Ready for a Happy New Year? Take the Good and Leave the Bad This New Year

Danielle Carey

Ready for a Happy New Year? Take the Good and Leave the Bad This New Year

If your year has been heavy and full of challenges, it’s easy to want to move on, to look for better things, and to push away the struggles of this past year. Maybe you were ready for the year to end months ago.

And now the time has finally come. It’s a New Year! But what if things don’t change? 

You might have hoped entering a new year would feel freeing, like a weight off your shoulders. But what if you’re carrying things into January that you don’t want to bring with you? And what if there are things you’ve learned that are good for you to remember moving forward?

How do you heal without ignoring how this past year changed you? 

The answer: Debrief.

Why Debrief?

What are you carrying into the New Year?

Have you ever debriefed an experience? When you debrief, you review something that happened in the past. It can be a single event or cover a longer time. Though it can feel uncomfortable to remember hard times along with the good, it’s important to process both your joy and pain. 

Jesus died on the cross on Friday and rose again on Sunday. For three days He lay in a tomb. You may celebrate Good Friday and Easter, but what about the second day — the day when Jesus was gone, the day the disciples wept, the day hope seemed lost?

That day is rarely remembered. Why? Because it’s too sad. It’s too much.

And yet everyone experiences those same feelings at some point.

Disappointment, despair, grief. It’s easy to want to move past these difficult feelings without paying attention to them. You may prefer to skip from Friday to Sunday, but you will miss out on the healing you can experience when you sit in and process everything, including that sad Saturday. 

Matthew 11:28 (New International Version) says, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” 

Psalm 130:1-2 says, “Out of the depths I cry to you, LORD; Lord hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.”

Matthew 5:4 says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

If you feel weary, discouraged or angry, tell God. He is the Father who comforts. And that comfort, the peace that only God can give, will heal. You can sit in the difficulty knowing that Jesus, in His good timing, will rescue you. 

When you are remembering and feeling all the emotions this year brought, you can look forward to seeing Jesus’ face.

Can you imagine the joy, freedom and excitement Jesus’ followers must have felt when they saw Jesus alive again? After the shock passed, their sorrow vanished. Because they first acknowledged their grief, they were fully able to feel the comfort of Jesus’ closeness, even welcomed it. 

When you are remembering and possibly re-experiencing the emotions of this past year, you can look forward to seeing Jesus’ face in new ways in the coming year. You can have hope that He will meet you, that He will turn your weeping into joy.

So what have you experienced in the last year? What challenges or losses did you face? What feelings became most familiar to you? How were you changed as a person? If you feel overwhelmed by these questions, you’re not alone.

Before you start to debrief, there is something very important to remember. 

You are not meant to do this by yourself. 

When you process big feelings or relive difficult moments, invite someone to walk alongside you. A friend, mentor or professional counselor can help hold you steady and remind you to look forward even as you look back.

How to Debrief

Here are some ways you can begin to debrief your story and move on to the next chapter with another person by your side. Before you begin, ask God to guide you through the debriefing process.

  1. Create a timeline 
    • Get creative! Draw or use words or phrases to help you record the highs and lows of your last season.
    • Once you have a rough draft of your timeline, write down the paradoxes you’ve seen. A paradox is when two different realities exist at the same time — for example, experiencing both joy and pain. Your year may have held many hardships, but what were some encouraging things that happened? Where did you see growth?
    • Once you’re finished with your timeline, share and talk about it with a trusted friend, mentor or counselor.
  2. Listen to your body. How has it responded to stress? How can you care for yourself?
  3. Name your losses (big and small). Name your blessings. Reality is your friend.
  4. Make a list of things you want to bring into the New Year. Then, make a separate list of things you do not want to bring with you moving forward. 
  5. Mark this past year with a symbolic reminder. This can be an image, an object, a metaphor, an aspect of God’s character, a word, a poem, a song — whatever will help you remember.

Next Steps

  1. Find someone to process with by reaching out to a trusted friend, mentor or professional counselor. Are you looking for a community where you might build these kinds of relationships? Connect with Cru in your community.
  2. Debrief the past year by using one or more of the ideas above.


Debrief content developed by Sandy Trzcinski who co-leads Staff Care for Agape Europe.

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