Well, we’ve just come through the first week of 2018 and have heard the words “Happy New Year” over and over. We rang in the New Year in all different kinds of ways, and now we are back to the day to day grind. Some of us made promises to do something different this year, while others are just trying to not rock the boat and keep things the same. So now what? And why do so many of us focus on making changes at this time of year? Is it because we are unhappy with the current state of our life or is it because we are discontent with decisions we’ve made in the past. Change at the turn of the New Year is enticing because, after all, who doesn’t want a clean slate (or even a “do-over”)?
The New Year brings exciting, and often motivating, potential for change. We are energized for new things, but what do we do with the changes that happen to us? It’s easy to jump in to try and make ourselves or our lives better, but how often do we actually keep the promises we make on January 1st? A study by the University of Scranton revealed that only 8% of people achieve their New Year goals. That means a whopping 92% do not succeed, but why? It’s my opinion the main reason we fail in keeping on track with our goals for changing is because we don’t change US! We don’t change our perspective, so we instead look at our goals as nothing more than a task. Tasks are something you do; resolutions are something you become. We talk about “New Year’s resolutions,” but a resolution is not just an intent, or even commitment, to do something better. It is defined by Webster as “the act of finding an answer or solution to a conflict, problem, etc.” A true resolution is not the intent to get a result; it IS the result. It is change that brings the resolution, not the other way around.
Change is a constant part of our lives. It happens to us all the time, often against our wishes. When things are going well, we don’t want change. When things are going poorly, we want change, but only on our timetable and on our terms. Real change often interrupts our intent to change. We make promises to ourselves (or others) to do something different but then something outside out control happens, and we are derailed. How many of you are dealing with unexpected changes right now? Some of us are dealing with difficult changes in our jobs, families, health, etc. Some of us suddenly find ourselves as patients while others have been thrust into the role of a caregiver. It is difficult when the New Year brings change to you instead of you bringing change to the New Year. There are also positive changes for some of us. Some have become parents, homeowners, financially stable, and many other things. It isn’t about whether or not change will happen, but how we deal with it.
We each decide what we are going to focus on when things change around us. Sometimes all we can see is the loss or what seems to be the destruction of our hopes and dreams, but we do have a choice in our perspective. We need to remember that ALL change brings loss. It’s part of the natural process. In order to have something different, whether good or bad, we have to let go of something else. Sometimes that loss makes us say “good riddance,” but other times it makes us scratch and claw while screaming, “NOOOOO!” But what if we started looking at change differently? What if we could become better at rolling with it?
As a person of faith, I know God is working all things for my good (Romans 8:28). We all know it, but we constantly scramble when things aren’t going the way we would like. We seem to lose sight of the fact that life is full of seasons, ups and downs. Solomon said it beautifully in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8:
- There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
- a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,
- a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,
- a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,
- a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
- a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away,
- a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak,
- a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.
There is truly a time for everything, and our definitions of good and bad are usually based on limited information. The question is: do we trust the One who actually knows everything or not? Are we going to live through the changes in life like a wind-up toy, going along until it hits a wall and then bounces off and goes another direction until it hits another wall? The reality is that we really do have a choice and the result of our choice will either bring peace or anxiety. If we approach unexpected change as though it is totally up to us to figure out the problem and fix it, then we are going to live a life full of constant stress, because there will always be circumstances we cannot control. On the other hand, if we could realize that what we see as “unexpected” is never a surprise to our Heavenly Father, and that He has promised He is working all things for our ultimate good, then we can live a life of confidence and peace in the midst of every storm. It doesn’t mean it will always feel good, but we can trust that it will eventually all work out.
So back to the fact we have just started a brand new year, if you think this year will be different, you are correct. If you think there will be changes this year, you are also correct. If you think you will have total control over those changes, think again. It is a beautiful thing to take the time to reflect on your life and make plans for positive changes or better decisions. It is good to hope, but we need to make sure our hope is not inappropriately placed in ourselves or others. As the old hymn says, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name. On Christ the solid rock I stand. All other ground is sinking sand.” He knows everything we are going through and what is to come. He cares intimately about every aspect of our lives as His children. He has the power to handle any and everything in our lives, and He will always work things out when it is for our ultimate good.
So I wish you all an amazing 2018! It is my prayer that all of us can learn to lean on what we know in our hearts instead of going it alone. We can become better parents, children, employees, bosses, church members, pastors or whatever other role we may fill. The best way to do that is to fall back into our Father’s arms and let Him show us the paths to walk. And when the next January 1st rolls around, we will be able to share not only our hopes for another year, but our resolutions – our results – from the journey we are embarking on right now. That, my friends, is what a resolution is all about.