Sick of New Year’s Resolutions? Remember These 3 Things
wNow that Christmas is over, it’s that time of year where we’re all bombarded with ads for gym memberships and diet plans. Most of us are gearing up to make resolutions for our new year.
New Year’s can be a great time to look back on our year and reflect on what we will do differently in the year to come.
But sometimes these reflections can be a little depressing.
What are you supposed to do if nothing has changed since last year?
Maybe you did a great job on the resolution front last year, improving your trouble spots. Maybe you’ve even done a stellar job of following through all year long since then.
But none of this is a sure-fire recipe for getting your life to exactly where you want it. Making good resolutions and following through can be helpful, but there’s no guarantee they will help as you’re hoping.
I’ve had a lot of those “Nothing is changing!” moments in my life where I felt like all of my efforts to bring about improvement, and all of my prayers imploring God to make certain things better, had been for naught.
If this is you this New Year’s, don’t despair. Instead, take the opportunity to use these feelings as a painful but useful means of spiritual growth.
Ask and ye shall receive
A religious sister once told me that God can sometimes speak to us through certain Scripture passages that grate on our nerves. Sometimes we might read or hear a line or two of certain verses and just find ourselves cringing internally, as if something catches inside us.
In the years since I heard this from her, I’ve experienced exactly what she described more than once.
One of those passages that does this to me is Matthew 7:7. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”
There have been times when I’ve read this passage or heard it in the Gospel reading at Mass and wanted to yell at God, “I’ve asked! I’ve asked and I’ve asked! Why haven’t I received?”
Is God not listening to our earnest prayers?
Does he enjoy watching us suffer as we wait?
No and no.
But it’s not always easy to believe that he is listening and doesn’t want us to suffer as we wait.
Treat your resolution like a long marathon
Sometimes when I start wallowing in my feelings of near-despair because God hasn’t answered my prayers yet, my husband reminds me of the story of the persistent widow in Scripture (Luke 18:1-8).
Jesus tells the parable of a widow who asks an unjust judge to render her a just decision. The judge doesn’t want to do it, but he eventually gives in because the widow won’t leave him alone.
The parable goes on to tell us that God, who is just, will answer us.
Neither my husband nor I are Scripture scholars. But we like to joke to one another that we will just annoy God into answering our prayers by being as persistent as this widow.
In all seriousness, God does tell us many times Scripture that we need to be persistent in prayer and not weary in asking him for what we need.
For most situations, we will probably never know with certainty in this life just why we have had to wait for a certain amount of time before God answers these prayers of ours, but we must try out best to trust that his timing is perfect.
I’ve heard it said that God answers prayers in three ways. It’s either a, “Yes, here you go,” “Not yet,” or “No, I have a better idea for you.”
I try to remind myself of this often when I feel frustrated with what seems to be a lack of answer from God to the efforts and prayers I’ve put into improving certain things in my life.
God wants to give us good things
There’s another passage in the Bible that I’ve found helpful to meditate on when I feel like God isn’t ever going to answer my prayers.
It’s the story of the miraculous catch of fish in Luke 5:1-11.
Jesus tells Peter to put out into deep water and lower his nets to catch fish. Peter responds, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing…”
As we look back on our last year, on all our resolutions and great plans to improve our lives, these words of Peter can hit us hard.
Maybe we have been working hard, and praying hard. It might still be that we’ve “caught nothing” for our efforts.
But Peter continues, “…but at your command, I will lower the nets.”
Despite feeling discouraged, Peter obeys Jesus and continues doing exactly what he’d been doing before. What happens?
Peter catches fish.
Not just a couple of fish.
Not just a standard-sized catch of fish.
He catches so many fish that his nets are in danger of breaking. Jesus sends him a nearly overwhelming amount of what he’d been working for.
So as we look ahead to the new year up ahead, we can try to remind ourselves to continue asking and continue working for the changes that we need in our lives.
It might feel like God is ignoring our prayers. It might feel like all our efforts are getting us nowhere.
But God has it figured out. He is listening intently and waiting for the perfect moment to send us what we’ve been asking and working for.
He will send us exactly what we need, and it will probably be a lot better than what we were envisioning.
Adrienne Thorne is a Catholic wife, mother, screenwriter, and blogger, as well as author of the Catholic YA romance novel SYDNEY AND CALVIN HAVE A BABY. She blogs about TV and Movies from Catholic perspective at Thorne in the Flesh: A Faithful Catholic's Guide to Netflix, Hulu, and More.