I don’t like New Year’s Resolutions. Probably because I can never keep them.
As of yesterday (the 1st of January), things will look a little different all over the country. Gym members will see a surge of new faces using the equipment next to them. Kitchen cupboards will wonder where all of the chocolate and biscuits have went. Sales of bikes and running shoes may see a noticable spike. Headaches will soar as thousands try to wean themselves off of caffine. Alcohol cupboards will sit empty and waiting.
All over the country people will have made decisions, promises and declarations that “this year I’m going to change!” Some may even mean it. Some may even keep their promises. Others may have already broken theirs.
Reviewing our habits and daily decisions is a good thing. I’m not against that. But the problem starts when we start to attach our goals and desires to our identity. According to my very scientific study of social media, February/March is when most people fail or give up on their resolutions. And according to social media, when people begin to fail at their resolutions, there is a very real temptation for self-condemnation to set in.
I mean, how many of you have ever said or heard something like the following:
“I stopped exercising, and now I’ve gained weight again. I’m never going to change.”
“I couldn’t stay away from *insert your addiction here* for more than 4 weeks. I’m useless.”
“Dry January hardly lasted a week. I’m such an idiot.”
“My Bible reading didn’t last very long. I give up.”
And so on.
Some people get so worked up about the (often unrealistic) goals they set themselves that when they fail, instead of giving themselves the grace and slack they need, they go straight to self-condemnation.
And that’s why I don’t like resolutions. People end up tying their identities to something that they were never supposed to tie their identity to in the first place.
You are not defined by how much you weigh. You are not defined by how much self control you have. Contrary to popular belief, you are not what you eat.
If you’re a Christian, how good you are at keeping your Bible reading or prayer life isn’t how God decides how much he loves you. Or as Matt Smethurst recently Tweeted: Spiritual Disciplines are there to make God more precious to you, not to make you more precious to God.
If you miss a day, or a week, or a month, or a year, he doesn’t love you any less. It’s probably not good for you, but it doesn’t mean he thinks any less of you. That was settled when Jesus took his final breath at calvary.
According to the Bible, there’s only one change that really matters in the long run: how much we’ve surrendered to God.
If you really want to change this year, the only advice I can give you is to push into God more. Do what he wants instead of what you want. If that sounds hard, do it a little and you’ll soon find that what God wants becomes what you want. Instead of focusing so much energy on the temporal, spend a little extra time focusing on the eternal.
Exercising can change you physically and mentally, but it can’t make you a new version of you. You can give up sweets, chocolate and all of the other crap you put into your body, but it won’t change your heart (though it might make your physical heart a little healthier…). According to the Bible, true change only happens by coming to Christ. (John 3:3, 2 Cor 2:17).
The great paradox of the Christian life is that we don’t become who we’re supposed to be by taking control – we do that by surrendering daily to the will and word of God.
Look after yourself and make good choices, by all means – a healthier you will probably last longer and have more energy to do what the Lord has called you to do – but don’t let what’s supposed to be secondary become primary. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit, so it’s not something we grow in ourselves – it’s something we grow in only when we surrender and push further into the arms of God.
So go ahead and make your resolutions. Make good decisions and get rid of all of the stuff that’s not good for you – but don’t expect external choices to bring internal change. Certainly don’t base your identity on those things, and don’t get worked up if (or when) you inevitably fall short of your own standards. After all, if God doesn’t condemn you for breaking them, why should you?