Try Harder or Surrender?
Full Life Reflections: January 15th
For most people, by mid-January, those new year’s resolutions have gone by the wayside. Has this been your experience? How are your new year’s resolutions holding up? I can’t say I’ve been one to take on too many new year’s resolutions, but I have been one to put too much emphasis on high standards and expectations. For many years, I attempted to change my behavior or things I didn’t like about myself from my own willpower. Never feeling good enough, I was often overly critical of myself when I didn’t “measure up”.
Feeling lost and anxious, I viewed God as someone who would only accept me once I got my “act together” and started “acting like a Christian”. I tried to make things look good on the outside, while inside I felt dead, unknown, and unloved. It left me in a broken, dysfunctional cycle of trying to make things perfect with my own strength. In the end, I always wound up burned out and going back to old habits and behaviors. Time and again, I asked God to forgive me as I buckled down harder, trying to make things right on my own once again. But soon I would feel like a failure and unworthy all over again.
Through those many failed attempts, the Holy Spirit began reaching into my heart through some pretty harsh circumstances. The Lord began to show me that He loved me despite my sin and brokenness. He didn’t expect me to get things “right” or “perfect” on my own. I had to let go of control and just surrender to Him. I couldn’t keep holding on to perfection in hopes that one day I would be good enough for God. Because the truth is, I will never be good enough through my own deeds or willpower. None of us are or can be perfect enough in our own strength. But Jesus is.
…Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ- the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.Philippians 3:8-9
Christ came for you and me to replace our imperfections with His perfection. It’s through our perfect Savior, that we are known, loved, and accepted by God the Father. And Christ’s work within us allows us to mature and grow toward perfection. God is the one who perfects us; we just have to allow Him to enter to do the work.
There is freedom and comfort in God’s grace, as He has shown me to rely on Him more in those times when I struggle with perfection or feel insecure about my worth. He’s been guiding me to turn upward instead of inward for the truth about my value. I’ve learned (and am still learning) to be more gracious towards myself, as my Father in Heaven is gracious towards me.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.Psalm 51:10
To this day, my surrendering to the Lord hasn’t stopped- I’m continually needing to die to my old self in order for God to renew me. Some days it’s harder than others, as God has pushed me to face things I didn’t think I was ready for and let go of people, situations, or jobs that I just wanted to cling to. He’s reminded me of His love, grace, and mercy when I’ve felt like a failure or fallen into old sinful habits. He’s always welcomed me back with loving arms as I’ve turned back to face Him.
Trimming off the dead branches, He’s continued to bring life to the parts of me that seemed broken, unusable, or beyond repair. When I wanted to stay with the stagnant and familiar, He pushed me to go for the unfamiliar and to be gracious towards myself making those new steps. I know He is loving, trustworthy, and deserving of praise. He has not failed me yet, and He will not fail me in the future.
While new year’s resolutions can be good, you and I are in need of something more than behavior modification. Real perfection, right desires, and lasting change come from Jesus Christ alone. He gives and reminds us of our value through Himself. The world screams try harder, do it better, you’re not good enough, and you need to be perfect.
But God simply tells us to let go and surrender.
It doesn’t matter where we’ve been, how “put-together” we make look, what we’ve gone through, or what we’ve done, our Heavenly Father is there waiting to receive us with open arms. There is peace, renewal, freedom, mercy, forgiveness, grace, power, and eternal life in the name of Jesus when we repent and surrender all of ourselves to our loving Father in Heaven.
I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart.Jeremiah 24:7
Struggling to Stay in Your Bible in the New Year?
Has your New Year’s Resolution been to read the Bible in a year or stay in God’s Word daily? Have you fallen behind in your yearly Bible plan, or are you struggling to stay in the Bible? Here are some suggestions that may help you stay in God’s Word throughout the year:
- Call out to God and ask for encouragement in staying in the Bible. Ask for wisdom in how to plan your day so that you can spend time in His Word- is early morning, lunchtime, or before bed best for your schedule?
- Stick to a guided reading plan in the back of your Bible or through the YouVersion Holy Bible app. Set an alarm on your phone as a reminder.
- Do you have accountability? It often helps to do a study with others to stay on track. You can easily do group studies through the YouVersion app, or look for a Bible study group in your church or local area.
- Is reading the Bible in a year too intimidating? Try committing to a three-year Bible plan available through the YouVersion app if you need to move at a slower pace.
- Try listening to the audio version or alternate between reading and listening. This has helped me when I’ve read through the Bible at a faster pace, and it’s given me greater insight by getting the Bible through an auditory source.
- Do you have a lot in life going on right now and can’t commit to a full Bible plan right now? Try focusing on a single Bible verse by the day or the week. Meditate and pray on that verse throughout your day.
How are you staying in God’s Word in the new year?
Photo by Ron Lach : https://www.pexels.com/photo/white-flags-on-body-of-water-9049891/