By: Sarah Cates
Christmas has come and gone which means that New Years is practically here and, with it, will come an abundance of looking back - and looking forward. I fall strictly into the category of people who do NOT make resolutions. I am too much of a pirate for resolutions. Do you remember that scene in the first Pirates of the Caribbean when Elizabeth boards the Black Pearl, making demands based on the Pirate Code, and Captain Barbossa responds with “the code is more what you’d call guidelines than actual rules”? Yes, well, that’s me.
Even so, I cannot escape having ideas about who I hope to be in 2019, and with those hopes comes a side order of stress and worry about how I will become that person. Too often I do not see those hopes and dreams come to fruition, but I always have them, and I always want the next year to be different.
I can’t help but think that our resolutions or ideas or hopes often fail because they are not rooted in the right soil. God gives a foolproof method, a Promise, for the only method by which we may grow. Abide in Him. “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” - John 15:5
How do we do this? How do we abide in Him even as we look to the next year and make resolutions and hope for things? I think we must begin our resolution process, ironically, by making three resolutions.
Resolve to Seek God First
Many of us think that the will of God is hard to find, difficult to discern. A guessing game that requires much working out. But I do not believe that this is true. Would I write a list of detailed instructions for my daughter and expect them to be followed out with no further explanation - when she cannot yet read? Of course not! Because I love her and want her to succeed. If I believe in a loving Father, whose deepest joy is in the obedience of those whom He loves - can I really believe that He would make it hard for me to figure out what His will is?
“The best kind of beginning, when we are wanting to know the will of God, is to concentrate first on God Himself… God knows all about [our] comical doubts. He knows our frame. He remembers that we are dust...” - Elisabeth Elliot
Perhaps, since we know that God is willing to reveal His will, our bigger issue is that we do not like what we know to be His will. Perhaps we are hoping for something grand, something worthy of Instagram, and instead we find something small, mundane, unseen by anyone but Him. But that is - in most cases - what it is. Jesus made it abundantly clear what His will for us is in Luke 9:23: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
You alone know what cross you have been avoiding, what the still small voice has whispered for you to pick up and carry. Turn your thoughts to God, seek Him in prayer, and ask for help to do whatever daily work He has for you; then, resolve to do it, by His strength and grace.
Resolve to Dream of Glory
The tasks may be small, but the glory of God is anything but, and that is what God’s will is always attuned to. So even in our small tasks, in our daily carrying of our cross, let us dream of GLORY! Not for ourselves, but the revealed glory of God that brings joy beyond understanding. Let us dream of encountering this on a daily basis!
“But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” - 1 Corinthians 1:27-29
Believe that God has joy and glory beyond imagining in even the smallest tasks, so long as they are in step with His will. Believe that He will manifest His glory for you to see and to share with others in the small, lowly, seemingly foolish and mundane things. Pray with hearts full of expectant hope for Him to reveal Himself to you as you seek to obey Him to the best of your very limited ability.
“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
- C. S. Lewis
Resolve to Accept Failure
While the daily will of God for our lives is, in my opinion, easy to find, the provenance of the future is NOT our domain. We must expect that God’s working out of His will in our lives may look very different than what we expect. To us, it may even feel like failure.
After prayer, after listening to the voice of God, did you choose to pursue a fitness regimen - and not lose a single pound? Did you heed the call to be obedient to pursue reconciliation with an estranged friend or family member - only to have them rebuff you at every turn? Are you tempted to be hopeless, to assume that you have failed, to think that God was not with you? Are you wondering where all that hoping and dreaming got you, when you are left feeling deflated and defeated?
Are you willing to believe instead that, perhaps, God’s idea of success is very different from yours? Let us not forget that He uses what is weak, reviled, lowly to bring about His will! And is there anything that is considered more weak, more lowly, than failure? Turn aside from hopelessness, turn aside from disappointment and ask God to reveal His glory to you in your weakness. Look for Him even when you are sure that He is absent.
Do not limit the creative ingenuity of God, do not hold Him to your version of success, or your ideal of accomplishment. Trust the will of the Father for you. Trust the love of the Father for you. Trust His wisdom. Trust that He is always seeking His glory and your good, in tandem, completely in harmony with each other. He never seeks His glory at the expense of your good, or your good at the expense of His glory.
“God never witholds from His child that which His love and wisdom call good. God's refusals are always merciful -- "severe mercies" at times but mercies all the same. God never denies us our hearts desire except to give us something better.” -Elisabeth Elliot