New Year’s resolutions can be great. They inspire us to improve our lives in various ways, from the spiritual to the physical. We make goals to read through the Bible, memorize Scripture, eat healthy, get routine exercise, spend more time with our spouse or kids, organize our clutter, and grow in our vocation. They’re reminders and incentives to better our lives in ways that we may have faltered the year before. But what happens when those goals fly out the window before Spring is even over?
Just like so many others, I have my list of resolutions. On our 7-hour car ride home from Christmas celebrations, my husband and I talked through our resolutions together. A new Bible reading plan, going to the gym more regularly, being intentional with our date nights, reading and writing goals, and finishing our daily chores earlier to have time in the evening to relax. Things were going along well until about the eighth day of the new year. It was then I received the sad news that my grandmother had passed away. Our family repacked the suitcases we had just unloaded and headed back on our 7-hour journey to MI for the funeral. In the midst of traveling our 4-year old became sick with influenza. A week later he’s still recovering and home from preschool and his other activities.
The time I had planned for reading and writing turned into alphabet letters and picture books. My exercise became trips to the doctor and pharmacy. And at 9:00 pm the other night, the goal of when all our “work” would be done, I had a pile of papers from my high schooler to go through with forms to sign and syllabi to read for the new semester (and of course they needed to be returned the next day). I found myself frustrated that all my best made plans seemed to be flying out the window. My resolutions that seemed so good and reasonable when I made them were slipping through my fingers like sand.
When our plans go awry it can be easy to spiral into complaining and self-pity. I’ve definitely battled that temptation the past week. But more importantly, God is teaching me to hold my resolutions with an open hand, realizing He is working in the midst of the daily trials that come my way. Maybe you’ve had a similar experience. Maybe you feel like you’ve already failed in keeping up with your Bible reading, or had too many cookies at bedtime. Here are a few things I’m learning in the midst of faltering resolutions:
God is sovereign over the interruptions to your plans. When you receive a call that your child is sick at school in the midst of your meeting, or the time you had reserved for your Bible reading is interrupted by a crying baby, keep in mind that God is in control. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord” Isaiah 55:8. Maybe God is choosing to make you more like Himself, not through checking off every box on your reading plan, but holding that sick child early in the morning and comforting them in their distress.
Unexpected blessings are given in the midst of unexpected circumstances. Just as I had resolved to spend more quality time with my children, a death in our family and extended sickness in our preschooler has provided that very opportunity. Maybe the quality time wasn’t neatly packed in a mommy-daughter date night, but came instead through conversations in our van through our 14 hours of travel, and sitting with our little guy on the couch while reading a pile of stories.
Opportunities arise to give a sacrifice of praise. When our goals are not achieved in the way we had hoped, we have an opportunity to give praise to the Lord for His perfect plans. We have an opportunity to turn our disappointment and complaints to gratitude and praise. “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in ALL circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18.
God’s mercies are new every morning. Tomorrow is a new day. God will not discipline you for not achieving your goals. Instead, he gives us grace upon grace and is faithful to sustain us. “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” Lamentations 3:22-23. He will equip us for what He calls us to do.
So if you’re feeling defeated by your resolutions, trust that God is working in the midst of your disappointment. Hold your resolutions with an open hand and watch for the blessings that come when you give them fully to the Lord.