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The most important New Year's resolution

The most important resolution that any of us can make is to ask for God’s help.
2012 and 2013 written in sand on beach
Posted January 10, 2013

I don’t set much store by New Year’s resolutions.

I’ve learnt from experience that my strong desire to do (or not do something) can sometimes fade almost as soon as the sun sets. And so, this year, I haven’t resolved to stop eating chocolate, to become a marathon runner, or to be the kindest parent the world has ever known.

I’ve set a few personal development and family goals, but I have enough niggling self-doubt to persuade me that signalling some Significant Resolution on New Year’s eve is just asking to eventually wallow in shameful regret.

Regret is a tough emotion to deal with, isn’t it? Most of us know what it’s like to suffer its bitter recriminations—the feelings of sadness, guilt and even self-loathing that follow a mistake or missed opportunity of some kind. We can feel regret about all sorts of things: our parenting, our finances, our relationships and our life choices. But to live happily and well from day to day, we need to find a way to move past regret.

First off, we need to remember that there is no one in the world who gets everything right, all the time. We all make mistakes sometimes. In fact, there’d be something wrong if we didn’t experience occasional pangs of regret, because it would likely mean we’re insensitively or arrogantly pushing our way through life, unaware of occasionally stepping on some toes or missing some important moments.

It’s the humble and caring person—the person who realises the importance of taking responsibility for their own actions—who also knows the occasional companionship of regret. So regret isn’t always bad. There’s even a time to embrace it, as long as we listen to what regret is telling us!

But there may also be times when we stuff things up and remain troubled by regret for extended periods. Times when that sense of failure lingers and we’re not sure what to do. When this happens, it’s a wise idea to invite God (and sometimes another trusted person) into our situation. God can help us face our feelings, examine our circumstances, learn from any misguided moments or missed opportunities, and then step forward in hope.

Paul’s advice in the New Testament book of Philippians (3:15) is good: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. Paul is writing here about striding forward in a race to cross the finishing line and win a prize. But his words also paint a picture of someone trying to move forward in life.

Now, if someone running a race has one leg constantly stuck behind them, little useful progress can be made. In the same way, if we can see in the distance some good things we’d like to accomplish—including making a positive contribution to others and our wider community—it’s going to be hard to reach those goals if we’re constantly held back by past regrets.

One of the most powerful starting points from which we can move on from the past, is to ask for and accept God’s forgiveness. In 1 John 1:9, God promises a fresh start for anyone who sincerely asks. ‘If we admit our sins—make a clean breast of them—[God] won’t let us down; he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing,’ says The Message paraphrase of this verse.

To be set free from a sense of regret, the most important resolution that any of us can make is to ask for God’s help.

By Christina Tyson (abridged from War Cry, 11 January 2013, p 3)