I have a love-hate relationship with New Year’s resolutions. Or perhaps it’s more of a love-hate-appreciate relationship? Let me explain.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become one of those people who love to be organized (which was an immense surprise to all parties involved). I schedule my day’s activities, I sort my study materials into little folders, and even my closet is (semi) categorized by season and color. There is an immense satisfaction in checking off the boxes of my to-do list, and one by one seeing the white emptiness disappear.
But there’s a problem. I love the idea of fulfilling my to-do list, of keeping my area decluttered, of staying organized, of having these grand New Year’s resolutions that help me to better my life.
But I am an utter failure at doing so.
Because every year, about a week or so (if I’m lucky) after January 1st, after we’ve all caught up on sleep and swept up the streamers, there comes That Day.
And you know it. That Day, that terrible, horrible, no good day, when absolutely nothing seems to go right. You wake up in the morning with glorious aspirations of being productive, of being kind, of being loving. All the best intentions and motivations rise up into the morning sunlight — and the day ends with you staring at the dark night-time ceiling with your to-do list undone, the whole house-hold upset, and the regret of harsh words and angry attitudes fresh in your mind. That Day, when every effort, every attempt, leaves you squarely on your face, nose squished into the floor.
And you feel absolutely useless. All you aspirations — dashed. All your high hopes — sunk into reality. Those great deeds you were going to accomplish, those lofty goals — why, even your normal duties seem to be in a disheveled, disheartening state. Those New Year’s resolutions? Well, they might as well have been thrown out along with those streamers and confetti.
And so I dislike resolutions, because they remind me that I’m so often a failure.
But I also appreciate resolutions, because they remind me that I’m so often a failure.
Because you see, sometimes I can get caught up in this mindset that I’m so very useful and I can accomplish this and I can do this myself and I will do this next and I’m going to do that and I’m going to get this done and I will and I can, and —
And that’s a lot of I’s.
I can get so caught up in what I am going to do, that I forget that I am not the one who should be doing anything. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God… (Gal 2:20) My life is not mine anymore. My actions are not mine anymore. In fact, I shouldn’t be able to do anything any more, for I am crucified — dead! It is Christ who lives in me.
I can’t do the right thing. I can’t keep my New Year’s resolutions, I can’t keep my to-do lists, and I can’t even keep one part of God’s law. But He can, and He did.
And when I am His child, He can do it in me.
I like how the prophet put it in Habbakuk 3:19, The LORD God is my strength. Is my strength. Not just that He strengthens me, as in He helps me out a little, but that He is it. All of it. All of my power. All of my strength. All of my wisdom, all of my righteousness, is of Christ, and Christ alone.
And that is immensely relieving. There’s no pressure on you. The burden is off. God’s people don’t have to work to earn God’s favor. There’s no price on His approval. And even if there was, all my attempts would be about as useful as Monopoly money anyway.
Now, of course, if we are His children, we’ll want to do what He says, to obey His Word, to glorify His name. But we don’t have to stress out when we fail, because His grace is sufficient. (2 Cor. 12:9) He can — and He delights in — taking useless, failing things, and using them to change the world.
But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in his presence. (1 Cor. 1:27-29)
Spit can make a blind man see. (Mark 8) A donkey’s jaw-bone can slay the enemies of the Lord. (Judges 15) A few loaves and fish can feed thousands. (John 6) And a few fishermen, tax collectors, and a man who was the persecutor of that very cause, can set the entire world aflame for the Gospel. But only when all those things are surrendered — fully and completely — to God.
Because then He gets all the glory.
So I love New Year’s resolutions. Because they remind me that I, in my own strength and power, fail. But that’s a good thing. Because when I recognize that, I can get myself out of the way, and give myself over to the all-powerful God. And when those terrible, no good, very bad days come, I can remember That Day, when we will stand before the Lord, and hear “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” (Mat 25:23)
I’m useless, and that’s a good thing.
Because then I can be used by God.
And He is the one who will get all the glory.
And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Cor 12:9)
Happy New Year, ladies and gentlemen! I hope this last year was wonderful, but even more that this new year will be one of serving and drawing ever nearer to the One Who makes all things new. Keep running whole-heartedly after Him!