The term resolution has never quite settled with me. I like the terms growth, enhancement, or development much, much better. Resolutions have unfortunately been associated with the New Year for me and many times add more pressure than freedom to my life. Maybe the term could be replaced with "expectations", because year after year I have made too many for myself that could honestly never be met. And like most people, they were heavily associated with my efforts within the physical world. While those resolutions or expectations were never wrong or innately sinful, the lens in which I viewed myself and my motivations for being "better" were very opposite of the freedom that I receive fully now.
Admittedly, many of my past resolutions were based off of self-declarative issues in my day-to-day life. I am a perfectionist naturally in many areas, especially when it comes to self-improvement. Through deep reflections the past few years and many many failed attempts to reach a self-satisfactory point, I have come to realize that the desire to be better stems from a greater seed within my makeup. It has always been the poisonous thought that I am simply not enough and will never be enough.
The truth is, God actually thinks very highly of me; even when He knows I can do better. And often times, I am actually doing great.
It may seem superficial, but a deep unsaid resolution I always intended on keeping without ever truly finding the success I desired was "being fit" or ultimately satisfied with my outward appearance. Wanting to look perfect stemmed from a young age and is actually deeply rooted in genetic makeup. Also, being an athlete all my life and experiencing collegiate athletics for a time didn't help this underground issue due to the constant comparison and judgment of others and myself. Even if most of my goals were associated performance on the field, there were always hidden desires to look a certain way. Some days, I would practice three times a day and still run afterwards because I had set a goal for myself and still wasn't satisfied.
I didn't realize how deeply rooted this reoccurring "resolution" or “expectation” became a part of my every day life until I walked away from collegiate athletics and found myself trying so hard to keep my physicality.
To be frank, it became dangerous. For an extended period of time, my body was not functioning correctly because of how much I was pushing myself. 6 a.m. runs, low carb diets, calorie trackers, health blogs, and no fat anything became a part of my life. Before I knew it, I was growing weaker and weaker and very unhealthy.
The crazy thing is, I didn't even notice… I couldn't even feel the pressure that I was adding to my life.
It took several years for me to understand the weight of what I put myself through. As I reflect now and ask God what caused me to do something like that, I don’t receive every answer. However, I see that He nursed me back to health and showed me some of my heart motivations for setting such high standards for myself. I saw that what I was being faithful to could not actually be faithful to me.
In current realization, the issues in which I based my expectations of self weren't even real issues. In other words, I wasn't actually out of shape, I was never actually unattractive, and people never really measured my relationship with them through my appearance or performance. Those are honestly hellish lies that kept me trapped in a cage and under intense pressure for so many years.
I have listened to those lies in other ways as well, only focusing on what I am not, and not seeing what I truly am.
Unfortunately, there are several ways that “not good enough” lie can take its ground in you. The lie can cause you to suffer for trying to make yourself better, because you may have trouble finding rest in a really big mess. The pressure may take root at that point, and it may cause you to make expectations that aren't worthy of your energy.
Those empty expectations will not give back to you and they will actually steal from you. Ultimately, they lead to an inability to comprehend who God is and His thoughts about your life. For me personally, the expectations placed on myself created a very religious experience for our relationship.
Some common expectations we place on ourselves, especially in the New Year:
"I want to have more control over my money, or I want to somehow make more money."
Pressure is added.
"I want to be more careful about self indulgence."
We limit ourselves extensively. Pressure is added. Temptations rise.
And lastly, "I want to exercise more."
We set high expectations. Expectations aren't met. Pressure is then added.
So often, we put all of our faith in these things, but how often do we put our faith in the areas God wants to see us grow?
Fortunately, God doesn't want pressure. He wants freedom. This freedom comes in prayer, repentance, faithfulness, obedience, and all consuming joy for who God actually is.
Again, nothing is wrong about any of these self-improvements. However, it is so important to look at the motivation behind your desire and remember to put your faith in what He wants for your life.
Instead of trying to control your income, recognize that if you belong to Christ and you are a son or daughter that will always be provided for. Ask God to be a part of your financial journey and freely give as you freely receive. Ask Him to show you the delights of blessing others and taking the time to take care of yourself once in a while. Ask for forgiveness for being a little careless before.
Maybe your growth in 2019 could be getting to know Jehovah Jirah, God as provider. Maybe you could step further into a deep trust that you are actually lacking nothing.
If you are more focused on self-indulgences whether it is food, entertainment, an addiction, or relationships, ask God to reveal Himself as everything to you. He is not just enough. He is everything. Ask Him for supernatural strength to avoid temptation. Dig into scripture, and ask Him to reveal how much His love masks all illusive commodities. Ask for the Holy Spirit to fill you, to give you peace, to give you love, and to give you grace.
Maybe your growth in 2019 could be understanding contentment in His presence. Maybe it could be being cleansed from an addiction, not because you tried a new formula, but because He healed you as you showed up to meet Him. Maybe your relationships will look different in 2019 as a result of Him giving you His love so that you could give untainted love to others.
It is the same with health or appearance. There will always be the next diet, the new workout equipment, another gym membership, and the temptation to always want something different. Ask God to forgive you for not seeing the magnificence that He created with the sculpt of your body, the pigment of your hair, the curve of your lips, and the twinkle in your eyes. Ask Him to make you humbly bewildered at what He has made.
Maybe your growth in 2019 could be understanding God as creator. Chances are if it is hard to see the splendor within yourself it is hard to see His splendor in other people and all around you. Maybe He wants to open your spiritual eyes a little more. Maybe 2019 could be the year that you take a walk versus running everyday, or savoring a piece of chocolate once in a while because you have the ability to savor. Maybe this year, you could wear a more natural you.
The truth is, even the few self improvements mentioned above cannot fix prolonged spiritual or emotional detachments.
Only the Father can do that. So that is why He doesn’t want us to focus on resolutions too much. He would much rather us be with Him first and enhancing, developing, and growing takes place naturally in freedom.
"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." Matthew 6:33 NIV
"Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart." Psalm 37:4 NIV
In 2019, He wants you to rest in your mess and know Him more deeply.
What if you looked back at your life and thought it was actually a masterpiece and perfect in every way with God's sovereignty? What if you were able to forgive yourself and let go of the offenses done wrong to you and chase after justice and mercy with God for all people? What if you were able to walk in more degrees of freedom and hope when thinking about what God has promised in your life?
It is a perspective shift that makes all the difference.
I encourage you to try making some more attainable and self-lifting resolutions with God for yourself this year. Ask Him how He wants to grow with you in 2019.
In that freedom, your needs are provided for, your flesh is robed in righteousness and pure to the touch, and your view of yourself is filled with joy and grace. Remember, you are always moving forward with God, from glory to glory.
“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:18 NIV
Author | Emily Helton