One of my favorite things to ask people this time of year is whether they’ve made a New Years Resolution. I love to hear about positive changes people want to make in their lives; there’s something so hopeful about a fresh start.
Probably the most common New Years Resolution people make has to do with getting healthier. People want to lose weight, eat better, drink more water, etc.
There is a lot of focus on feeling (and let’s be honest, looking) better physically. I have some goals like that on my own list this year. But just as I want to make a plan for better physical health, something equally important to me is my spiritual health. Because I love lists, I’m making a list of ways I hope to stay spiritually healthy in 2018.
1. Let old things go. Much like we want to drop unwanted pounds at the turn of the New Year, I want to lose the unhealthy baggage I toted around with me in 2017. Old grudges, hurts, and worries are things I want to say goodbye to. One word I’m carrying with me into 2018 to meditate on is ‘forgiveness.’
In Matthew 18 Jesus tells the story of a man who owed an unimaginable debt to the king. Miraculously, when he begged for mercy, the king granted it and cancelled the debt. The newly freed man promptly went and demanded payment from someone who owed him far less money. He had the man thrown in jail until he could repay. When the king found out, he had his original servant, the one whose debt was so huge, thrown in prison and tortured. We’re told this is how God will treat us unless we practice forgiveness.
God commands us to forgive, but if that’s not enough incentive, when we practice forgiveness it heals our own hearts. Clinging to past hurts is damaging to the heart and mind, and I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m ready to let go of what is harming me so that I can grab onto something better.
2. Pursue Jesus. Lots of people set goals of running marathons or a certain number of miles in a year, or they might want to be able to lift a certain amount of weight as an indicator of improved strength. With the same frame of mind as a runner pursuing an end goal, I want to pursue Jesus like never before. Paul often refers to the Christian life as a race that is finished when our time on Earth is over and we are called Home. More than anything else in this life, I want to finish my race with Jesus. I want to be an old, white-haired woman with my hands in the air in worship because a life of pursuing Jesus was worth it. But I won’t get to that place unless I pursue him now, in the ups and downs of life. So, while training for a marathon is less than fun, it’s something I must do if I’m to finish the whole race, because the life of a Jesus follower is just that—a marathon. I will not finish my race if I don’t commit to the daily training, as grueling as it may be.
3. Choose joy. There are so many reasons to be sad about life and the world in which we live. But for 2018, I’m going to focus on finding reasons to be joyful. That doesn’t mean that sadness and heartbreak won’t come. But I aim to choose to find joy in those situations, like exercising a different set of muscles.
My get-my-feelings-hurt muscles are strong, along with my assume-the-worst muscles. It’s time to build my strength in other areas, and hopefully by the end of 2018 my strongest spiritual muscles will be the forgiving, Jesus-pursuing, joy-finding ones. I hope the same will be true for you, too.
“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” Habakkuk 3.17
Corley Madden Shumaker
Assistant Campus Minister
Arkansas State Baptist Collegiate Ministry