January can be such an inspiring time, especially if you like to set New Year’s Resolutions. The new year stretches out before you like a blank slate with a fresh start. This will be the year that we lose 20 pounds, start a wildly successful business, or finally organize the hall closet. Yes, 2018 is gonna be our year!
It’s like the whole year is before you with no mistakes in it yet (thanks, Anne of Green Gables!). It’s fairly bursting with possibilities, and in my new year’s dreams, all of those possibilities are undoubtedly successful! I love cracking out a fresh journal or planner to document it all. I like to make a plan, then an alternate plan in case plan #1 doesn’t work out as planned… and then maybe one more back up plan in case things get crazy…
When New Year’s Resolutions Aren’t a Good Thing
Yet, there can definitely come a time when it’s not always a good thing. I was reading the Jesus Always devotional the other day (click on the image to get your own copy– it’s fabulous!), and these words stopped me in my tracks:
“Beware of overthinking things– obsessing about unimportant matters. When you mind is idle, you to go into planning mode: attempting to figure things out…before you really need to do so…. There is a time for planning, but it’s definitely not all the time– or even most of it.”
Yikes! I have been so caught up in planning and resolving the last few weeks, that this hit me like a load of bricks!
I’m currently 38 weeks pregnant with Baby Girl #2, and I feel like I’ve got pregnancy brain full swing. In an attempt to compensate for muddled thinking and pregnancy insomnia, I’m making lots of plans, and then I make back up plans, and then I make “what if everything falls apart at the seams plans…”
I’ve been setting resolutions, like how I’m going to continue to get up early before the girls even with a newborn. I decided to start this little blog baby just weeks before the real baby arrives, so there’s all kinds of resolutions to set with blogging (scheduling posts, social media, so fun!). I had some false labor that sent me into overdrive trying to make sure we’re “ready” for our new little princess. I’ve even got new year’s resolutions (and joined a Facebook group) about not cheating on my Trim Healthy Mama diet these last few weeks of pregnancy!
But maybe sometimes the Lord doesn’t want our resolutions and goals. While they can be good tools to point us to Him if they’re resolutions for our spiritual walk, they also have the potential to draw our attention away from the present moment and basking in His presence.
My obsessive need to control, plan, and resolve also has the tendency to put the emphasis on me– my wants, dreams, and desires– and steal it away from living in dependence on His strength and direction.
Does this even happen to you, too? As I was praying about that devotional, these three things came to mind to help me keep the right perspective on my New Year’s Resolutions:
1. Spend time being quiet and letting Him love on you.
Carving out time each morning to be quiet in God’s presence can help you set the right focus for each day. Recently, one of the pastors at our church encouraged us to start our devotional time with asking the Lord to love on us. It almost feels selfish at first glance, but He is the Perfect One to turn to for love. In John 1, it talks about how Jesus is the Word. Every time we open the Bible, we have the opportunity to meet directly with Jesus, and He is love (1 John 4:8). Spend some time letting Him love you through His Word.
As you wrap up your devo time, ask the Lord to open your eyes to what He’s doing in your life today. Spending some time to listen for His response can help you to prioritize your life and line up your goals and tasks with His. It’s also a great way to focus on today, which brings me to…
2. Be present.
Isaiah 26:3 says, “He will keep in perfect peace all those who trust in Him, whose thoughts turn often to the Lord!” (TLB). Instead of exclusively focusing on those New’s Year’s Resolutions, create ways to let your thoughts turn often to the Lord.
Set reminders on your phone, change the wallpaper on your tablet to a Bible verse or key phrase for your spiritual growth, or post Bible verses around your house or office. Try to bring up how He’s working in your life as you talk with the people around you.
God promises that bringing your mind back to Him often will lead to trusting Him and His perfect peace. That sounds a lot better than the striving and worrying I’ve been doing trying to excessively plan my year!
Personally, I’ve felt really convicted lately that I need to step away from the social media (whew- challenging when launching a little baby blog) and connect with people in real life. I need to remember to talk to the Lord frequently throughout the day and also look into the eyes of my sweet toddler and wonderful husband. There are several people that He’s placed in my life that are currently walking through hard times, and logging out of Facebook to have real talks over a cup of tea need to be a priority. I’m also finding that being present for the people in my life sometimes means hitting the pause button on my New Year’s resolutions.
3. Rely on Him Throughout the Day
As we get distracted by our own agenda, we can use even that distraction to point us back to Him. If you notice that your mind starts to dwell on your plans and anxiety creeps in, use that as a trigger to talk to Him. Try to link those recurring thoughts in your mind with a specific Bible verse or a one sentence prayer for a quick re-focus.
For me, I’ve been trying to switch my focus from obsessive planning and goal setting to asking for His strength. When the plan-monster pops up in my thoughts (and that’s quite often!), it’s my trigger to ask Him, “Jesus, show me what’s next.” When I have contractions, it’s an opportunity to pray for His strength to get me through this day.
Jesus tells us in Matt. 6:33 to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (NKJV). It’s a familiar verse, but it comes with such a huge promise that we can claim. I love how this verse appears at the end of a chapter where Jesus addresses people striving for and worrying about their food and clothing. His promise holds true today just as it did for those first listeners– when we direct our eyes, hearts, and lives to Him first, He provides for the rest!
In what ways can you seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness first? What commitments has He already called you to that may need to take precedence over a New Year’s resolution? Has He called you to mommy, minister to a certain person, or spend a little more time with Him? As we focus on His Kingdom and His face, those resolutions will fall into their proper place, too.
All of This Leads to…
Here’s one of the incredible principles of Kingdom living– as we focus on Him and make much of Him, way more happens than we can ever predict or imagine!
Paul points out in Ephesians 3:20 that God “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us” (NIV). As we spend focused time with Him, enjoy His presence throughout our day, and rely on His incredible strength and power, 2018 will be a year where we see Him work in ways that we can’t even plan or fathom yet! He is in charge of time, so He can even make your time more productive as you surrender it and your plans to Him.
Psalm 127:1 has been one of my favorite verses the last two weeks (haha, especially as I’ve had false labor)… “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain” (ESV). A life built by Him will succeed and last much longer than one set on the foundation of my plans and goals.
John 10:10 says that “the thief’s purpose is to steal, kill and destroy. My purpose is to give life in all its fullness” (TLB). As we make the Lord our primary focus over our New Year’s resolutions, He promises that we will daily find a life that’s even more fulfilling than achieving our annual goals.
May 2018 be an incredibly blessed year for you and bring you even closer to Him!
What is He teaching you so far this year?