The signs are everywhere, in the magazines, in the newspapers, online. Those signs which say that if you just resolve to do so, 2013 will be a different, better time. You can be thin, more beautiful, meet a new man, get that job, get some money, things will be better than they were before. Religious magazines fall for it too – get closer to God in 2013, pray better, help others more, be a better Christian. The pressure on us to make resolutions, to be proactive and do more in this new year is immense.
Of course, the truth is that most media use the new year as a handy hook – a writing prompt, much as this particular post is prompted by the new year itself. Yet I have fallen for it in the past, made resolutions, decided that this year, this year things will be better – I will be working, I will be thinner, I will be altogether a better person than I was last year.
The reality of mental illness is that it does not get better when we want it to. I cannot by wishing make my bipolar disorder go away, I cannot escape a depression merely by willpower. Nor can I be a better person – I can do better things, but at heart I am what I am. When mid-January comes round and we are still the person we have always been, when we are still overweight (or underweight), still not as good a Christian as we would like, still ill, with all that goes with that, it can be a crushing disappointment. Everybody else seems to be doing well with their new year resolutions, succeeding in their goals – if I feel inadequate compared to those I know at all times of the year, then the more so at new year when I fail once again to live up to my dreams. January is a hard month in any case – awful weather, the cold, with the promise and the hope of spring still far away – it does not need to be worse.
I no longer make resolutions – I have long term goals of being better at various things, but I make no promise of being better in a certain time frame. I know that growth, whether spiritual or secular, comes in its own time – it may take years, or it may not happen at all, and I try not to beat myself up when things do not go according to my plan.
God has plans for us – he says in Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Our own plans are insignificant – unless they match the plans of God for us. We pray that “Your will be done on earth as in heaven” both through us and in us – and that is the point I want to make today. We can make all the new year resolutions we want – but if God has other plans for us, then they will not happen. I am not saying we should be fatalistic and accept everything that happens to us, good or bad, as God’s will for us, because I do not think God micromanages our lives nor do I think that the bad parts of our lives are divinely ordained. I do think that overall, God has control of us and of what happens to us – even if we do not understand what the pattern of our lives have been until the end.
Rather than concentrating on the promise of a new year and the change that it might bring, we should concentrate on the Lord who changes not – and yet who changes us as we grow in him. Jesus is a promise for all seasons, in the old year and in the new, and he changes us whether slowly or quickly, as we grow into the people he wants us to be. I pray, now, that I will understand the will of God for my life, and that I will do his will, and I also pray that the change I believe the Lord wants to see in me as I am transformed and made new will happen in the time the Lord wishes it do happen, although I do also admit to wanting change quickly!
Forget the resolutions – most of our resolutions (or mine, anyway) are about insignificant things. Do I think the Lord really cares if I drop a dress size? It is one thing to have plans for the future but setting up an expectation for them to happen in a specific time frame can lead to disappointment. I know that my illness seizes on those disappointments to reiterate the old lie that I am unlovable and unworthy. Instead, I pray that the Lord’s will be done in me – and I set no time frame.
Things do not change because the 31st December has changed to the 1st January – a man-made time frame is irrelevant to the God for whom a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day (2 Peter 3:8). Although the papers may go on about changing our lives in the new year, I trust instead in the one who will change me over my life, and in his judgement. The Lord makes me different, makes me better – his will rather than mine should be paramount, and, dare I say it, the Lord’s resolutions, whether new years or not, are worth rather more than mine.
- A Blessed New Year (ptl2010.com)
- Hope for The New Year (socyberty.com)
- “For I Know The Plans I Have For You…” (thelivingwordministries.wordpress.com)
- 2013 Resolutions? No thank-you… (halfdozendaily.typepad.com)
- Should Christians Make New Year’s Resolutions?. (greatriversofhope.wordpress.com)
- Crying in the New Year (sistersofchrist.wordpress.com)