A new year always seems to inspire us to change in the best possible ways. Though we are hesitant (sometimes even hostile) to change any other time, at the start of a new year we go out of our way to create change. If things haven’t been going great, we vow to wipe last year’s slate clean and declare this ” our year “. If everything is wonderful, we look for ways to enhance our happiness by improving habits or time management. Statistically, only 8-10 % of people who make a new year’s Resolution actually follow through. One website named January 12 as the day most resolutions die.
I understand that statistic because while I didn’t make a specific resolution, I feel like I’m already failing at the goals I have. I haven’t read more, eaten better, gone to the gym, or gotten more organized. Believe it or not, January 1st isn’t a magically day that suddenly changes all our habits.
Today, my mind goes to Abraham. In the beginning of Genesis 12, Abram (later renamed Abram) is called by God to leave his home and travel to a new place, with the promise of God’s blessing on him. Abram and Saria, his wife, pack everything up and leave. We see Abram acting out of tremendous faith in God. Later in that same chapter, though, Abram goes from blindly trusting to God to blatantly lying about his relationship to Sarai in order to protect himself from a perceived threat from Pharaoh. Assuming Pharaoh would kill him in order to marry Sarai himself, Abram tells Pharaoh that she is his sister. Not knowing Sarai was already married, Pharaoh pursues Sarai himself. God intervenes in the situation, allowing Sarai to return to Abram and righting the situation. In one chapter, Abram goes from a great high to a great low.
In the next several chapters, we see God’s continued guidance in Abram’s life. More promises are given. God changes Abram’s name and Sarai’s name to Sarah. Abraham has a great success in his life and shows his closeness to God by interceding for his nephew Lot and the evil city of Sodom. Then, we get to Chapter 20 and we see Abraham repeat the same sin, lying again about Sarah in order to protect himself. Again, God has to intervene to protect Abraham and Sarah. Another great act of faith followed by a failure to trust God.
Studying the life of Abraham, that’s exactly what we see – a series of highs and lows, victories and failures. But we also see steady growth in his faith and a continually deepening relationship with God. He never throws his hands up and decides the future blessings, many of which he will never see, aren’t worth the effort. His faith in God outweighs his failures and setbacks. Genesis 15:6, quoted again Paul in Romans and Galatians, says, “Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness” (CSB).
As much as we crave quick fixes and instant perfection, steady and imperfect progress is the best we can do. And that’s okay. We have a God who forgives failures and uses us despite our mistakes. That does mean our failures are okay or free of consequence – we have to deal with our sins and mistakes in order to deepen our relationship with God. But after we’re repented and experienced the natural consequences, God does not continue to hold our sin against us. He seeks to restore us, just as He did numerous times with Abraham.
Ultimately, God wants our hearts to draw closer to him and our relationship with Him to deepen with every high and every low. Because of God’s enduring love and grace towards me, if I end the year closer to my God than I am right now, I have been successful (despite the failures along the way).