“Have you made your New Year’s resolutions yet?” is one of those questions we welcome about as warmly as “Hot enough for you?” or “You know what your problem is?” It’s human nature to not want to talk about our flaws or shortcomings, and no matter how much we know we need to work on them, we certainly don’t like feeling pressured to do so.
For those of us dealing with depression or addiction, that pressure brings with it an added degree of pain. We’ve just dealt with a hectic holiday season—one that, despite its joyful trappings, can bring its own feelings of inadequacy as we wonder why we’re not as happy as other people we see—and now it feels as though other people are expecting us to get our lives in order all at once. If that pressure wasn’t helpful in April, June, or December, it’s not going to suddenly start feeling helpful in January.
Just as with Christmas presents, the subject of New Year’s resolutions often inspires feelings of needing to “keep up with the Joneses.” Are my resolutions as “good” or as meaningful as my sibling’s, neighbor’s, or co-worker’s? And if I fail to live up to those promises, will I just feel that much worse?
Making a bunch of resolutions that we’re not emotionally or spiritually strong enough to keep is just setting ourselves up for disappointment. But how do we acquire that strength?
Maybe instead of resolutions, what we need is revival.
If you’ll forgive the old “Webster’s defines…” cliché, one definition given for “revival” is “a period of renewed religious interest.”
This definition has come to be associated with large nationwide religious gatherings, particularly the “Second Great Awakening” of the early 19th century, but revival can take place within an individual as well.
That’s evident in another definition the dictionary offers, “renewed attention to or interest in something.” As we wallow in envy and frustration about the great relationships other people seem to have with God, are we really paying attention to our own?
And how much more capable would we be of improving ourselves if we were simply more mindful, if we paid more attention to the roadblocks we put in our own way?
Often we feel so bedeviled by temptation that we ignore the simple things we can do to remove that temptation on our own, or we fail to seek God’s help in resisting it.
New Year's Resolutions Too Ambitious?
These aren’t the kind of problems we can solve by making a bunch of showy, ambitious New Year’s resolutions that may be biting off more than we can chew. Particularly when our souls and spirits are feeling weak, we have to start slowly and take things one day at a time. That too is a cliché, but it’s one of those clichés that has some validity to it. What’s the point in worrying about steps two, three, and four if we’re too afraid to take step one?
Resolve or Revive?
Instead of focusing on resolutions, maybe we should try revival—renewing our spirits a little bit at a time each day, staying mindful of what God wants for us rather than automatically saying “I’m too weak” and barreling headlong into temptation.
Instead of making resolutions in an effort to keep up with everyone else, maybe we should look inward, focusing on ourselves and how we can acquire the spiritual strength to confront our external problems.
Saying “new year, new you” expecting to be completely transformed on January 1 is a recipe for failure. But if we look to God for help and try to be a little stronger each day, maybe we can take stock of ourselves on December 31 and realize that, slowly but surely, the “new you” has taken shape.