching me through it. Nothing comes to me that is not from God’s hand. Everything can make me more Christlike.

Whenever I am sad, suffering, sulky or self-satisfied, I want to remember that God is using that situation to draw me to him. It helps me focus less on the actions and attitudes of others, less on my expectations of people, and more on my own actions and expectations. Believing that God is using something for good doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t try to change it. That may be exactly why God has brought it to my attention. But regardless of whether the Lord is calling me to act or accept, I should seek his wisdom on how to respond.  

How My Phrase for the Year Grounds Me

Choosing a word or phrase every year has grounded me in ways I would not have expected. I used to make a list of New Year’s resolutions, but before the ink had dried, I’d often forgotten about them. Somehow a word or phrase for the year seems to stick with me. To reinforce it, I even spell it out in blocks on a cabinet in my office, reminding me daily of what God is calling me to do. My past words have been “willing,” “overlook,” and “I agree,” and they’ve all helped guide my decisions and reframe my perspective.

In 2021, I want to remember that whatever happens, the joys and the sorrows, the feats and the failures, it is all being used by God to shape me. I pray it will encourage me to turn to the Lord and take the focus off myself. To trust him and to have eyes to see what he is doing. To remind myself that in everything I encounter today, God is using this. For my good and for his glory.

Do you have a word or phrase that helps ground you for the year? If you do, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

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