American Association of Christian Counselors
American Association of Christian Counselors

New Year, New Mercies

Laura Captari

 

New Year’s resolutions often bring mixed emotions—the excitement and hope of a fresh start, but also the nagging fear that, despite our best intentions, we’ll fail once again. Fall short of our goals. Find ourselves staring at December 31, 2013 with the exact same character defects and flaws. There’s nothing like a new year to “turn up” the volume on personal insecurities, fears, and self-condemnation. And often, our negative self-talk can drown out God’s truth.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Jesus told His disciples, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (Matt. 8:32). The Greek word for know, ginóskó, is not referring to abstract knowledge, but rather, an intimate relational experience. In fact, this is the same word used in referring to sexual intimacy in marriage, as in Joseph’s case, “but [he] did not know [Mary] intimately until she gave birth to [Jesus]” (Matt. 1:25).

 

The Power of Relationship

Do you know God’s truth in an intimate, personal way? Herein lies the power to change. Despite our best-laid plans and goals, we are transformed in relationship with Christ—not our own strength or efforts. In our “do it yourself” world, we must remember Jesus’ words: “[A]part from me you can do nothing” (Jn. 15:5).

One of Satan’s greatest tactics is to build our sense of false confidence apart from our Creator and Sustainer. This leads us to trust in our own strength and understanding, rather than truly relying on God. But there is no moving on or moving past this truth: “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for Him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs” (Matt. 5:3).

As we walk into 2013, we must rest in the truth that God is already there—in every single day and moment that awaits us. This new year is His…another opportunity for Him to showcase “the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:7). And how desperately we need Him!

 

Gospel-Driven Goals

What does God ask from us as His children? To achieve every one of our goals? To attain perfection in our spiritual and professional lives? To work for His approval by our extraordinary ministry efforts?

Far from it. He asks us just one thing—to surrender.

How easy it is to forget the gospel as we begin a new year! As we set goals, it’s important to have realistic expectations and embrace the reality of God’s truth AND grace. Living in a sinful, broken world, we must daily wrestle with our sinful nature, difficult relationships, and the reality of “falling short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).

It’s a daily…hourly…moment by moment struggle. The Apostle Paul echoes our hearts’ cry: “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” (Rom. 7:18-19).

The beauty is that, in the midst of our daily struggles, God is with us and for us. The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning” (Lament. 3:22-23). God’s mercy and grace aren’t just fresh on January 1…but every single morning! Do we really live as if this was true? Do we ginóskó God’s fresh mercies and never-ending love, or are they just abstract theological tenants?

Paul grappled with the battle of his own weaknesses and failures in contrast with God’s character, and discovered a truth that can we can cling to as well: “ ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Cor. 12:9).

 

Embracing Failure

In a recent conversation with Dr. Arch Hart, I was challenged to re-consider my own perspective of failure and weakness. “In God’s economy,” he reminded me, “there isn’t failure; only forced growth. God is not in the business of success—His ultimate goal is to refine us. Success often does not build character, but every single failure is a giant step in God’s refining purpose.”

How easy it is to complain, compare, and try to control our life situations rather than surrendering. Yet Jesus’ gentle words speak, “[W]hat is that to you? You must follow me” (Jn. 21:22). This must be our ultimate goal for 2013: To follow Jesus—in successes and joys, but also through failures, weaknesses, and challenges.

Reinhold Niebuhr offers a wonderful reminder to daily surrender even our best-laid plans and goals to Jesus, choosing to walk with Him, not just work for Him:

Living one day at a time,

Enjoying one moment at a time,

Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,

Taking, as Jesus did,

This sinful world as it is,

Not as I would have it,

Trusting that You will make all things right,

If I surrender to Your will…

This year, will you embrace every opportunity to ginóskó—to experientially know—the truth and grace of Jesus, and be changed by Him? It sure beats trying to change ourselves!

 

Laura Captari, B.S., B.A. is a freelance writer and licensed professional counselor in training. She currently serves as Director of Professional and Public Relations at the American Association of Christian Counselors. Laura lives with her husband in Lynchburg, Virginia.

 

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