It was January 1, and I was gung-ho to begin my New Year’s resolution. My plan was to start a rigorous elimination diet in the hope of feeling better. I purchased ingredients to make healthy meals, and I set aside time to cook for the week.
I knew it was going to be hard, but I reached a tipping point in my chronic illness and knew I had to try more drastic measures. After a week, I started to regain some energy. I repeated the tasks of grocery shopping and cooking for myself the next week, and I felt encouraged.
Then, “life” got in the way of my plans. A couple of my children got sick. A couple others had projects and activities that required my attention. I was needed elsewhere. I ran out of all of those nourishing meals, and I didn’t have much time to cook another batch. I needed grab-and-go options, which really weren’t part of my plan.
Frustrated and tired, I lost my motivation. I felt discouraged and lonely. How long did my New Year’s resolution last? About three weeks. Sigh.
It was hard to get back on track, because I feared failure again. I started looking forward to Lent, which was my chance to start over.
For Lent, I decided to approach my resolution differently. As I reflected on my three weeks in New Year’s resolution mode, I noticed that I was relying solely on myself to succeed, and I wasn’t allowing any room for flexibility, patience, or God’s grace.
We are one week into Lent, and perhaps your Lenten resolution feels a lot like my New Year’s one. It’s been only eight days, and already you think you’ve failed Lent.
I know I had the temptation to think like a failure on the eve of Ash Wednesday when, after resolving to eliminate grains for Lent, I was faced with the reality of eating oatmeal for dinner. So, yes, not even a day into Lent, and already I had fallen off my Lenten plan!
But what I immediately realized was how my response was so vastly different from how I reacted when I took a detour from my New Year’s resolution. This Lent, I made the decision to give up the swirling negative thoughts and the “shoulds” that talk down to me. For this attempt at resolution, I was going to let Jesus be my guide.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight.” (Proverbs 3:5)
Whenever we try to improve an area of our life, it takes time, patience, and perseverance. We can’t expect perfect success on the first try, but we can strive for faithfulness.
St. Teresa of Calcutta said, “God doesn't ask that we succeed in everything, but that we are faithful. However beautiful our work may be, let us not become attached to it. Always remain prepared to give it up, without losing your peace.”
Perhaps if we become too attached to our efforts, we lose our peace when our plans don’t work out perfectly. Instead, let us become attached to Jesus this Lent, and our imperfect sacrifices and resolutions will reflect our faithfulness to Him.
So, how in the five remaining weeks of Lent, can we not give in to feelings of weariness or discouragement? When we are tempted to get overwhelmed or quit altogether, let’s turn to the Lord for His help and guidance.
Here are four Scripture quotes (plus a bonus!) we can pray in times of weariness or discouragement this Lenten season—or any time we are trying to transform our lives:
Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)
I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)
The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still. (Exodus 14:14)
Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart. (Hebrews 12:3)
Bonus: Meditate on Jesus’ own journey to the Cross, especially as He struggled and fell three times. If Jesus fell, we can be sure we will fall, too. He shows us how human it is to stumble, to fall, to take two steps back for every three steps forward. It doesn’t matter if we mess up; what matters is that we pick ourselves up again in faithful perseverance.
By persevering in our desires and plans for Lent, we will remain close to God’s will and in a constant state of striving for holiness. And come Easter Sunday, we will indeed be able to celebrate how the Lord has helped transform us—body, mind, and soul—into a new creation.
So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Copyright 2017 Sarah Damm
Image by Jeremy Bishop via Unsplash. CC0 License. Quote added in Canva.