The beginning of a year is traditionally a time for New Year Resolutions, as well as hoping the year will bring improved quality of life, or dreading any upcoming adverse challenges. Whatever happens, we know change is really the only constant. Change can be stressful, whether it is good or bad. We are challenged by the unknown and its uncertainty, and the way we respond will affect our ability to live life successfully and meaningfully. The stress it causes can motivate or immobilize. In my life I have had to work especially hard at not letting it immobilize me.
Over 25 years ago I experienced one of life’s most challenging changes; January 1987 I received final divorce papers, and there began the long journey of raising my 17 month old and my 4 year old by myself. I felt immobilized, but giving in to it was not an option as I looked at those precious sleeping faces. Rather the Lord showed me Isaiah 43:18-19, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” It certainly felt like I was in a desolate wasteland. However, I determined daily, many times moment by moment, to see the new things the Lord was doing in my life which would lead me through the wilderness of broken dreams. Ever since that long ago January, I try to look back at the year ending, see what he brought me through and blessed me with, and look to the new year with hope and assurance he is already there with a plan for my good, despite any adverse circumstances.
Though I look back knowing there is proof of his presence, and look forward knowing he is already there, I admit the unknown often unduly stresses me out. That is why New Year Resolutions, daily resolutions, are important as they repeatedly remind me of what matters, what God’s purpose is, and what my resulting individual priorities need to be. Am I living my life by my values and beliefs, or am I just talking about them? Am I accomplishing the goals I have been called to complete, or just treading water in the daily drudgery? Without a doubt I have long renewed the New Year Resolutions of being a devoted and faithful Christian, loving and caring mother, competent and hardworking employee. I was not, however, establishing well-defined goals for how to achieve those resolutions. I was not breaking them down into objectives or, in the words of business management, I was not thinking in terms of SMART Goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Reasonable, Time-bound. Instead, though I am determined to ‘do better,’ I fret and worry and stress about how to do better, perhaps because I have not clearly defined what that looks like.
Case in point, after years of becoming more and more frustrated and discouraged over deteriorating health issues, all my strength (physically, spiritually, mentally) was finally depleted. When I reached that lowest point a couple of years ago, I realized I needed to manage unwelcome changes differently, because resisting only made things worse. As Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, there is a time for everything. While there are times to fight against unfavorable change, there are other times to accept and adapt to necessary change. Accepting these changes meant an even deeper dependence on the Lord for the necessary transitions, i.e., becoming spiritually stronger while growing more physically restricted. Having these restrictions requires being better organized than I have been, so this year I plan to write down New Year Resolutions and the realistic steps to accomplish specific objectives. Further, I recognize the need for more thorough protection against stress and worry, which, for one, means being more deliberate about putting on the full Armor of God as described in Ephesians 6:14-18, ‘Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.’
How about you, do you make New Year Resolutions, are you successful in accomplishing them, or are you like me where the demands of day to day living make you soon forget what your resolutions were? If so, join me by using a more mindful approach to setting goals and objectives for 2014, watch for the new things the Lord is doing in your life, and put on the full Armor of God. Then we can stand firm on January 1, 2014 and say to the New Year ‘Bring It On,’ because we are ready!