What Happens When We Break Our New Year’s Resolutions?
We all want to be able to trust ourselves.
We know that the world is hard and broken. When others have failed us, when we’ve been hurt, we want to retreat inside of ourselves and find a place that is safe and whole.
It’s ironic, then, that when we look into our own hearts, we find them traitors. Even when we have the best of intentions, we never live up to them. We strive and find ourselves coming up short every time.
After reading a post on New Year’s resolutions, I often find my first rush of inspiration fading away into discouragement. Because I know myself, at least a little. I know that I’m not trustworthy, and I’m sometimes scared to try.
So what happens when we break our resolutions? Where do we take the shame and the disillusionment? How do we find the courage to try again? These are the questions that I asked in the last post after studying resolutions in the Psalms. Today we’re staying in the Psalms to find the answers.
David understands our pain. He found out the hard way how treacherous his own heart was. He never intended to get caught up in what he did. In Psalm 26 we find his heartfelt promise, “But as for me, I shall walk in my integrity. I wash my hands in innocence.” If we had known young David, we would have believed him. He loved His God. He had every intention of living a righteous life.
Then he saw a ravishing woman, and he let desire take control of him. He knew that she was married; he didn’t seem to care. Looking turned into adultery, and adultery turned into murder. And he didn’t repent – not for months.
But God pursues His own. He pursued David with rebuke, loss and suffering. It wasn’t an easy road to repentance, but it shocked David awake and brought him to his knees. It was then that he penned the prayer of contrition that we know as Psalm 51.
I pray that our failures in 2017 will not be on the same scale as David’s fall. May God guard us from sins this blatant and damaging. But we will still sin, and we will still fail. We’ll be in need of repentance and forgiveness. Let’s look into Psalm 51 and use the components of David’s repentance as a pattern for our own.
- Bluntly acknowledge sin
It’s not easy to be honest about sin. We always want to hide it away, sugarcoat it so it doesn’t look quite so ugly. But David had had enough hiding – he was ready to call sin what it is. Even in the opening of the psalm he’s painfully straightforward: A psalm of David, after he had committed adultery with Bathsheba. Imagine putting that down for future generations to read! David did the hard and holy thing; he stopped pretending.
David refers to his sin twelve times throughout the psalm. In verse 14 he asks to be cleansed of blood guiltiness, acknowledging his plot against Uriah as true murder. David wasn’t doing this because he was shameless, but because his shame compelled him to carry his sin to God.
When we fail, we always want to run from the shame. And that’s okay, in a certain sense. The purpose of shame is to chase us to Christ. Let that sickening sense of guilt drive you to God’s arms. In God’s presence, it’s useless to hide anything. When we’re thinking straight, we don’t even want to. Learn to fall on your knees and name your sin without disguising or excusing. That’s where restoration starts. It’s the first step on the road to joy.
- Humbly ask God’s mercy
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.
David threw himself without reservation on God’s mercy. He knew that he deserved death and that God’s forgiveness was his only hope. We can say the same. Though we may not have committed adultery or murdered anyone, our sin still matters. It has earned us eternal death, and our only refuge is in the goodness of God. And here is the miracle – there is mercy for us! If we are in Christ, there is an infinite store of grace for sinners like you and me. Our judgment is gone, our damnation is canceled. We can look to a holy heaven and expect love and forgiveness, because Christ already took the darkness and abandonment. Friends, we don’t deserve this. But it’s our privilege. So don’t be afraid to ask for mercy. It’s already waiting to be poured out on your hurting heart.
- Pray for restoration
David knew that sin has consequences. He felt the guilt, the loss of close fellowship, and he wanted to go back. So, humbly, he prayed to that end. Create in me a clean heart, O God. Let me hear joy and gladness. Cast me not away from your presence. Restore to me the joy of your salvation.
Sin kills the joy of salvation in our hearts. When we have repented and been forgiven, we can pray that God would restore our joy. The devil wants to trap us, to keep us wallowing in darkness and remorse. But God wants us to move on. Not to lose our grief over sin, but to accept His forgiveness and keep growing in grace.
My tongue shall sing aloud of your righteousness. Lord, open my lips and my mouth will declare your praise.
God’s forgiveness is a beautiful reason to worship Him. After our failures have been repented of and forgiven, it is only right that we turn to God in adoration. His grace is so dazzling – His healing so complete and precious. Our failures, even the most painful ones, can segue into seasons of thankfulness and worship. Don’t take God’s forgiveness for granted; Christ poured out His blood in order to win it for us. So, when you’ve been forgiven, praise Him in song and prayer and humble obedience.
Studying Psalm 51 helps us as Christians to be okay with failure. While we don’t excuse sin, we that our own weakness is a pointer to God’s completeness. He is enough for us – even when we sin. Again. And mess up. Again.
His forgiveness is there. Just turn away from sin, bow your head and open your hands.