It’s the new year. Most of us are probably scratching our head wondering how in the world it is 2017 already. Doesn’t it feel like 2016 just started? What happened to the resolutions and goals that we made for the year? Did you meet them, or are you, like me, still feeling like you’ve got months to get around to it instead of just weeks?
The New Year brings a sense of new beginning: Maybe we can change our patterns and our ways this time. Maybe we can be better people: Healthier, wiser, kinder, and better with finances. It’s really tempting to make a bunch of resolutions at this time of year, because maybe this will be the year that we actually keep them. The thing is, we rarely do. We like to think we’re starting with a blank slate, but really, we are the same people on January 1 as we were on December 31. Instead of meeting all our goals, we end up stuck in a shame cycle where we end up angry at ourselves because, once again, we weren’t disciplined enough to lose weight, exercise regularly, and save more money.
There is nothing inherently wrong with New Year’s resolutions. It’s great to set goals and work towards making better and healthier choices. The problem can arise when we leave God out of our choices and focus on ourselves: I need to get a promotion; I need to lose 15 pounds; I, I, I. Maybe what we really need is to ask God to change us from the inside out, so that we aren’t just making better choices, but we’re making the right choices, and for the right reasons.
Goal-setting is something I have always struggled with. I’ve been a perfectionist pretty much all my life. If I wanted to accomplish something, I would set my energy on that goal, and it would usually come to pass. That’s how I ended up going to graduate school (twice), learning Mandarin, and running a half-marathon. Even since becoming a Christian, it is really tempting for me to make a list of what I want to accomplish this month or this year, and ask for God’s blessing, but is that really the abundant, Spirit-filled live that He promised us in John 10:10? No, it’s a life and a set of goals that are all about me. All of these accomplishments can feel empty when they are divorced from God’s plans for me.
So, let’s all take some time to ask God what He wants us to do and who He wants us to be in 2017. Maybe He will show us a goal to meet or a situation where He wants us to act. Maybe He will tell us to be still and be present with Him more. No matter what He says, we are growing and learning as we listen.
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them. ~James 4:13-17