Four reasons resolutions matter even when you break them
by Trevor Lee
When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, the seeming inevitability of failure has led many to resolve not to resolve. Here are four reasons it’s worth the effort—even when you make resolutions Dec. 31 and break them by Jan. 2.
Resolutions force us to be honest with ourselves. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.” Most of us are masters of self-deception and blind to our own brokenness. We devise excuses for avoiding change. We have been so profoundly twisted by sin that being straightened is an ongoing process.
A resolution is a declaration that names our brokenness and admits that we need to move further into the life of the resurrection with the help of Jesus. Whether we follow through on that declaration is another issue entirely and an important one, but it doesn’t render the resolution itself worthless. It is a way of calling out our deceitful hearts and moving them toward fidelity.
Making a resolution implies we control our actions. Dodging responsibility for our actions has become an art form. We create ways of eschewing responsibility, fancying ourselves victims of a myriad of forces outside our control. This denies the agency we have been given as creatures made in the image of the all-powerful God. We are not all-powerful, but we are not inept or helpless either. Paul lays this out magnificently in 1 Corinthians 9 when he calls us to run the race in such a way as to win. He urges us to train ourselves for righteousness. His entire argument speaks against the idea that we are unable to change.
When we make a resolution, we are clearly stating we can do something to change. The very act of making resolutions can be a part of our training, making us people who will not always blame others for the state of our lives.
Resolutions mean we’re not giving up. “For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing” (Rom. 7:19). Over the past 20 years I have tried to change a specific area of my life hundreds of times in dozens of ways. I have gone through seasons of intense effort and seasons where I have just given up. The sticky fingers of sin on our souls can be debilitating.
But God has given us a spirit of power, not of fear. The power of the resurrection urges us forward despite our setbacks. A resolution is a statement that we are going to keep trying. The alternative is to give up and accept yourself and everything around you as it is, forever. This is not a Christian option.
Resolutions make us think about the stories our lives are telling. In the midst of everyday life, it is easy to lose any sense of greater purpose. Living our story as a part of God’s great story gives our lives a specific character. This is the picture laid out for us in the Bible and most clearly in the life of Jesus.
When we make resolutions we back up from the details and look at the big picture. We imagine the story we’d like our lives to tell and how our stories point to the one true story. This exercise gives us greater purpose, fulfillment and hope for what can be.
So whether you call them resolutions or not, resolve away this year. Work with God to become fully human, whole and abiding in him. Work with him for the renewal of all things. Walk with the Spirit into the new life offered to us in Christ in this new year.
Trevor Lee is lead pastor at Trailhead Church, Littleton, Colo. This article is adapted from one of his blog posts. Lee blogs at www.trevorslee.com/