Happy New Years, Wesley! I hope you had a rockin’ New Year’s Eve, and are ready to welcome 2018. There are a few experiences that are quintessential “New Years” things, like staying up late to watch the ball drop in New York, watching the Rose Bowl parade and game (GO DAWGS!), and of course, resolutions.
Some of the most common resolutions include getting in shape, eating better, getting a promotion or new job, saving up for a purchase, and taking a trip. They involve changing something about yourself or improving your life. So why do our resolutions almost always fail?
Oftentimes, we have expectations of ourselves, our lives, and other people that are unrealistic. Our having expectations isn’t the problem, but choosing to hold ourselves to impossible standards—standards that no one else and especially not God holds us to—can be detrimental to our worth and identity.
In 2 Corinthians 12:9, God tells us that his “grace is sufficient,” that his “power is made perfect in weakness.” And so, making resolutions that brazenly attempt to eradicate any and every weakness in our lives is not only impossible, but also something that actually takes away from God perfecting us with His power. So what’s our alternative?
This New Years, instead of making unrealistic resolutions, let’s reflect on our year and make goals for the one to come. At the end of creation, God rested from His work and reflected on it, seeing that it was good. He understands the value of taking a break and taking stock, and invites us to do the same. What were the highs and lows of your year? What was a risk you took, a time where you succeeded and a time where you failed? How did you grow and what did you learn? What were trials that you endured and fought through? And most importantly, what has God done in your life?
Looking back and reflecting on what God has done produces thankfulness in our lives, and in the moments that were hard, we can look back and thank God for the fact that He was with us throughout all of it. Gratefulness positions us to receive humbly, and in moving forward it fills us with faith and hope. After spending time reflecting, we can begin to look ahead.
Begin with prayers— not what you can do in the New Year, but what you want to see God do. If all of our prayers were answered, how different would our lives look? God calls us to pray big, because He can do “more than we could ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20). While having unrealistic expectations can be a problem, having expectancy that God will move and act in accordance to His word and character is essential to having a healthy relationship with Him. We can expect Him to do big things because He says He will— why not start off the year thinking about what you would want to see Him do in your life and the lives around you? What would take an actual act of God to change? Begin to ask.
Finally, we can begin to make realistic goals for ourselves based on what we want to see God do. The most simple, practical goal to set is simply to keep praying for the things you want to see happen. We are called to persist in prayer, so make a goal to persist. Set goals with the intention of building your character, your relationship with God, and your community. While it may not be reasonable to make a goal of reading your bible for an hour every night if you don’t open it at all right now, set the goal of spending five minutes in the Word each morning when you wake up. If prayer is something you struggle with, don’t set a goal you can’t meet. God is never impatient, never frustrated— give yourself grace to grow at a pace that you are capable of. God is actually proud of our intentions to spend time with him, and he blesses our efforts. If you want to see growth and change in the new year, invite God into the process and you won’t be disappointed.
My prayer for you is that 2018 will be a year of going deeper and wider with the Lord. That you will live from a place of gratefulness for all he has done and excitement for what’s to come. I pray for discipline to follow through with goals, and grace to let yourself be human when those goals may not be met. I pray that you’ll ask God for the big things, and that he will do exceedingly more than you could ask or imagine. I pray that you’ll experience his goodness and love more fully each day.
Author | Erin Gilleland