With 2017 only a few days away, three words are everywhere I go: New Year’s resolutions. I can’t walk into a grocery store, browse social media or even read the news without receiving a clear cultural message: it’s time to commit to personal improvement goals for 2017.
By now, I’ve disappointed myself with so many failed resolutions that New Year’s has started to lose some of its sparkle. I’ve spent years waking up to a fresh start, only to realize a month or even a day later that a new year does not come with magically enhanced powers of self-control.
You’ve probably experienced this yourself (or, if you haven’t, please tell me your secret). Yet the fresh disappointments that often come with a fresh start shouldn’t surprise us. As Christians, we understand that humans aren’t perfect. That’s the whole point of Christmas — God came into our broken world to save us, because we couldn’t do it ourselves.
Even so, in the week between Christmas and New Year’s it’s so easy to shift our focus from God’s perfect gift of Himself to our un-perfect selves. The year-end push for self-improvement may even tempt us to believe that we are ultimately in control.
Maybe these thoughts have gone through your head:
- “If I can only resist sweets/snacking/junk food/etc. for the next three months, I’ll finally lose those 10 pounds.”
- “If can only handle my stress better, my quality of life will improve.”
- “If I can only get out of bed 30 minutes earlier to read my Bible, I’ll be better able to do God’s work.”
While all our New Year’s Resolutions may have a positive end goal, we often put immense pressure on ourselves to make those changes happen. We rely on our own strength and perseverance, and we end up disappointed. After years of this pattern, the words of Pastor Rick Warren in The Daniel Plan really struck me in 2016:
Stop trying, and start trusting. The key to a faith-filled life is not in trying harder. It’s not in psyching yourself up, but in relaxing in God’s grace, so he can do through you what he desires to do.
Pastor Warren isn’t talking specifically about New Year’s resolutions, but his message is no less applicable. The secret to a successful 2017, and to every new year after that, is not our will power. It’s God. The moment that we take our eyes off of Him and turn away from the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, we start an endless cycle of striving with no ultimate reward.
God doesn’t discourage us from setting New Year’s resolutions, but our personal improvements must be a team effort. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”
This year, I’m planning my resolutions with God and asking for His help in completing them. Only through His grace will our hearts and habits change for good.
Authored by Catie Jones North Central Church Member & Blog Editor | northcentral.org