Is this the year to skip New Year’s Resolutions?
The past few months have been unlike any other in recent memory, and many of us have gone through the stages of grief at least once as we’ve struggled to adapt to our lives being flipped upside down.
Those grief stages—denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance—are important to work through and process, so we can continue moving forward. The most difficult of those might be acceptance. This pandemic life is our life now, at least for the foreseeable future. Can we accept that? Is it possible to live a happy life in the midst of a global crisis and so much restriction and loss?
If we don’t find our way to acceptance, we’ll continue waffling between denial and anger, which isn’t productive and only keeps us stuck and hanging onto the past.
Despite our personal feelings around how we think the pandemic should have been handled, the past few months have forced us all to dig deep and find resilience. But as this new normal stretches on, our toughness is fading and many of us are finding it harder and harder to bounce back from these ongoing difficulties.
We’re on the brink of exhaustion, losing hope and considering giving up altogether.
In order to find mental, physical and spiritual strength, we need help from a higher power, the Holy Spirit. And we must be open and willing to adjust our expectations around how we define success, or even how we set our goals.
Perhaps this year, of all years, is the one to make and keep New Year’s resolutions.
Adjusting our Perspective
Whether it’s a plague or some other crisis like war, natural disaster or recession, things happen outside of our control, inconveniencing our comfortable lives and sparking outrage.
What’s easy to forget, is the things we have in this world aren’t really ours.
“Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.”James 1:17
We grow used to our creature comforts, and then feel entitled to those things when they’re abruptly taken away. And it makes sense, they were ours and we’re accustomed to a certain way of living! But it’s not the way we’re meant to live as Christians.
“How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.”James 4:14
It’s easy to look at the things we’ve lost and cry foul—those are the first two stage of grief after all, denial and anger. But when we back up a step and look at things from a biblical perspective, we soon realize every good thing we have in this life is a gift from God, and it can be given as quickly as it is taken away.
Take a Page from Job’s Playbook
The Old Testament Bible character Job is a key case study when looking at how to respond when life isn’t fair. If you haven’t read the book of Job lately here’s the gist. Job was a God-fearing man filled with integrity. He had a loving wife, 10 children, tons of land and he was ridiculously wealthy. Job had everything.
And then one day, he lost it all. His children died in a freak accident and his land and possessions were stolen by neighbouring armies.
How did Job respond? He fell to the ground in grief, and in worship.
“I came naked from my mother’s womb,
and I will be naked when I leave.
The Lord gave me what I had,
and the Lord has taken it away.
Praise the name of the Lord!”Job 1:21
Job didn’t pretend he was strong and tough, nor did he react by blaming God or others for these tragedies. Instead, he expressed his deep sorrow while keeping things in perspective. This was awful, and he was devastated, and yet God was still sovereign.
How to Set Goals During a Pandemic
The most important thing to keep in mind when looking to the future and making New Year’s resolutions, or setting goals in general, is to acknowledge we’re ultimately not in control.
We make goals because we see something better for our future selves, and we want to improve our lives in a specific way. In order to follow through on those goals we need to believe it’s possible, even if we have no clue how it will actually happen.
Hope for the future. It’s the most important element in resolution making and keeping!
Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.Proverbs 13:12
When you’re in a season of instability and chaos, making yearlong resolutions may not be possible. And achieving aggressive or ambitious goals may not be realistic. Look honestly at your situation and assess what makes sense for you right now. Ask God to show you where you can improve. It’s OK to go easier on yourself this year and to adjust your goals accordingly.
One way I’ve found it easier to set and achieve realistic goals is by setting quarterly targets rather than annual ones. Three months in the future doesn’t seem as overwhelming to think about and I find I’m not as nervous to commit to short-term goals.
And after I figure out what I want to do, I give them to God and ask for His help in seeing them through.
Commit your actions to the Lord,
and your plans will succeed.Proverbs 16:3
Originally published January 6, 2021