Four Pitfalls to Avoid in 2019
Right before 2018 ended, I read the book of Haggai. There was nothing in particular that led me to the book, other than the fact that it is two pages long, and I wanted a quick read. It’s short, but it’s packed with some powerful messages – pitfalls to learn and avoid.
You see, the people during this time were exiles who had finally returned home after King Nebuchadnezzar had completely destroyed Jerusalem. Solomon had built a beautiful, state-of-the-art temple with the world’s finest materials and best laborers. All of it was ruined. Instead of working to make Jerusalem better, the people were selfish, preoccupied, distracted, and fearful.
Even though I hate to admit it, those are terms that described my 2018. Much of 2018 I was teaching, coaching, planning a wedding (yay!), and balancing too many things on the to-do list. The majority of my day was spent working or planning, leaving little time to give to others. I was preoccupied with seating charts, centerpieces, bridesmaids’ gifts, and decorations. I was distracted with essays to grade and vendor meetings. Worst of all, I let the fear of what others would think dictate a ton of my decisions.
What would people think of the wedding? Would they have fun? Would they like the food, the dress, the favors, the music?
What would cheerleaders think when I stepped down as head coach? Would they understand my husband’s crazy work schedule? Would they think I was abandoning them and no longer supported them?
What would friends and even acquaintances think if I started a blog? Would they think I was only trying to promote myself? Would they find it cheesy, silly, dumb?
All of these worries were so temporary.
The wedding has come and gone. People laughed, danced, and celebrated.
The decision was announced to stop coaching for the sake of my new marriage and Josh's residency schedule. The cheerleaders understood where I was coming from and still receive my support from afar.
The blog was launched. Several close friends and family members encouraged me and continue to remind me that I can’t let fear stop me from pursuing this dream to connect others to Jesus through my own writing.
I don’t want fear to dictate my 2019. I don’t want to live with distractions and self-preoccupation. Let’s learn from the book of Haggai. Let’s avoid four major pitfalls:
1. The people of Haggai’s time had disordered priorities. When they returned to their homeland, they were more concerned with rebuilding their own homes than rebuilding the temple that was destroyed. They put their own safety as the first priority over worshipping God.
In today’s world, the mark of disordered priorities is promoting pleasure, comfort, and security over laboring to advance God’s purposes. For me, it might be starting yet another show on Netflix or scrolling my timeline again instead of spending time in the Word or volunteering to help someone.
2. The people of Haggai’s time had a discouraged perspective. They remembered that Solomon’s temple was incredible and this left them discouraged to even start the rebuilding. They were stuck in comparison because instead of trusting God who owns every resource, they were comparing themselves to King Solomon (who could afford the best material and labor).
In today’s world, the mark of a discouraged perspective is comparing self-worth to someone else’s based on material goods, status, or popularity. For me, it might be comparing my home to others and feeling unmotivated to organize or decorate. It might be comparing my number of social media followers/ likes to someone more famous and feeling discouraged in my ability to continue this blog.
3. The people of Haggai’s time had distorted expectations. After returning home, they thought God would immediately bless them and restore Jerusalem overnight. Their expectations were distorted because of their concept of time. They believed God operated on their timeline instead of remembering that God works in His timing.
In today's world, the mark of distorted expectations is falsely believing that God will instantly reward acts of obedience. For me, it might be thinking God is going to promote my platform, perfect my marriage, or prompt exceptional classroom behavior just because I’m trying to live for Him. It’s thinking that present obedience demands a reward. It’s urging God to work under my time limits instead of surrendering to His timing.
4. The people of Haggai’s time had distracted fear. They had just returned to their homeland and were scared of another attack. They feared God wouldn’t change their circumstances and Jerusalem would continue to be vulnerable to more powerful nations. This caused the people to doubt and let fear override their willingness to act in boldness for God.
In today’s world, the mark of distracted fear is letting the possible sting of rejection, the pain of heartbreak, or the desire for approval of others paralyze decision-making. For me, it might be thinking that past circumstances dictate my future. Fear makes me doubt whether God will provide and move beyond the momentary worries.
In preparing for 2019, I hope to work on these:
Disordered priorities – What is my top priority? Myself or God?
Discouraged perspective – Am I letting comparison stop me from pursuing God’s plan?
Distorted expectations – Do I expect instant gratification? Am I surrendering to God’s timing?
Distracted fear – Do I worry about temporary circumstances or do I trust that God is with me?
As we start 2019, let’s remember Haggai’s charge to the people of God:
“Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the Lord. Work, for I am with you, declares the Lord of hosts, according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not” (Haggai 2:4b-5).