Lord, help me.
“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 3:23-24
Talk of New Year’s resolutions is everywhere right now. There are news stories about them, giving tips on how to keep them. I’ve even read other devotions and blogs about them. It’s an obvious subject this time of time since our resolutions are at the forefront of most of our minds.
A story on one of our local stations yesterday showed a clip of a psychologist explaining the psychology behind making resolutions at the beginning of a new year. She said our brains automatically connect the start of a year or even a new month to starting something new, as if we are hardwired to believe that beginning something new must correlate to a new timeframe.
Lamentations 3: 23, 24 tells us that we don’t need to wait for a new year or even a new month to start over with a clean slate with God. It says His mercies “are new every morning.” Every single day we have the blessing of a new start. Yesterday and its mistakes are behind us, and we can thank God for a new day and another chance to do things right in His eyes.
I no longer make “resolutions,” partly because it’s so disheartening when I fail to keep them. Instead, I thank God for each new day that I wake up healthy and safe and resolve to make that day the best I can make it and to be the best person I can be in it, accomplishing the tasks that God sets for me that day.
Of course, I have goals for the year, and things I want to accomplish. Interestingly, the term “getting back to basics” has come up for me twice recently regarding setting goals for the year. My boss used that phrase in a meeting at work yesterday, and then it showed up in my devotion this morning regarding renewing our faith this year. When something like that happens, I sit up and pay attention. Perhaps God is telling me that’s the key to achieving my goals for the year. Simplify. Take one task at a time. Rely on tried-and-true methods.
I personally believe the ultimate way to successfully keep resolutions is to rely on God’s help and to give yourself the grace to fall short occasionally. There will be a day or two, or even three or more, when you fail to stick to your new diet or work out plan. That doesn’t mean you have to chuck the whole idea. It just means you must remind yourself that tomorrow is a new day, and you have an opportunity to start again.
Big goals must be taken in small steps, or they become overwhelming. Once we feel that something is too big for us to accomplish, it’s easy to decide that it’s too much to tackle at all, and we talk ourselves out of trying. Perhaps you want to go back to school or change careers, but once you start looking at the steps you must take to even get started, you decide it’s more than you can do. My advice is to just focus on the first step. Then, once that’s completed, focus on the next step, so on and so forth until it’s finished.
I have a George Whitefield quote pinned to the cork board over my desk that reads, “Lord, help me to begin to begin.” Sometimes taking the first step is the hardest, but once we get the ball rolling, we find that each step is easier to take, and before we know it, the goal is accomplished, and we get to revel in that wonderful effervescent feeling of a job well done.
Friends, as well and good as it is to want to improve ourselves physically, intellectually, and financially, one goal we absolutely should resolve to accomplish this year is improving ourselves spiritually. So, while we’re making your resolutions, I want to encourage all of us to think about what we need to do to improve our walk with Jesus.
At the beginning of December, we started new Sunday School classes at church. My husband and I usually attend a class together, but this quarter they’re offering a men’s class and a women’s class. So, we parted ways.
The very first topic in our ladies’ class was patience and gentleness, two fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22,23) that do not come naturally to me. In fact, just that morning while getting ready for church I’d spoken harshly to my youngest daughter.
As soon as I heard the topic, my heart sank, and just for a second, I wondered if I could somehow slip out unseen. I did not want to sit through a class that would make me feel convicted of sin or even more guilty than I already felt. But then of course, I realized that my attitude was also sinful, so I gritted my teeth, said a prayer for an open heart and a willing spirit and participated in the class.
What I discovered is that a lot of women struggle with patience and gentleness. That’s right. The “gentler sex” is not so gentle, after all. In fact, I happened to fall in beside one of our elders’ wives as we left class, and we started chatting about what we’d discussed in the lesson. Now, this woman is very soft spoken and kind, but as it turns out, she struggles with gentleness and patience, too! When I pointed out that her demeanor does not in any way indicate that to be the case, she told me it’s the result of 30 years in the Christian walk and a lot of work. And she’s still working at it!
I'm sure you've guessed by now what my spiritual goal is for this year.
The elder's wife and I promised to pray for one another, and she recommended a Bible study that had helped her. I bought the book, and it is now at the top of my reading list for this year. She said one more thing to me before we headed into the worship service that really made me feel better. She said, “God made us fierce for a reason. We just have to use the gift appropriately.”
So, if you think of a perceived flaw in your personality that you’d like God to change, maybe you, too, should consider if you have that character trait for a reason and whether it has a positive use. Perhaps ask God to show you how to use it, rather than remove it. I also encourage you, friend, to find a Christian brother or sister to pray for and support you in your faith resolution for the year.
Ultimately, though, we always have Jesus in our corner. Matthew 11:29-30 encourages us to “yoke” ourselves to Him. Picture a yoke. It’s essentially a wooden beam that harnesses the power of two oxen so that they can pull a heavy load together. It’s a way of distributing the animals’ strength and guiding them to work together. Now, Jesus is much stronger and more powerful than we will ever be, and He is offering to share His strength and power with us to help us pull the load and accomplish the work of living in our broken world and of staying on the path of righteousness.
So, if you’ve set a big goal for yourself this year, call on the strength of Jesus in helping you to accomplish it, making sure that it’s in line with His purpose for your life first, of course, and remember to pray constantly and with gratitude. (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18) You don’t want to try to do anything without Him, and it’s never advisable to do anything He hasn’t sanctioned because it’ll only be that much harder.
Father God, we thank You for bringing us in health and safety to the beginning of a new year. As we contemplate our goals for this year, please remind us to include You in the plan. May all we resolve to do meet with Your approval and fall in line with Your purpose for us. Please lend us Your strength and guidance in achieving our goals, Lord. In Jesus Christ’s name we pray. Amen.