January 8, 2019

Troubled Resolutions

It’s a familiar story. Perhaps your holiday season was much like it. Christ was visiting with dear friends. There was much hustle and bustle. We don’t know the size of the group that was gathered, but no doubt there was plenty of work to be done. Martha was busily serving and making everything just right for her Guest of Honor.

Then comes the gentle rebuke: “You are worried and troubled about many things. … But one thing is needed” (Luke 10:41, 42, NKJV).

Like Martha, many of us become busily engaged with resolutions during this time of year: lose weight, save money, read more, eat less, take a vacation, write a book, call that estranged friend, get organized … and on and on we go, being “troubled” about many things.

But, according to one source, only 8 percent of people achieve their New Year’s resolutions.1 And another sources says 80 percent quit trying after just six weeks.2 A simple online search will yield many tips on how to avoid becoming part of these discouraging statistics, and though useful, I surmise most will still lack “one thing.”

An article published in the Journal of Nature and Science3 offers an interesting theory about why most people don’t exercise regularly even though they know physical activity is important. The author suggests that forming a new habit involves a series of mental processes in which the behavior becomes “routine and automatic with little or no conscious awareness.” Good behaviors must become nonconscious for them to be lasting — to be habitual. We must change the thoughts and feelings that we don’t even realize we have.

Transitioning a healthy behavior such as exercise into a habit can be complex. Many things can hijack our best intentions. Even if we achieve success, a single missed day, a busy week, or a tragic or stressful event can set us back. Is there hope for lasting success? 

Why do we fail to do what we know we should?

It is a problem inherent to humanity, and it results from separation from God. Genesis 3 identifies these as mental, emotional, physical, relational, and spiritual brokenness.4 These entered our bodies, our lives, and our world and continue to “war against” our every effort (Romans 7:23). Our greatest hope is found in being reconnected to “one thing” — Jesus, the Answer to our brokenness.

Christ told Martha what was most needed to help with her troubles. He is speaking the same message to you and me today. He is reminding us that complete success comes through connection with — and submission to — Him. It is for this reason that He experienced separation from God. Christ offers reconciliation. He offers success.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Christ prayed to His Father, saying, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me” (Matthew 26:39, NKJV). The cup which He prayed should be removed from Him, that looked so bitter to His soul, was the cup of separation from God in consequence of the sin of the world. But He prayed, “Nevertheless, not as I will, but what You will” (Matthew 26:39, NKJV). “The spirit of submission that Christ manifested in offering up His prayer before God is the spirit that is acceptable to God. Let the soul feel its need, its helplessness, its nothingness; let all its energies be called forth in an earnest desire for help, and help will come. Let faith pierce the darkness.”5

When we realize our brokenness, we can accept the broken body of Christ as our necessity.

“Growth in grace will not lead you to be proud, self-confident, and boastful but will make you more conscious of your own nothingness, of your entire dependence upon the Lord.”6

This is not a miracle cure. It is the strength we need to take one step at a time. Ellen G. White writes, “Nothing is apparently more helpless, yet really more invincible, than the soul that feels its nothingness, and relies wholly on God.”7

Our journey will be troubled with many things. This is not just about resolutions to start the year. We can try to resolve our problems on our own, or we can make Christ our “one thing,” and let His strength be made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

The original version of this commentary was posted on the North American Division news website.