A new year begins and it’s time to make “resolutions”. Looking back at the past year, we usually reflect upon the changes we would like to see happen, the goals we would like to achieve. This feeling of a new beginning brought about by a new year increases our hope for change. Perhaps you have already written down your list of resolutions for 2018. However, how many of us can proudly say that we have kept past resolutions? I think we all suffer from the same realization, that we either forget our resolutions, get tired or discouraged along the way. Is there a secret, then, to maintaining your direction after resolving to make a new beginning?
A new beginning implies a desire for renewal. The Bible describes God as being the one who renews: He renews things, He renews nature, and in particular, He renews our inner person (2 Corinthians 5.17). Our body changes over time, but God renews our youth (2 Corinthians 4.16) so much so that we can be compared to eagles – these fast, piercing and powerful animals (Isaiah 40.31; Psalms 103.5).
“Renewal” has several meanings: to replace something in whole or in part in order to replace or repair what has been damaged; to transform or to revive something, to re-start… With God, we can have this same scope of renewal. What counts is to have a good grasp of the kind of new beginning we really want to experience, and why.
Change is natural, it is part of life. It can be frightening because it is usually synonymous with the unknown, with the lack of control. However, the desire for change is at times so strong that it overcomes the fear in our hearts and in our thinking. It can be useful to reflect upon what is happening inside of us – what is it that we really want to change: ourselves, or the behaviour of those around us? Are we seeking greater satisfaction or contentment? Are we trying to transform our environment or our circumstances? Do we feel forced to change, or do we want to do so? Is it out of joy or with anxiety? What kind of thinking has inspired us to do so? Is it pleasant or unpleasant?
If our thinking behind this desire for change is to shame or control ourselves, its outcome could be very discouraging. Psychotherapists acknowledge that cognition and behaviour are complementary. Jesus himself gave us this image: “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, neither a bad tree bear good fruit” (Matthew 7.18). Consequently, when the source thoughts are discouraging, the actions taken cannot have encouraging results; if a resolution rests upon negative thinking, the result will likely also be negative. Moreover, in the Bible, a resolution is viable only under certain conditions: the decision must be made firmly in the heart, without sadness, not imposed, but with joy and free will (2 Corinthians 9.7; 1 Corinthians 7.37).
Let us therefore choose an invigorating approach to our resolutions; let us base our desire for change upon thoughts that encourage, that rest upon positive feelings, that speak of life, that fill us up with drive, that are voluntary. Let us reject resolutions that rest upon discouraging thinking, upon thoughts generated by negative feelings such as a lack of satisfaction, fear, discontent, stress and external pressures.
Let us sow good seeds (deep thoughts) for the tree of our desire to change, and the fruits, that is, our projects, will be good and according to God’s desire. The Bible tells us that the projects God wants to see in our lives are for peace, build our future and bring us hope (Jeremiah 29.11). In planning for a new beginning, it is therefore useful to choose such projects. This is the best way for us to make “good resolutions”, resolutions in which God is involved. Of course, patience, efforts and perseverance will still be necessary, as is with all great accomplishments. As the saying goes, “alone we go faster, but together we go further”. Even if we fail on the way, because of discouragement or distraction, God will be faithful to lead us to the end.
As we are making resolutions for 2018, let us remember that it is God who renews, and that the Bible is replete with passages showing us that He is the best partner on the road to change. God approves of projects which improve our lives. He helps us take our eyes off the surface and look deeply to the source motivating our desires for change. He does not want us to change under constraint or unwillingly, but always in total freedom, in complete joy and awareness. He is with us, He renews our strength, and helps us begin a good new beginning.