I’m a big fan of New Year’s resolutions. I prefer to call them “goals,” but let’s not split hairs. Whatever they’re called, I love them.
Each January, I force a friend or two to sit down with me and dream, plan and prepare for the year ahead. I try to make the exercise fun by fixing snacks, providing fresh paper and pens, and talking up the life-changing potential of goal-setting and personal vision-casting. I’ve had different levels of success on this front.
In starting my goals list for 2016 (more on that in a post to come), I realized there are some resolutions I’m tempted to make that I have no business making. While they appear productive and ambitious — even self-effacing and spiritual — they are at best unrealistic, and in several cases foolish and downright unbiblical. You may be tempted to make them, too. Don’t.
Here are five resolutions to not make this year:
1. I will fix ___________ about myself. Maybe it’s your weight, your personality, your laugh, your social media score, or whatever else is causing you to measure yourself against others and pronounce yourself lacking. There’s nothing wrong with personal growth and improvement, but if you’re finding your identity in it, you’re barking up the wrong tree. You are perfectly loved by your Creator; you are made in His image. What’s more, becoming more or less of something just to impress people is crazy-making and offers no happiness guarantee. Get into Scripture and focus on who you are in Christ. Stop looking at your friends and wishing you had their life and story. God’s already written yours; live it.
2. I will do more to please God. Maybe you’re tempted to start a sin management system to clean up all your mistakes. Or you’ll finally begin tithing. Or perhaps you’ll guilt yourself into serving on that committee at church. Implied in these intentions is the desire for something in return. So He will love me more. So He will give me what I want. So He’ll forget my past mistakes. God can’t love you more than He already does, and nothing you do will earn His favor or make Him dispense extra blessings on your terms and timetable. John 15 goes to great lengths to tell us that God wants us to abide in Him. Our energy isn’t to be spent doing, but rather clinging to the person of Jesus and letting Him work in and through us. It’s the only way we’ll see fruit, favor and satisfaction.
3. I will change my church, job, small group, friend group and/or family to make my life easier. Things in my life would be so awesome if everything were always about me, don’t you think? It’s tempting for me to look at my dissatisfaction with my spiritual life, relationships, career and more, and blame it all on stuff (and people) outside myself. But as Elisabeth Elliot famously said, “The secret is Christ in me, not me in a different set of circumstances.” Sure, if you’re in a church that’s not preaching the Gospel, it’s time to look elsewhere. If your friends are hindering your walk with Christ or are not safe people, cut the cord. But trying to solve your problems by running from them will make you nothing more than a great runner. Dig in and commit. Change things from the inside out. Comfort isn’t your highest goal; Christlikeness is.
4. I will go on a dating fast or stop thinking about dating and marriage. OK, this is just dumb. Sure, if you’re engaged in full-stop idolatry of a person, relationship or the concept of marriage, maybe doing a heart check is a good idea. But nowhere in the Bible does it say to refuse a godly relationship out of the need to pass some kind of spiritual or relational test. Furthermore, God’s such a big fan of marriage, He’s woven it throughout all of Scripture. Be open to possibilities. See what God does. Go about your business being a disciple of Christ who loves and serves others. Then, if a quality person crosses your path, let God work while doing your part.
5. I will be married (or close to it) by the end of the year. Oh, really? How do you know? Remember, a goal is something measurable, attainable and something you have complete control over. Marriage does not fit into this category. You need God and your future spouse to cooperate. See number four above for advice on how to be simultaneously proactive and chill, but don’t start putting God in a box. And don’t go into desperado mode. Pray boldly, act wisely, and let God work. He’s got this.
Now that we know the resolutions not to make, we can drum up some killer ones that will actually move us into the new year with a sense of hope and purpose.