You Don’t Have to Choose a Word for the Year

We’re almost at the time of year when bloggers start considering their word for the next year.

For many, choosing a word for the year replaces a list of resolutions. That one word gives them focus for the year. Christians who do this usually pray about it leading up to the new year and feel this word has been given to them or impressed on them by God. They often plan activities, reading, or Bible study around their word.

I’ve read wonderful testimonies about how God has worked in someone’s heart through meditating on their word for the year.

It’s a fine practice.

I’ve never felt particularly led to do it myself. I’ve studied or focused on one topic for a while, but not necessarily from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31.

Perhaps you’ve never felt led to choose a word for the year and you wonder if you’re missing out. Or perhaps you’ve chosen one in the past but, like a forgotten New Year’s resolution, it soon faded out of memory.

I just want to emphasize a few truths:

God never tells anyone in the Bible to choose a word, a theme, or a verse for the year. He never tells anyone not to do any of those things, either. It’s just one method of studying and applying God’s Word.

God may lay on your heart to study a certain topic, truth, characteristic, etc. from the Bible, and that may or may not coincide with January 1 and may or may not last a year.

Psalm 119:105 says “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Commentary I’ve read for that verse said that the lighting they had in Bible times only shone a step or two ahead. God often guides that way–day by day, just enough for the next step. Of course, He knows what is ahead and may well prepare people for it through a word for the year. But I have found that to happen through my daily Bible reading or sermons or Sunday School lessons I hear. It’s amazing how often God’s truth intersects my experience through a book I picked up seemingly randomly.

What’s more vital than a word for the year is daily seeking God in His Word.

Whether or not one chooses a word for a year, it’s good to read the Word of God every day. God can teach us through an extended focus on one word or concept. But He promises to give us guidance, hope, encouragement, and so much more as we meet with Him daily.

Granted, most people who choose a word for the year don’t do so at the exclusion of other Bible reading. Their main focus might be that one word, but they probably also follow a Bible reading plan and attend a Bible study group or church where they hear other parts of the Bible taught.

There’s value in reading large chunks of the Bible to keep the big picture in mind, and there’s value in camping out in a smaller section for a while. We need the panoramic lens to take in the beauty and wonder of the big picture of God’s Word and to place everything in context. We also need the macro lens for close-ups, for camping out with a verse at a time and mining its truths. I wrote about reasons and ways to do both here. For many, their one word is that close scrutiny.

While many people find great value in choosing a word for the year, those who don’t use that method shouldn’t feel they’re missing out or somehow not as spiritual. People have gotten by for millennia without a word for the year. On the other hand, just because this practice is relatively new doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with it. If choosing a word for the year has been a great blessing for you, or you think it might be, or you think it’s something God wants you to do, go for it, and may God bless you in it.

Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Let’s be faithful to partake of that bread in some way every day.

(Revised from the archives)

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

25 thoughts on “You Don’t Have to Choose a Word for the Year

  1. Thank you for this message. I have never chosen one particular word for the year. There are many people who choose a word and that works for them. I choose to listen for the path God has planned for my life. I choose to rest in His Word. Have a blessed day! 🙂

  2. Yes, already starting to see those posts. You are correct it isn’t in the Bible. I did it once but it was my own choosing and then that word left me stressed trying to live up to a word. When in fact we should be living up to The Word! Thanks for this much needed post!

  3. wow…I don’t even THINK about my New Year’s goals ( i don’t make resolutions) or a “word for the year” until like the last day of December! hahah….this was a good post though because i think many Christian women have felt pressured by certain bloggers to do just this: create words or Scriptures of the year, etc and while that’s all fine and good we need to be hearing from the Lord for our selves. And staying daily IN the Word is vital. I never heard of “word of the year” until Ann Voscamp came up with some post about hers. And then she/her family made bracelets where you could get yours inscribed on it. I do choose one each year but I typically only do so after reading many Scriptures, praying and asking the Lord what it is He wants me to focus on in my life. For instance, for 2022 my word that i CLEARLY heard from God was “joy”. the Scripture that leapt out at me was Psalm 62:11. And let me tell you: it has been a DIFFICULT year of daily chronic sinus headaches with barely a real diagnoses and NO medication that helps (yet) so Joy?? Have to say it’s been a struggle. yet God has met me, has given me HIS joy and strength to get through each day (currently my head is POUNDING) and has shown me that I am to walk this path for now. Not sure why. But i wil lNOT let satan steal my joy. I guess God knew what word I would need to focus on because He knew i would be having headaches starting in April. sigh. What ajourney.

    • Thanks for this testimony, Faith. I’ve heard some wonderful ways God has worked through people’s words for the year. Yet if I chose one, it would be because it’s currently a thing among bloggers, not because I felt led to (at least so far). As we ask God to guide us, He’ll lead each of us to the plan of action He wants us to have to explore His Word and get to know Him better.

    • I like what you say here, Faith. I hadn’t thought of it in that way but sometimes as I go through the year a subject will suddenly come to me that I want to study from the Bible.

  4. Good word Ms. Barbara (pun intended). Like you, I’ve never felt led to focus on a “Word a year”, but I have no doubt that God leads some folks to that. I’ve had times when God has brought a word to mind, “focus”, “sacrifice”, “repentance”, “forgiveness”, and “learn” are some of them. But in the same way, I’ll focus on them until He leads me to another focal point for my life. We all may worship and grow in different ways, along difference paths, but I know that all paths lead to God. Whether we see Him sitting upon the Judgment Seat of Christ (Bema Seat) or upon the Great White Throne judgment is up to us. God’s blessings ma’am.

    • I’ve done that, too–once I had an extensive focus on the word “love” in the Bible, mainly because I felt I needed to show God’s love more in my life. But I don’t remember what time of year it was or how long it lasted. As we seek to know God better, He’ll lead us in how we read/study/meditate on His Word.

  5. Thank you. I often chose a word, I often forgot the word. But His Word(s) I hid in my heart. I know He never forgets me. He is the fountain from which I drink, the rock on which I stand.

    Is that enough?

  6. I’ve had a word for the year for a few years. Sometimes I’ve found it really helpful and it has been a focus for much of the year, but other times it has had less impact and been forgotten pretty quickly. I agree, the most important thing is to be seeking God and be open to his leading however that comes.

  7. I can never participate in the blogger linkups for yearly words because the word that comes to me is always joy, just joy, nothing else but joy 🙂

  8. I am with you here! I have never felt led to choose a word of the year either (likewise I usually don’t do reading challenges, resolutions, etc — I guess I just like going where I feel like going at the moment). And likewise, I have no thoughts against those who do. I guess I just like the freedom of learning whatever God leads me to at the moment? Good post and it brought up some interesting thoughts!

  9. Barbara,
    I’ve chosen one “word” over the years, but often I find that as events unfold in my life, the overarching “theme” changes. I agree wholeheartedly the most important priority is spending daily time in His holy Word. Without that lamp unto my feet, I’m a stumbling mess. It’s good to look ahead and try to capture the big picture, but I find God leads and often focuses me on the moment and the few steps in front of me.
    Bev xx

  10. I’ve chosen a “word for the year” and I’ve failed to choose one and both have worked for me. Probably because, as you pointed out, it’s far more important to be IN THE WORD of God, so when I focus on God’s Word he speaks to me whether I’ve chosen a theme for myself or not.

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  12. I tried to choose a word for the year a couple of times. It’s like you said, I either forget it or it doesn’t seem to resonate with me after a while. It’s difficult to choose one work, I suppose because there is so much, I feel I should concentrate on. So, I gave up the practice. A good perspective on the subject.

  13. Great post, Barbara. As one who does find God throughout the year through my One Word, I’m also a huge advocate for NOT choosing a word if that’s not how the Lord is leading you. No one should feel pressure on either side of the practice. It’s definitely not a mandatory thing. And even though I am a daily Bible reader myself (most days, not all), I don’t bind that restriction on anyone else either. I agree there is value in it for me, but there have been millions (billions? I don’t know the math, lol) of people who haven’t even had access to reading scripture, yet they have known and loved the Lord (the living Word) as much as I have with my daily Bible readings. I’m grateful for the ways that God shows up in each life, however different those ways may look. Yes to freedom! 🙂

    • True, for much of history, most people didn’t have access to God’s written Word. And even when we didn’t have the whole Bible, God encouraged people to meditate on what they had day and night (Joshua 1:8, Psalm 1).

      A dear friend was a missionary to Papua, formerly Irian Jaya, where her main job was translating the Bible into the language of the people she worked with. They didn’t have any books, so she and her coworkers also had to teach the people to read. All that took years, and meanwhile they tried to teach the people verbally from the Bible. She has a lot of funny experiences to tell of when the men first started preaching and how they mixed up Bible stories with their own thoughts or legends, or showed that they misunderstood something she had tried to explain. Thankfully, she took it humorously instead of despairing. I’m sure some of those mistakes helped her make her translation clearer.

      For me, the fact that people have not always had the Bible, and many don’t even now, makes me even more inclined to treasure and read it. When I talk about being in it every day, I’m not imagining an hour-long session surrounded by dictionaries and commentaries. Some days I just read a handful of verses from my Daily Light devotional book, though most other days I try to read at least a chapter. I don’t think of daily Bible reading as a binding restriction, but as food for my soul. God says Scripture is good for “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,” and I need all that every day.

  14. I agree 100 percent, Barbara. Many of my words of the year have made a powerful difference in my life. But I also think “to each his or her own” definitely applies here. When it comes to choosing words or not, we have to do what fits our personalities and ways of thinking, as well as follow the Holy Spirit’s leading. For sure we shouldn’t base it on what anyone else is doing!

  15. Sometime I feel led to focus on a word, some times I don’t. But I always spend time in God’s word on a daily basis ❤️. I usually find the most value n writing about the word and realizing God has, indeed, used it to help me grow.

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  17. Thanks for saying this, Barbara. I never choose a word until 2 years ago. Crisis happened in our family and it truly was impressed upon me for the first time. Although I didn’t come to it until February. And still oppressed by that crisis I continued a variation of what God was teaching me the next year. And I already know what next year’s is going to be. For me it is a new and exciting practice, but until I felt it was what I needed, I never felt I was missing something when others would talk about it. For me, I know this is a season. And it may never be the way God speaks and teaches others. There are truly so many ways to engage Him!

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