With the dawning of 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: