Sometimes a single word can change everything. When I learned about the concept of a God-given “Word of the Year” in 2008, I took it to heart and started asking God for a single word theme for the new year.
The word He gave me was “hold” and it really took hold of me that year. It was so meaningful to me that I have continued to seek a new word from God every year. In fact, it’s been life changing for me in a huge way.
God Gives a Word
In choosing a word, this article by Dan Britton is helpful. Dan cautions us not to “try to approach the one-word theme as just another goal,” or to “look at it as a task on your to do list. You must see it, rather, as a journey.”
It’s not a New Year’s resolution, and has never been a command for me to try to follow. It’s more like a gift from God.
I always take my time, prayerfully asking, listening carefully, and then looking for ways that God confirms the selection of it. It isn’t necessarily a favorite word, or an obvious one. It usually takes me by surprise.
Although several words may be considered, I wait to see which one stays with me over time and begins to speak to me. Usually it starts showing up in scriptures every day, but not necessarily.
A friend was given the word “float,” and I had to laugh. I was imagining a fisherman in an inner tube! But the image that came up when we Googled “float” was of a beautiful, billowy boat/bed beside a sea of tranquility.
Little did we know it, but that year her husband would leave her, and this special word would help her “float” with God through the difficulties.
The Word is all Around
Once I have a single word from God, I start noticing it all around me. In order to keep track of what I felt God was saying to me, I kept a notebook devoted only to the word “hold” and underlined it often in my Bible.
Derivatives of the word starting popping out from the page too, and I started writing them down as well. I had never realized how many ways this word could be used, and began to take note of it from scripture, books, newspapers, spoken messages, on Facebook, in blogs and in everyday conversation.
My words for the following years were “way,” “trust” and “refuge.” Each one of these has a variety of ways it can be used in the English language. Note these amazing excerpts of variety and depth from my notebooks:
Hold on, hold fast, hold onto, take hold, strongholds, withholding, uphold, behold, held together, to have and to hold, lives on hold, hold back, hold a grudge, hold the faith, hold up in prayer, hold together, lay hold of, hold your ground, the hold of a ship
God’s ways, man’s ways, the way, truth and life; highways, the way of a mother with a child, away in a manger, examine your ways, followers of The Way, prepare the way, always, anyways, way-out, wayfarer, waylaid, way of all flesh, way of the cross, way to go!
Trust God, entrust, mistrust, living trusts, distrust, trusting, trust account, worthy of trust, trust in Him, trust Him, trust you, lack of trust, trustee, trustful, trustworthy, trusty
Take refuge, a refuge, elk refuge, refugee camp, national wildlife refuge, refugee, refuges, refuged, refugium
Although I sought single words from God, He always expanded them in huge ways in order to get His full message across to me each year. He took me in directions I never expected to go with those words.
He’s Growing Me
I find myself growing in a desire to hear God’s specific word to me. I don’t want to be led by theology or rules; I want to be led by the very voice of God Himself. It’s a very special moment, indeed, when I know God is speaking personally to me.
By the end of each year I find that I have grown spiritually, my eyes and ears are alert when I hear my special word, and I know God has brought me through the year in a very special, personal way.
In addition, all of the combined phrases I’ve written down in my notebooks have given me an even greater word, or theme.
I also noticed, surprisingly, that each of my words have been used progressively in my life, taking me one step further in my journey of drawing nearer to God. I had to hold onto Him more deeply before I could understand His ways; then I was in a position to start trusting Him more once I understood Him better.
The result this year is that I have been in a warm place of refuge, having grown so much closer to Him in the previous three years. I have not been anxious about anything in this place of refuge. I can only imagine what He has for me next year.
How does God reveal your word to you typically? In reading your comments to this topic in the past, one person said he would “seek a word to help keep him anchored the next year.” One person has kept this beautiful record of her word on Pinterest.
What is your word for 2013?