How’s your resolution going? If you’re like many people, you made New Year’s resolutions and you’re struggling to stick with them only about a month into the new year. A lot of the time, we tend to make our own goals and set our own limitations on things in our life and then we get frustrated when our attempts fail and we don’t meet our own expectations. The root of this frustration is our reliance on our own efforts and our own expectations of ourselves instead of focusing on what God wants of us and letting Him do the work in us while we cooperate with His grace. We make a list and limit ourselves instead of thinking about the limitless things that God can do with us in a year’s time.
We live in a culture of instant gratification which pushes us to do all that we can to get what we want exactly when we want it. The noise and pressure we feel from society convinces us that we have to lose those extra pounds we gained during the holidays before a friend’s wedding next month, or we have to get that job we want before we turn a certain age or because of the expectations of friends or family. These factors make us tune into our own efforts and make us think about what we can do and tune out God’s voice and what He can do. The result is discouragement and ultimately failure. It’s not that these goals are bad things, but it’s the methods we use and deadlines we put on ourselves that lead us to dejection and tossing our lists aside, deciding to just give up. The only way we can be successful is to not really make resolutions at all, or if we do, to not put a timeline on them and to instead let God lead us to do the things He wants of us in His own time.
To really be open to God’s will and understand what we wants from us in our lives, we need to spend time in silent prayer and reflection. St. Therese of Lisieux reminds us that “Silence does good to the soul” and St. John of the Cross once said that “Silence is God’s first language.” It can be difficult for us to slow down and spend time in silence in today’s world where we constantly have things to do and are bombarded with noise and the things of the world. But if we truly want to draw closer to God and know His plan for us in our lives and in this new year, we have to be willing to be quiet and listen. Go to the chapel or another quiet place where you can sit alone and spend that necessary time with God. It’s okay to have goals in mind, but take the time to give them to God in your prayer and really discern whether they are in His plan for you. The Ignatian rules of discernment, compiled by St. Ignatius of Loyola, are a great place to start with the guidance of a spiritual director or priest. If you aren’t sure what to do for the coming year, let God lead you and ask Him what He wants for you this year and in the years to come. It may take a while and you may not have all of the answers in one prayer session. Continue praying with this objective in mind and God will provide the answers and clarity you need in time. Don’t put a timeline on God. His time is not our time, as hard as that may be to accept sometimes. Even though we might want something done sooner, we have to remember that His timing is always perfect. Trust that He will give you the clarity on what He wants of you and the means to do it at the time that He wants it done.
Spending time with God in silent prayer and letting Him take control of our resolutions for the new year will create a calmness and a peacefulness in our lives that the world simply cannot offer. With what the world teaches us, we tend to forget that we are only human, not God, and that we need to rely on Him for everything. In her Diary, St. Faustina relays a conversation between a soul striving after perfection and Jesus. The soul is lamenting that despite the resolutions it makes, it keeps falling again and again. Jesus responds, “The cause of your faults is that you rely too much on yourself and too little on Me” (Diary of St. Faustina, 1488). This is what causes us to fail when we embark on our New Year’s resolutions. We don’t allow God the space and time to work in us and we think we can do it all ourselves. We then find out that of course we cannot.
This new year, it’s a good idea to ditch the typical ideas for resolutions and instead make a blanket resolution to let go of our expectations and instead let God lead us and work in us to accomplish what He wants done in us. It’s a good way to practice patience and humility, letting things happen in God’s time and acknowledging that He is in control, not us. These are virtues that will serve us well on our journey to everlasting life with Christ, as well as put us on the road to a great new year with less pressure and discouragement.