The Ark remained in Kiriath-jearim for a long time—twenty years in all. During that time all Israel mourned because it seemed the Lord had abandoned them. Then Samuel said to all the people of Israel, “If you want to return to the Lord with all your hearts, get rid of your foreign gods and your images of Ashtoreth. Turn your hearts to the Lord and obey him alone; then he will rescue you from the Philistines.” So the Israelites got rid of their images of Baal and Ashtoreth and worshiped only the Lord. Then Samuel told them, “Gather all of Israel to Mizpah, and I will pray to the Lord for you.” So they gathered at Mizpah and, in a great ceremony, drew water from a well and poured it out before the Lord. They also went without food all day and confessed that they had sinned against the Lord. (It was at Mizpah that Samuel became Israel’s judge.) When the Philistine rulers heard that Israel had gathered at Mizpah, they mobilized their army and advanced. The Israelites were badly frightened when they learned that the Philistines were approaching. “Don’t stop pleading with the Lord our God to save us from the Philistines!” they begged Samuel. So Samuel took a young lamb and offered it to the Lord as a whole burnt offering. He pleaded with the Lord to help Israel, and the Lord answered him. Just as Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering, the Philistines arrived to attack Israel. But the Lord spoke with a mighty voice of thunder from heaven that day, and the Philistines were thrown into such confusion that the Israelites defeated them. The men of Israel chased them from Mizpah to a place below Beth-car, slaughtering them all along the way. Samuel then took a large stone and placed it between the towns of Mizpah and Jeshanah. He named it Ebenezer (which means “the stone of help”), for he said, “Up to this point the Lord has helped us!” So the Philistines were subdued and didn’t invade Israel again for some time. And throughout Samuel’s lifetime, the Lord’s powerful hand was raised against the Philistines. 1 Samuel 7:2-13 NLT
Be real about your sadness, but have no regrets about it
For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death. 2 Corinthians 7:10 NLT
Change eliminates regret
Bury your self-reliance
No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. Philippians 3:13-14 NLT
Acknowledge God as your helper
Samuel then took a large stone and placed it between the towns of Mizpah and Jeshanah. He named it Ebenezer (which means “the stone of help”), for he said, “Up to this point the Lord has helped us!” 1 Samuel 7:12 NLT
We put our hope in the Lord. He is our help and our shield. Psalm 33:20 NLT
Anticipate what God has next
“But forget all that—it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.” Isaiah 43:18-19 NLT
Personal Reflection Guide
Find a place where you can be alone with God. Begin a conversation with him by taking some time to reflect on this past year. What were some of your highlights? What didn’t go so well? Where there are things to celebrate, thank God for them. Where there is pain or disappointment, invite God into those feelings as well. What do you need to surrender to him in order to move forward into the new year?
When you’re ready, transition into a conversation about the new year. As you look ahead, in what part of your life do you want to experience more of God? Invite him into your plans and hopes for this new year. Ask him about his will for you, for your growth in intimacy with him, and for his blessing over the year. Be honest with yourself and God that it may not look how you want it to, but trust that he loves you and will be with you in it. Bring your time to a close by thanking God for all he’s done for you, the truth of his love for you, and ask him for reminders of that love throughout the upcoming year.
- Are you the type of person who looks forward to transitions in life or do you prefer things that stay the way they are?
- Read 2 Corinthians 7:10. What specific sorrows led you away from your life of sin and led you to Jesus when you first transitioned to following him?
- Read Psalms 33:20. When you face a big or difficult life transition, is God the first place you turn for help? Why do you think that is (or isn’t) the case?
- If God is the first place you go for help, what helps you prioritize him? If not, what is? What can be done to help you trust God first?
- Read 1 Corinthians 2:9. When have you seen God do more than you could ever ask or imagine?
- Read Isaiah 43:18-19. As you look ahead to 2020, what do you need to forget about the past and what new things are you looking forward to seeing God do in the next year?