I hate New Year’s resolutions. I mean, I really hate them.
Resolutions have always felt like such rigid, unyielding ways to measure growth or change. They rarely take into account that, sometimes, life happens.
Studies vary, and it depends on the individual, but it generally takes anywhere from two to eight months for an action to become a habit. Imagine your resolution is to read at least one book a month. Maybe you start off strong in the first two months, but the next month comes around and you’ve been spending more time with friends; or volunteering at your church every other Sunday; or pursuing a new hobby or interest; or you’ve been putting in extra hours at work — so you don’t manage to finish a book that month. Inevitably, a sense of disappointment and failure creeps in. Cue the inevitable, “Well, I’ll start fresh next year” rationalization.
I don’t like setting myself up for failure, and I’m sure you don’t, either.
Receiving a word
Instead, several years ago I decided to adopt a new approach to the standard New Year’s resolution, one that involves walking and talking with my Savior every day. I find it an easy way to cover both the beginning and the end of the year in prayer.
Starting early in December, I ask God to press a word or phrase onto my heart that I can reflect upon and apply in my life in the coming year. I ask God to reveal His will for me. I ask where in my life He is asking me to grow, change, or step out in faith. Sometimes I hear the answer very quickly; other times, it takes the whole month of December praying and meditating on God’s Word for the answer to be clear to me. Often, a Scripture theme keeps coming up in my reading, pointing toward a possible word on which to focus.
After I’ve received this word or phrase, I spend the first two weeks of January in dedicated prayer, asking how God wants me to implement this word into my life in the months to come. Okay, God, the prayer usually starts, I have this word from You. Now what do You want me to do with it?
God desires only good, edifying, constructive things for our lives. But let’s face it, we are rarely successful in our own wisdom at identifying what is a good thing versus what will ultimately harm us or lead us to destruction. Matthew 7:7-8 tells us,
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”
I can tell you with absolute certainty that all I have to do is ask, and the Word and Holy Spirit will challenge and convict me right where I need it most.
Then comes the hardest part of any new habit or resolution: actually doing the thing consistently.
A chance to let God work
I’ll admit I am not a morning person, and I struggle most days to wake up and have my quiet time with God before getting ready for the day. However, I always make sure to send up a quick prayer and ask God to give me an opportunity to put my word or phrase into action and to give me the courage and bravery to do it boldly. At the end of the day, when I usually have my daily time with the Lord, I reflect on my day and identify the opportunities that God put in my path to follow the Spirit’s prompting. I’d like to say I always recognize every opportunity and take advantage of them. But that’s rarely the case.
You want to know the best part, though? I may have missed an opportunity to put my word or phrase into action, but God never makes me feel guilty about it. He might convict me, but there is no sense of shame or failure, only forgiveness and an opportunity to try again tomorrow.
Pause. Endurance. Bold. Intentional. Still. Humility.
These are some of the words the Lord has given me in recent years. What’s my word for 2024? This year is a bit unique. I felt so strongly a sense of the word “release” and had been meditating on that in my quiet time with God for about a week. Then, a few days ago I had a moment where God metaphorically smacked me upside the head and said, No, beloved, release is only part of what I’m asking of you. What I need you to have is joy. So, here’s to a joy-filled 2024 and a year spent growing in my understanding and exemplification of joy!
What about you? Are you willing to ask God what word or phrase He might challenge you with next year? And then are you willing to accept the challenge? This is no magic formula for growth with God, but in an increasingly scattered, frantic, digitized and isolated culture, any chance to slow down and focus on God’s voice is a good one.
And that’s one New Year’s resolution I’ve found worth keeping.
Copyright 2023 Jessika Schmit. All rights reserved.