New Year’s resolutions can be great. They inspire us to improve our lives in various ways, from the spiritual to the physical. We make goals to read through the Bible, memorize Scripture, eat healthy, get routine exercise, spend more time with our spouse or kids, organize our clutter, and grow in our vocation. They’re reminders and incentives to better our lives in ways that we may have faltered the year before. But what happens when those goals fly out the window and it’s only the third week of January?
When It Doesn’t Go as Planned
Just like so many others, I have my list of resolutions. On our seven-hour car ride home from Christmas celebrations, my husband and I talked through our resolutions together: a new Bible reading plan, going to the gym more regularly, being intentional with our date nights, reading and writing goals, and finishing our daily chores earlier to have time in the evening to relax.
Things were going along well until about the eighth day of the new year. It was then I received the sad news that my grandmother had passed away. Our family repacked the suitcases we had just unloaded and headed back on our seven-hour journey to Michigan for the funeral. In the midst of traveling, our four-year-old became sick with influenza. A week later, he was still recovering at home when my high-school-aged daughter began to get sick. The domino effect had begun.
The time I had planned for reading and writing turned into alphabet letters and picture books. My exercise became trips to the doctor and pharmacy. And at 9 p.m. the other night, the goal of when all our “work” would be done, I had a pile of papers from my high-schooler to go through, with forms to sign and syllabi to read for the new semester (and of course, they needed to be returned the next day). I found myself frustrated that all my best laid plans seemed to be flying out the window. My resolutions that seemed so good and reasonable when I made them were slipping through my fingers like sand.
Holding Our Plans with an Open Hand
When our plans go awry, it can be easy to spiral into complaining and self-pity. I’ve definitely battled that temptation the past week. The type-A part of my personality really likes to check the boxes off my goal list. Not being able to meet my own expectations can leave me feeling frustrated and annoyed. I too easily claim my rights of using my time in the way I had planned. My emotions can unravel as my perfect plans fall apart.
The other week, a friend and I were texting while we were both home with multiple sick children. As we swapped stories of flu tests, doctors’ visits, and plans being cancelled, she said to me, “I think we should call this sanctification through sickness.” I couldn’t think of a better phrase.
In the midst of the unexpected chaos, God is teaching me to hold my resolutions with an open hand, trusting that He is working through my daily trials. No sickness, failure, or change of plans is wasted. We can cling to the promise that God will use all things for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28).
Maybe you’ve had a similar experience. Maybe you feel like you’ve already failed in keeping up with your Bible reading or had too many cookies at bedtime or missed your opportunity to exercise because you were exhausted after caring for sick kids.
4 Truths to Remember
Here are a few things I’m learning in the midst of faltering resolutions:
1. God is sovereign over the interruptions to your plans.
When you receive a call that your child is sick at school in the midst of your meeting or the time you had reserved for your Bible reading is interrupted by a crying baby, keep in mind that God is in control. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD” (Isa. 55:8). Maybe God is choosing to make you more like Himself—not through checking off every box on your reading plan but through holding that sick child early in the morning and comforting them in their distress.
2. Unexpected blessings are given in the midst of unexpected circumstances.
Just as I had resolved to spend more quality time with my children, a death in our family and extended sickness in our children has provided that very opportunity. That quality time wasn’t neatly packed in a mommy-daughter date night as I had envisioned but came instead through conversations in our van through fourteen hours of travel and sitting with our little guy on the couch while reading a pile of stories.
3. Opportunities arise to give a sacrifice of praise.
When our goals are not achieved in the way we had hoped, we have an opportunity to give praise to the Lord for His perfect plans. We have a chance to turn our disappointment and complaints to gratitude and praise. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess. 5:16–18, emphasis added). Intentionally replace your negative thoughts and complaints with thankfulness and joy.
4. God’s mercies are new every morning.
Tomorrow is a new day. God will not discipline you for not achieving your goals. Instead, He gives us grace upon grace and is faithful to sustain us. “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lam. 3:22–23). Get out of bed with fresh hope in God’s promises. He will equip us for what He calls us to do (2 Cor. 9:8).
So if you’re feeling defeated by your resolutions, trust that God is working in the midst of your disappointment. Hold your resolutions with an open hand, and watch for the blessings that come when you give them fully to the Lord.