By Jacqueline J. Holness
Few things cause us to reflect on life and legacy like sickness and death. In 2012, one of my dear sorority sisters was diagnosed with cancer for the third time, one of my youngest brother’s friends was killed in a freak car accident, a beloved church member’s husband died, a friend’s father slipped away while he slept, and a writer friend who was close to my age and mother to a young daughter died just days before she was scheduled to receive a pacemaker.
It’s tempting to think at the start of the New Year that 2013 will be different; but it won’t be. Some will be diagnosed with diseases while others will live their final days this year. What can we do about it?
This is the time of the year many of us make New Year’s resolutions. According to a 2011 survey by the Barna Group, a research organization focused on faith and culture, about 61 percent of the American population have made resolutions over the course of our lives. The most popular resolutions involve weight, diet, and health (30 percent), followed by money, debt, and finances (15 percent), with personal improvement coming in third (13 percent). Spiritual or church-related resolutions came in next to last (garnering only 5 percent).
Resolutions about our health and our finances are important, but only what we do for the Lord has eternal consequences. Consider the message of Matthew 16:26.
We should resolve to reach out more to the lost, particularly since we know that somewhere along the timeline of 2013, some among us will get sick and die. I know this is a rather negative reality to consider at the start of a New Year, but it’s true.
The concrete actions we can take toward this goal are varied, but many experts and successful resolution makers have wise suggestions that can help us chart our course, whatever it may be.
According to The Boston Globe article, “What New Year’s Resolutions Say About Us,” by Joshua Rothman, we should avoid making resolutions attached to our self-image and focus on specific actions instead. Rothman interviewed Massachusetts Institute of Technology philosopher Richard Holton, who has studied resolutions for more than a decade. “In the first place, [Holton] suggests you make resolutions that are specific: tied not to an image of how you’d like to be (‘I’m going to be a more charitable person’), but to the hard reality of how you actually behave (‘I’m going to volunteer at least three hours a week, starting next week’).”
Invoking Habakkuk 2:2, Jennifer E. Jones of Beliefnet.com advocates writing down our resolutions in “How to Make Realistic New Year’s Resolutions (and Keep Them).” She suggests, “You can use a planner or a calendar. You can type it out on your laptop or write it down on a piece of paper. Just make sure it’s written and in a place where you can see it and refer to it often.” I type a list of my resolutions and post the list on my bathroom mirror so I have no choice but to be reminded of them on a regular basis, and it has helped me achieve my goals.
On a lighter note, the staff of Crosswalk.com posted some imaginary New Year’s Resolution tweets of beloved Bible characters. Here are a few of my favorites.
“I’ll get her to love me yet. This is the year. I can feel it!” (Hosea).
“Longing for the past helps no one! Don’t look back! Hey, what’s this salty taste?” (Lot’s wife).
“Seems like everyone’s all about high fiber. Me, I plan to eat less fruit next year” (Adam).
Thankfully, we have a vast array of resources at our disposal to help us achieve our New Year’s resolutions. So the real issue is what our resolutions should be. It’s tempting to adopt the American culture’s view of things—even New Year’s Resolutions. While self-help is important, we must also think selflessly, realizing that tomorrow is never promised. While we can’t force our beliefs on others, we are still commissioned to tell them about Jesus Christ before it’s too late.
Jacqueline J. Holness, a member of Central Christian Church in Atlanta, Georgia, is a correspondent for Courthouse News Service,
an online, national news service for attorneys. Contact Jacqueline at afterthealtarcall.com.