Blogs about New Year’s Resolutions are super trendy. Like, if you have a blog and you don’t have a resolution post, do you even blog? The most popular are the ones that are list format with subtitles in bold so you don’t actually have to read the article. Just this morning, in fact, I got an email from a travel blog I follow listing the top ten New Year’s resolutions every traveler needs to add to their list in 2019. This was an incredibly absurd list too, ranging from splurging on more expensive hotels, to requesting that your boss let you work remotely so that you can take an extended (think over a month-long) vacation, to visiting somewhere exotic like Antarctica. The list was super impractical and definitely deviated from the traditional self-betterment nature of New Year’s resolutions. Which, I get… if my goal is going into debt for a nice hotel room, I can meet that a little easier than I can meet a goal of losing 25 pounds.
But regardless of if resolutions are aimed at personal improvement or if they lean toward the selfish wish-list end of the spectrum, most people feel the imperative to set them. Or at the very least designate a word to live up to in the new year. We feel the need to make the upcoming year better than the last, even if the last year was great! There’s this gnawing feeling each January that we haven’t done enough or been enough. Why is that? Why do we get super self-reflective and motivated to improve our lives in some way come January 1? You don’t hear of too many people collectively feeling the pull toward self-improvement on some random Tuesday afternoon in April.
“Bob, Jane, Charlie… gather round. It’s 10 minutes until the clock strikes 3:27 PM on April 22nd. Let’s all share our plans to improve ourselves and our lives.”
I think New Year’s resolutions are a thing because the close of a year is a very tangible marker of our own finiteness - at the start of 2019, I am one year closer to the end of my life. So there’s this introspection that takes place followed by a welling feeling of urgency to do more and to be better, because whatever the last year held it wasn’t enough.
I didn’t read enough, learn enough, practice self-control enough, lose enough weight, exercise enough, hone in on a skill enough, love enough, travel enough, save enough money, rest enough, play enough, set barriers enough, or give enough. I wasn’t enough. It wasn’t enough.
And we vow that this year… this is the year that will be different.
But 3:27 in the afternoon on April 22, 2019 rolls around, and it’s more or less the same. The depressing reality is that our best efforts to fix ourselves fall flat. I’ve heard it said that around 80% of New Year’s resolutions dissolve around February. But here’s the kicker - even if you meet all your goals and keep your resolutions until the bitter end of December, it won’t be enough. You’ll propose a new set of resolutions for 2020. Why? Because that gnawing feeling of your life not measuring up will still be there. Year after year.
Whew. Depressed yet?
Truly, we aren’t enough. No matter what new goals we set and how many of them we meet or don’t meet, we cannot make ourselves into new people. All the uphill clawing doesn’t get us very far. But, there is good news in the midst of our deep, deep inadequacy.
Scripture teaches that God is breathing new life into us, making us into new creations, giving us a new song and a new kingdom purpose.
“He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.” - Psalm 40:3
“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” - Isaiah 43:19
“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” - Ezekiel 36:26
“We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” - Romans 6:4
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” - 2 Corinthians 5:17
“In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.” - Hebrews 8:13
“And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” - Revelation 21:5
That’s not normally my favorite way to approach Scripture, but I want to emphasize who has the power to make anything new. It’s not us.We know from Ecclesiastes that there is nothing new under the sun - it’s same old, same old for us here on planet earth. Toil, ceaseless striving, disappointment, personal failings, sin, death. With each revolution around the sun, nothing new exists under it. Sure we get moments of happiness peppered in, but ultimately we’re singing the same song, doing the same thing, with the same hearts and the same lives leading to the same destruction. Unless God introduces something new.
Through Christ’s death, burial and resurrection, God has introduced something new. A new way for us to have the hope of a new life. By his grace alone, he has done what we could never do - and that is save ourselves. When we don’t feel enough (because we truly aren’t enough), Christ is sufficient - he is enough. What a wonderfully freeing realization - that I no longer have to ceaselessly fight for my own validation, meaning, and salvation. I can find rest in Him and the new creation he is making me to be.
So this New Year, if you find yourself setting resolutions, that’s okay. Just take heart and remember the one who has the power to truly make all things new.