rebelling against low expectations

2021 Won’t Go As Planned–But Don’t Let that Stop You


To say 2020 was a curveball would be an understatement.

There were so many new rules and regulations to follow, so many new inconveniences to face, and so many new routines to get used to. While I am still grateful for 2020, I couldn’t wait for 2021.

2021 also excited me because there is so much happening in it. I have several major exams. There are a lot of important decisions to make. And I’m sure I’m not the only one facing possibly big and scary changes and important choices in the near future.

That’s why I was determined to make 2021 my year. The year where I worked hard and accomplished all my dreams. The year I disciplined myself and achieved my goals. That’s why, on December 31st, 2020, I did something I had never done before–I went to bed at 10 PM, instead of waiting and watching the celebrations ring out as the hands of the clock overlapped each other at 12, signaling a new circle of time.

Why did I hit the bed at 10? To get up by 5 AM the next day, of course. I was determined that whatever happened, I would rise early, spend time with God, and start working on my goals while everyone else was still asleep. I wanted to achieve all that I could in 2021, and be someone I could look up to. I was ready to wake up at 5–and even 4– and then work for more than eight hours a day and report back to my group of like-minded friends who were chasing the same or similar goals–to become the best person we could be.

Did I wake up at five the next morning? Yes.

But not in that way I expected.

I simply stumbled back to bed after my ‘5 a.m. quiet-time’.

When Life Halts Your Plans


I was dedicated, I had set my mind to do what I had to. I was eager to reach my goals, to chase the God-given dreams that I had. I was motivated and ready to do all I could to start 2021 in a good way.

But, just like 2020, it seemed like 2021 would begin with a curveball as well. I was down with a cold, and I could barely go a minute without coughing or sneezing.

Later, as I lay in bed, covered by a blanket and surrounded by tissue boxes and a thermos flask, I listened to the sounds of the others bustling about, chasing their goals, and read the reports of my peers who had accomplished a lot on the 1st of January 2021.

I was down with a cold, but I was more down that I couldn’t begin 2021 the way I wanted to. I had imagined meeting the goals I had set down for January 1st, not lying in bed doing nothing but a bit of occasional reading.

God’s Plan Is Still Going

Maybe the start of your 2021 started with much more energy than my laying in bed. Or perhaps yours was instead even more relaxing. Whatever the case, the important point is,

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth,

so are my ways higher than your ways

and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55: 8-9)

God has a plan for all of us. Sometimes, it may involve having us stay back in bed, to reflect. At other times, it may involve us pushing ourselves beyond what we felt was possible. Whatever may occur, we can be content, knowing that God will use all things, both good and bad, to develop our character, deepen our faith, and develop our trust in him.

This means that I may have to give up some of my dreams and ambitions. But that’s okay, because God has a perfect plan, and he wants me to be a part of it–and am I glad I can be part of something so grand!

Of course, being part of God’s plan doesn’t mean you stop pursuing your dreams or stop developing a growth mindset or stop goal-setting. In fact, the reason I strive to be better is so that I can develop the talents and resources God has given me to use for his glory. Whatever God wants me to do, I want to do my best.

God has never settled for anything sub-par, and neither should any of us. That’s why we work with everything we’ve been given. When God calls me to use the talents he has given me, I want them to be honed-together, firm, and balanced, as sharp as the double-edged sword I love reading about–the one the protagonist of every fantasy novel seems to possess. Not a rusty, blunt piece of iron, that seems to be falling apart from disuse.

Has God not distinctly called you into anything particular yet? I can relate to that uncertainty, since I’m in the same phase of life. But what I do know is that God would want you, and I, to work with all the time and gifts he’s given us.

Here’s some things that have helped me  grow a lot, and, I hope, would help you too.

Systems produce results

Have you made some New Year’s resolutions?

I haven’t.

Not because I think they are pointless, but because I lack the discipline and willpower to make them economic for me to follow through. More than 92% of those who make New Year’s resolutions fail to keep them, and the average life-span, so to say, of a New Year’s resolution, is barely a month.

That’s why, instead of New Year’s resolutions, I make New Year’s habits.

Making something a habit means that even though it is hard at times, I stick to it until it becomes essentially second nature. I want to make it a habit to wake up by 5 AM daily, for example. It’s not going to be easy, and there are going to be days I will end up getting at 7 AM, but I have an end goal in mind. Eventually, I will train my body, so that I will end up getting up at five even without an alarm clock.

A habit is something that you regularly repeat, and often do so having an end goal in mind. I don’t like waking up at 5 AM, not by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s the end goal that spurs me on. Remember, a habit is not going to develop overnight, and there will be times it’s impossible to follow through with the habit–but stick to it, and you’ll enjoy compounded results over time. And if you have other people you are accountable to, that’s even better. Speaking of others…

We are stronger together

The role of community in our everyday lives cannot be overstated. The people we hang out with often change us, both for the better and for the worse. That’s why it’s important to have a good community of like-minded people chasing similar goals. As the Bible says in Ecclesiastes 4: 9-10,

“Two are better than one,

because they have a good return for their labor:

If either of them falls down,

one can help the other up..”

The Bible reminds us of the importance of community, a lot. There’s a reason why the early church spent a lot of time together, why Jesus sent the disciples out two by two, and why Proverbs 27:17 is often quoted–Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.

There is nothing like a real community with those we know that want to glorify God and be His instruments.

However, it’s not always easy to find people around us with similar goals. Especially now, with the global pandemic seemingly ready to rise again. However, if you can’t seem to find like-minded people around you, you can always look up communities online. Want to develop new habits and stick to them? Try Habitica. Want to go a year without pornography and lust? Try,  Covenant Eyes, or Fight the New Drug. Want to learn a new language and practice it? Check out Duolingo.

Now while all those sites may have people from different walks of life, and whose ideologies may differ widely from ours, they are all chasing a similar goal. And that may just be the accountability you need.

Of course, there is nothing like finding a community of like-minded people around you. But wherever we are, no matter which community it is, we should not stop being who we are- witnesses for Christ.

A minute of divine favor is worth 20 years of human work

Something I want to pray for specifically this year is for God’s favor.

Whether you look at Samuel, David, Joseph, or Paul, one thing they had in common was that they all possessed the favor of God. God’s favor allowed them to accomplish more than they dreamed of, and they continued to give all the glory back to God. God’s favor works wonders, and it’s more important than we often realize.

While praying for his favor, we also enable God’s favor to be shown to us by being pure, committed, and devoted to Him. We stay true to who we are supposed to be, work diligently even if no one sees us, and keep praying and waiting for the opportunities God will show us.

Of course, there will be bad days. The days I am too lazy to work hard, the days I just feel like giving up, and the days when life seems to deny me the time or peace of mind to do what I want to do. But I know that my times are in God’s hands, and, just as Job says,

But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold. (Job 23:10)

Go out and chase that dream

So, dear Rebelutionary, as you read this, I pray that you will go out and do whatever God has in mind for you to do. Chase that God-given dream. Work when others are asleep. Be the person that somehow finishes assignments way ahead of time (if you become that person, I would love it if you could show me how to become more like that too). Whatever you do, do your best.

Life will be hard. Life may not be fair. But God is sovereign.

2021 isn’t my year. But it was never meant to be. Every day, every minute, and every year is God’s. My time is his. My goals are for him. And even though God decided to use a day in bed to show me that–I am completely thankful.

Because, in the end, even if no one on Earth sees those extra five laps you put in after everyone’s left, those times you push through the desire to stop your workout, and those times you wake up and bury your face in cold water so that you don’t fall asleep again, there is a Father in heaven who sees what you do.

And that’s all that matters in the end.

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About the author

Ashish Matthews

is a seventeen-year-old Christian teen who loves to spend his time reading, playing the piano, or shooting a couple of hoops. He lives in Bangalore, India, and wants to glorify God in whatever way he can. He is currently majoring in science, and hopes to further pursue a career in medicine.

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rebelling against low expectations

The Rebelution is a teenage rebellion against low expectations—a worldwide campaign to reject apathy, embrace responsibility, and do hard things. Learn More →