It’s the time of the year in which we start to self assess. Did I lose the weight I wanted? Did I stick to that new workout routine? Did I get that promotion? Did I reach out to that estranged friend? Did I limit my screen time and spend more time with family? Sometime after eating candy canes and before picking out the bubbly for New Year’s’ Eve, the resolutions made at the beginning of the year come rushing back. Maybe goals were accomplished, maybe they weren’t, or maybe none were set just passively considered. Whatever the case might be, the new year offers hope while shining a glaring light on the discontentment lurking in the heart.
The temptation is to move seamlessly into judging others. Looking at the lives of smiling faces blurred by rapid scrolling through Facebook or Instagram, our hearts are prone to envy. Envy of the engagements, new births, expected births, new jobs, friendships, freedom or finances to travel, or before and after fitness pictures. This jealousy can settle in our hearts like soot and ash. The happy and bright window displays of photographs hide so much. We know this, but we breathe in the appearance of perfection. We cough on unrealistic ideas and stir up misplaced longings. It’s hard to breathe. The weight of that inside can poison ever breath of joy and peace God has so graciously offered us.
For me and many others, this life of striving is normal. It is a weight the bares down on our chest constantly getting heavier. It buries our purpose under meaningless, self-imposed duties. The call to be freed from these burdens is so clear. Matthew 11:28-30 is a beckoning from Christ, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Hidden in this invitation are the better things that I truly need. It has nothing to do with dropping a pant size or reaching the next milestone in my exercise routine. It, in fact, rejects those ideals altogether. It pushes aside the pressure to self-attain and asks me to surrender to rest. Embracing God’s rest brings wholeness, health, and joy. It brings all those things that I try to obtain through other methods. David says, “You make know to me the path of life; in your presence, there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forever more. (Psalm 16:11).”
My mind struggles to understand how I could be handed things of such value. My nature is to rebel against things I don’t have to work for, because I fear they are too good to be true. Instead, I set goals and strive for an allusive idea of better. I accept a weight that leaves me weary and worn down. This fear causes me to miss the better things time after time. The more I strive to be fearless and strong, the more I try to satisfy all my own needs the further I get from the true solution. 1 John 4:18 reveals, “there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” The way out of this pattern is through surrendering to God’s love, through which I am freely offered everything I need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).
“The more I strive to be fearless and strong, the more I try to satisfy all my own needs the further I get from the true solution.
Rather than striving this year, I will be surrendering. There will be no plans of my own, but a willingness to see where God takes me. I won’t grab hold of an idea of who I should be before 2021 rolls around, I am going to look to God and wait to see how He will transform me over the next 12 months. Where you are might look different from where I am in my walk with God, but I want to encourage you to find your area of surrender and be resolute in that. It might include health, relationships, or career. Instead of setting and striving towards these things, I want to encourage you to submit them to God. Let’s resolve to daily release things that we have held and the plans we have made. Let’s rest in Christ’s strength and follow His will and see where He leads. We are safe in His love. God’s plans for us are good and we have the assurance of rest for our souls along the path of toward the good things He has in store.