Although I am generally in favor of New Years’ resolutions, I do have one problem with them. Generally speaking, the resolutions we make year after year don’t work. We begin January with wonderful thoughts about what we are going to change in order to improve ourselves. “I am going to lose ten pounds.” Or, “I am going to quit smoking.” These resolutions are typical of the types of changes we hope to implement. And they are good changes! But how many such resolutions fail to bring the desired change for every such resolution that “sticks?”
I have not done anything like a serious study on this – and I haven’t seen any such study done by others. But when I think about resolutions I have made and resolutions that I am aware of that were made by friends and family, far more resolutions fail than succeed. I think there is a reason for this.
By nature, we as human beings are drawn to the idea of justification by works. Legalism is the natural; air we breathe. Nothing is more antithetical to the human spirit secularly understood and quietly co-opted by well-intentioned Christians than the idea of the free grace of a sovereign God. We thrive instead on positive evaluations of our actual performance. As evidence for this loaded statement, consider what we remember. Although we may struggle to remember our calculus, our retention is remarkable when it comes to bad things done to us and good things done by us. We are by nature record-keepers.
Enter the First of January! Now we will begin to keep records on ourselves. Predictably, we fail. When we fail, it is often the case that one of two things happens. Sometimes we abandon the resolution altogether – “Well, I failed my 2012 resolution; I’ll just have to try again in 2013…” Sometimes we get really tough on ourselves and try to come up with ways to make up for our broken resolutions. Both types of responses are in radical tension with the idea of grace.
In Lamentations 3:22-23 we read something about the love and mercy of God that we must allow redefining the way we think about New Years’ resolutions:
Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
For his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is your faithfulness.
Here is where we trace the idea that we many times:
“His mercies are renewed each morning.”
Two brief thoughts that spring from this truth might help us better implement any resolutions we make this year. First, every day the Christian life begins with a renewed experience of the mercy of God. Second, every day the Christian life begins with a renewed experience of the mercy of God. In light of this, make resolutions, and if and when you break them, know that the faithfulness of God is your great hope – not your own faithfulness. And let’s remember too that for the Christian, we don’t need a new calendar year to get a fresh start. Every morning God looks at us anew in Christ and blesses us with his great love and unfailing compassion – and invites us to start again.