Chances are, you’ve broken your New Years Resolution already.
I know, I know. This was going to be the year that you finally __________.
If you haven’t broken them already, there’s likely a good reason for that. Chances are, it probably boils down to one of two reasons:
1.) You will break them. Likely soon. The reality is that most of us who set resolutions fail within the first month. Most of us don’t even make it out of the first month. Sure, there are some tips and tricks to help you, but January is typically a bad time to start a new routine.
2.) The other reason you probably haven’t failed at your New Years Resolutions is because you didn’t set any. That’s the growing trend. We’ve realized that setting resolutions in January is too hard, we’ve failed too many times, and we’ve just plain given up. If we don’t set goals, we can’t fail…right?
Today is reportedly “Blue Monday,” aka “The Most Depressing Day of the Year.” It started in 2005 as researchers tried to understand seasonal depression. Supposedly, it’s because there’s a mix of bad weather, holiday letdown, bills from the Christmas season are now due, monotony at work, and loneliness. While the validity of the research is debatable, I find the idea behind it interesting to study.
Because what it is attempting to understand is the shift that we all feel in the midst of transitions.
Take our New Years Resolutions for example. We want to exercise, eat right, lose weight, and get our beach body ready.
Until we opened that credit card bill and we took our frustration and fear out on those last few pieces of cheesecake.
Now, we’re still stressed about the bills, but we’ve added in feelings of guilt and failure because we failed our diet. We couldn’t even make it one week!?!? What’s wrong with us?
Slowly but surely, we learn to not set goals. No goals. No failure.
Let’s just play it safe.
Don’t rock the boat.
Easy does it.
But is that really the answer?
Here’s what I find troubling about both of the options presented above. If we’ve 1) failed (or are about to) or 2) given up on setting goals, we really suffer from the same problem.
A lack of Hope.
Both of these options leave us hopeless. Our mindset doesn’t allow for success. We read those statistics and think, “I’m not one of the eight percent that can keep goals, might as well break the resolution now!”
Or, we’ve experienced failure enough that we don’t even bother. “Why set goals? It’s pointless, I’ll just fail.”
What we subtly teach ourselves is that an opportunity to change, met with failure, should keep us from hoping for something different.
I remember that one time I was really hopeful about a potential circumstance. I thought my prospects of landing a big name client were pretty good. They had promised to be at a certain spot in their hiring process by a certain date.
I emailed them to check in after that date, assuming everything was going well. I hadn’t gotten a no, which in my mind meant they were finalizing the details of the contract. Their response email was going to be full of juicy details and life altering financial information.
I couldn’t wait.
Every day I dreamed about it. How I would feel getting the email. The numbers it would entail. The work I would get to do. Everything was going to be perfect.
Except that when I sent the email, I didn’t get a response right away. They weren’t just sitting on information.
But that’s okay, I reasoned, it’ll come soon. Maybe they want me so bad that they’re trying to sweeten the deal to make sure I don’t say no!
When I finally got the email, it didn’t contain any of the information I wanted. In fact, it contained the opposite.
I was heartbroken.
Mulling over the news the following day, I remember thinking, “And that’s why I shouldn’t be so optimistic.”
I had been hopeful for one particular outcome, didn’t get it, and had a momentary thought of regret. Regret from being so hopeful, so positive, so joyful.
Thankfully, I was able to catch that thought. But in that moment, I also realized that we all suffer that same fate.
We set a New Years Resolution and fail, so we stop being hopeful at ever seeing the change we want in life.
We work towards a promotion but Jim in accounting gets it, and we lose the hope of ever getting a promotion ever again.
We study for a test and get a disappointing grade, so we lose the hope of studying and reaching our educational goals.
In variety of life circumstances what we subtly teach ourselves is that when we hope for something and don’t get it, we should just stop being hopeful.
I can’t live that way anymore.
We should instead aim to be people of hope, so passionately affixed to what God has called us to that setbacks or a change of plans can’t alter our mood.
Paul writes in Romans 5 to remind us of the necessity of hope: “We boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” You can even read some of my thoughts here.
But here is the critical component: it is precisely in those moments of setback, failure and opposition that provides us with the opportunity to practice spreading hope. Paul even concludes the book of Romans by identifying God as the “God of hope” who is working in us so that hope might overflow in us.
An overflow of hope? I hope people see that in me. Then I might echo David who pens in the psalms that no matter what happens, he will rest in hope.
Which is where we often go wrong, whether we want to talk about job opportunities, a New Years Resolution, or our relationships. Too often, in the midst of trouble, trial, or difficulty we lose hope.
So for us, may 2017 be different. May we be firmly affixed in our minds as people of hope, no matter the odds, circumstances, or outlooks.
In hope, may we find our rest and our peace, because the God of hope is with us.
And when we experience setbacks, a change in plans, or an altogether life difference, stay committed to the process in hope. Even our best laid plans will change or alter in some way, but our commitment to hope cannot because our God of hope will not.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.