When Failed Resolutions Come Back to Haunt You

Facebook memories can often be great sources of joy and reflection. And while it’s usually a treat to look back over the events that have happened on a particular day in your personal history, not all of the recollections come with warm feelings of happy days passed.

Sometimes the memories serve to remind us of painful truths—such as the weaknesses we continue to endure, the temptations we continue to stumble over, and the burdens we continue to carry as we wait for healing to come. It’s these reminders that drip into our hearts like a leaky faucet, serving to dampen our hope of resolve…our hope for change to come.

I was recently the recipient of such a Facebook memory, and it took the air straight out of my lungs. Just days before the New Year, when other people’s resolutions are as sure as the calendar change itself, I felt the dread of chronic defeat. The “victory” I was claiming over myself just two years ago had seemingly yet to come. The very things I had identified as struggles continued to plague my weary mind.

The issues I was resolving to stand tall against in 2014 were the very issues that literally kept me buried in my blankets present day.

I was so sure in that original Facebook post I could will the change I wanted to see, the victory I wanted to glory in, the control I wanted to take back. But there I was, looking at this memory and tasting the bitter hopelessness of feeling more or less the same.

For some of us, it is the pain of mental and emotional battles that seem to crush us over and over again. Perhaps its a hole in the heart that hasn’t quite healed, a sorrowful memory that still stings fresh, or a prayer for change that continues to appear unanswered. Whatever the chronic sore may be, the question remains the same: is this ever going to change?

There is something about narrow human wisdom that fails to view this question in proper light. The way we measure growth and change is not the same as divine calculations—indeed we falter in the way we see God’s hand at work in our hearts, as well as the way we suppose him to achieve his good purpose in our lives. Even more, when faced with the question of am I ever going to change?, we are blinded to the ultimate purpose of our chronic weaknesses (2 Corinthians 12:8-10). We get so stuck in our self-preservation that we focus on nothing more than the “I” in “image of Christ.”

Interestingly enough, true biblical heart change never comes through the pursuit of self-actualization, yet our yearly resolutions trick us into thinking it can.

In his book “Down, But Not Out: How to Get Up When Life Knocks You Down” Wayne Mack calls this anxiety-riddled thought habit self-ism:

“Self-ism has many manifestations, among them pride, perfectionism, and trying to do too much. We are preoccupied with and focused on ourselves because we think too highly of ourselves and we think too much of our accomplishments.”

That morning, I had grieved over the lack of transformation I was able to accomplish. I was sorrowful and fearful that perhaps I wasn’t changing like I wanted to…and perhaps never would. As I became more and more entrapped by these thoughts of failure, the Lord uncovered my unbelief and I lay exposed in tears—I realized I had placed a mortal timeline on divine change, and the two cannot coexist.

The truth is that heart change isn’t dictated by a calendar. It’s directed by a Wonderful Counselor who has given us his Spirit as a guarantee. Through our chronic weaknesses, God weaves his glory. His name, his purpose, and his Son are always at the forefront of our struggles.

“In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” {Ephesians 1:13-14}

While we are tempted to despair looking back and seeing nothing but the same old issues and shortcomings, endeavoring side by side with Christ to fight for change is a hope that will not put us to shame (Romans 5:3-5). Instead of measuring our victories on the eternally minuscule scale of personal goals and resolutions, we ought to measure them based upon how God was able to reveal his glory through our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:10). Surely there is a redemptive work happening through all of our struggles (James 1:2-4), but it takes an eye trained on seeing God’s grace to sift through the ashes and find it.

As I searched for the ways God had glorified himself despite of my continued struggles, I began to see the miraculous works which my weakness had facilitated. I saw that two years ago, I had no vision or intent on writing a book for overwhelmed moms. I had no idea I would have begun writing and speaking on a regular basis, or that I would make new friends around the globe who share the same Father as I do. I would never have imagined my marriage to have been challenged, repaired, and grown in the ways that it has been since that Facebook memory first posted. I didn’t know I would develop a passion for biblical counseling and pursue certification as a result. Indeed, there are many things that the Lord has done that I never would have guessed for myself or my family—and my chronic weakness made it clear he was the Author of it all. I can see that the biggest blessings over the past two years are the work of a loving Father who has not permitted me to do it all in my own strength.

His focus in my heart has continued to be his glory, for my good, in his ways—and I want to resolve to be thankful for it.

This New Year, if you are one of the women falling victim to despair over continued struggle, may I call your attention to take your eyes off the quest for healing, even just a moment? Don’t allow yourself to get so entangled in the formulas you’ll see swirling around the internet that you begin to curse your weakness instead of see God’s blessing and power at work in spite of it. Press on toward change—absolutely! Continue to fight for healing in your heart, mind, body, and spirit—of course! But remember that formulas are purposed to generate tidy outcomes, measured by a human wisdom which cannot see the larger work of redemption at play. If we find ourselves stuck solely on the pursuit of results, we’ll miss out on the evidence of a heavenly renovation process, quickly falling into anxious self-ism as a result.

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.” {Isaiah 55:8}

The healing and change we pursue for our hearts has but one Doctor, one Cure, one Antidote. Our Wonderful Counselor has a treatment plan already mapped out for our transformation, and it doesn’t look like anything our feeble minds could have crafted on our own. And in all honesty, when we look back one day, we won’t have wanted the weight of that responsibility in the slightest. In this we can rejoice, because a New Year’s resolve rested upon his power, strength, and glory will always prove its weight in gold over time—and praise God, it does so in spite of ourselves.

“I will be your God throughout your lifetime–until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you.” {Isaiah 46:4}

For Reflection

1.) In what ways has the Lord worked through your weaknesses to bring himself glory? Look for his redemptive purposes woven into your life over the past year and identify where you have seen his faithfulness.

2.) Are there blessings you have received as a direct result of your struggles? Set aside your hopes for change for a moment and instead reflect upon how God has given you grace and mercy despite your failures.

3.) Ask God to search your heart to see if you are relying upon your goals, your timing, and your strength more than surrendering to his plans, his time table, and his power this New Year.