With each New Year, it is natural that our minds drift towards the potential the next 365 days may hold for us.
Things we had every intention of accomplishing last year and that were all but given up on by midyear, now challenge us to take hold of again. For some, they are temporal goals like losing thirty pounds or saving more money or writing a book. Still, others are more lofty goals such as reading through the entire Bible or ridding oneself of a besetting sin.
I’ve heard both sides of the argument as to whether or not to engage in setting new resolutions for the New Year. Some suggest we avoid the practice altogether and in that way avoid the inevitable letdown that results from breaking them. Still, others recognize that the start of a new year is a good time to make new resolutions since our brains are arranged in such a way that they are naturally acclimated to taking on new challenges with the start of the year.
I used to resist the temptation to make new resolutions until I read again the many resolutions which one of America’s greatest theologians, Jonathan Edwards wrote and not merely at the start of a new year. But one of the reasons Edwards has been so encouraging when it comes to resolutions is the fact that he, like I, often struggled to keep them. Here is what his biographer, George Marsden said of him:
It was one thing to make such a thorough and impressive list of resolutions; it was another to keep them. This we know from his diary, in which he reported his efforts fairly regularly for the next year or two. Although he noted the spiritual highs that he later recalled, his diary also records many days of lows, “decays,” and lengthy times of inability to focus on spiritual things (A Short Life of Jonathan Edwards, 24).
And he didn’t just occasionally struggle to keep them; at times he felt as if he failed miserably:
“The last week I was sunk so low, that I fear it will be a long time before I am recovered. I fell exceedingly low in the weekly account [regarding keeping my resolutions]. I find my heart so deceitful that I am almost discouraged from making any more resolutions. — Wherein have I been negligent in the week past; and how could I have done better, to help the dreadful low estate in which I am sunk?”
So Marsden records that one of America’s greatest spiritual forefathers often struggled to keep his resolutions. Yet that didn’t stop him from setting any. This is because he understood the power of resolutions when setting as reasonable goals to shape the mind and challenge the heart, especially when carried out in total dependence on the grace of God.
What is God challenging you to resolve by the grace of God in 2019? Don’t be afraid to set any for fear of failure. There will inevitably be days when you mourn the loss of your resolve, but they are opportunities to pick yourself up again and move onward. You will find that setting the course is not the problem but a heart and mind which is resolved to accomplish great things for God.