Failing My New Year’s Resolutions
It’s that time of year- setting and re-setting New Year’s resolutions … failing and assessing why we ever set them at all.
I love to set goals. The truth is that I tend to set unrealistic goals and then feel miserable when I do not meet the high standards that I have set for myself. It goes something like this:
“This semester I’m going to study every day for every class and make all A’s.”
“I am going to lose 15 pounds and be completely toned by the summer.”
“From now on my house will always be perfectly clean.”
“I will save several thousand dollars and not spend one penny over my budget.”
“I will actively interact with my kids every minute they are awake.”
Can you relate? … If so, let’s talk!
If not, do you set slightly more attainable goals?
Or do you even set goals at all? (Why not?)
Goal setting is a powerfully effective tool to accomplish great things, or at least make progress toward greatness. Benjamin Franklin once supposedly said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”
Planning and preparing is wise; however, setting unrealistic goals, I have found, just causes me to feel frustrated and often give up. Of course, as Christians, we can do the same thing in our spiritual walk:
“I will read through the whole Bible this year.”
“I will pray through my entire prayer list every day.”
“Daily, I will spend at least an hour with the Lord.”
“I will not say anything negative about anyone…ever.”
“Everything I say will point others toward Jesus.”
Now, these goals are awesome. If you can achieve even one of them, you go, girl! The danger comes when we feel defeated or like God is angry with us because we end up skipping our quiet time or because we prayed for five minutes in the car while we rushed around running errands.
We can also do the opposite. We can feel spiritually superior to others when we are achieving all our spiritual goals and others are not. Neither extreme leads to peace.
Truth: Our value to the Lord does not come through performance but through Christ.
We are not our goals. Just like we are not our weight, our grades, or our clean or dirty house. We are not our location, vocation or our paycheck. For those who believe in Jesus Christ, we are God’s, and that relationship makes us … enough.
We are enough because Jesus was enough.
Our value comes through Christ alone, not our goals. God’s Word says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph 2:8-9). We are saved by Christ not any checklist.
So why then do we at times try to gain people’s approval, pump up our own self-worth, and even gain the Lord’s favor by what we do when the biblical reality is that we are saved by grace, not by our achievements?
When I do not meet my own high standards, I feel defeated. It’s exhausting!
So, my new goal: simply reevaluate what is driving my goals and ask for God’s help to get up and start each of them again driven by His grace.
His grace is not in any way opposed to an audacious checklist; rather, it might allow us to dream even bigger knowing that we can fall safely upon His grace net. So, whether His grace causes us to scale back or scale higher, I just want us to check our motives.
We might ask ourselves in the process:
“Is this goal from the Lord?
Is it drawing me closer to the Lord or merely feeding my pride?”
Or why am I too afraid or discouraged to even try?
Wayne Gretzky said, “You’ll always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Whether we feel like too much of a failure to attempt or we just want to avoid more stress, either way we are still missing out. The only way to ever hit a target is to first try, right?
So, whether our goal needs to be to just have the heart again to set goals or whether we need to keep going because we just seem to keep failing, God is able to help us with both.
I have often felt like a failure because someone that I have mentored has made a poor choice. A former youth student walked away from the Lord. I felt like if I had poured into her more and stayed connected to her, then she would not have made such a detrimental life choice. When I shared this with a good friend of mine, she told me, “You give yourself too much credit.”
Amen to that! I can control loving her, but I give myself way too much credit to assume I could control her choices. I am only responsible for my own decisions. So, I need to assess which of my goals are realistically within my control, because some really are not.
Sure, many impressive goals are still manageable because God is able to empower us to accomplish things well out of our control, but some goals are in fact pie in the sky set ups for failure because we cannot control a child, spouse, a co-worker, or a client or how they respond.
There is nothing in Scripture that requires that I must spend an hour in God’s Word daily or read through the Bible in a year. Those are my own self-imposed assumptions and goal-plated religion.
However, I need to be connected to God and praying through His Word so that I remain connected to His heart and guidance. When I consistently fail to come to the Lord and try to do thing my own way, then I actually sin. It is my pride that makes me believe I can accomplish anything on my own. When this happens, Satan lies to me and tries to make me think that my fall is so great that I cannot come back to the Lord.
Truth: There is nothing that can separate me from the love of Christ.
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ro 8:38-39).
Often I keep an internal list of all my failures, but I am never going to be perfect this side of heaven. The measure of my spiritual maturity is not that I never sin, but it is how quickly I confess and make things right. It shows that I am listening to the Holy Spirit. Humility admits sin. Pride causes me to hold people at arm’s length thinking that it is none of their business to tell me what to do. Pride prevents me from apologizing because it is embarrassing, and I want to keep up this image of perfection, which only hardens my heart. I think that I do not need the Lord’s guidance or conviction.
So whether your ability to achieve is as great or your failures, let’s still keep asking for more of God’s grace to keep going. Set high goals for the home and / or office. Both are high callings. Whether you are single, married, working from home or office, God doesn’t look down on any of us. Rather, He has great plans for each of us in our unique callings: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph 2:10).
So whether you set goals from the kitchen or the conference room, remember that you were created to do good works, but you are not defined by them. When you fail, and we all will, ask for either the strength to persevere or the wisdom to know if your goal is actually within your control. If it’s outside of your ability, perhaps you might add to your checklist: grace to let go.
For those goals your decide are still worthwhile and within your ability to control, then let’s get going because you can finish reading the Bible in 366 days, even if it is not a leap year. Keep starting again and again and again…re-written and driven by His grace upon increasing grace.
Take sometime soon to review your New Year’s Resolutions:
- What is working?
- Are my goals realistic (within my actual control)?
- What needs to come off the checklist entirely?
- Which goal needs to grow by grace?
- Do I believe I am enough even if I fail each goal today?
by Angel Angell with Shabby Chic Ministries
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