January is a season where the will takes a front seat in everyone’s mind. Every new year, resolutions abound as people steel their wills to make changes of all sorts. Whether it’s physical, financial, emotional or spiritual, most “resolve” to make this year different in all the best ways.
So, fast forward a few days, a few weeks, a few months… how is that resolve shaping up? Except for a small portion of us, it has faded and is no longer able to hold out against the habits of the past. And guess what, the same thing happens in our spiritual life.
So, why is it that year after year we fall for the same game? Why do we keep going back to the literal battle of wills in an attempt to make something stick?
It’s because we as a culture believe that the way to improve something is almost always to try harder. We teach that the will is something that can be bent and molded til it gives and sticks in the new shape. We listen to the stories of the people that have somehow harnessed their wills for good and say “see it’s possible” while simultaneously ignoring all of the people that try and fail. We say, “I’m sure I can just avoid sin if I decide to” and then promptly fail and sin again.
The truth is that decisions based on “will” hardly ever last. Strong arming your own urges and beliefs into submission rarely has staying power unless it is based on something much deeper than a “resolution”.
When I look back at the times in my life that my life really did change for the better, that bad habits really did give way to good habits, they were never based solely on will. In all of these times there was a deeper shift, either in my understanding of the world around me, a conviction of hope or a touch of the Holy Spirit.
Let’s look at this another way. In a marriage relationship we often make “will” decisions to act loving even when we don’t feel it. But, if marriage was based only on “will” decisions I can say pretty conclusively that it wouldn’t last long. Every stable marriage has at least some “heart” decisions. Every loving relationship has at it’s core an emotional tie, an intimate connection, something that goes beyond logic. I cannot argue myself into loving someone. I cannot read a treatise on the power of love and then become a loving person. Something else has to come into play.
I as a Christian believe this something else is a spiritual thing. God is love. God is the author of hope. God brings the increase in our lives. And God has a way of creating in us a burning and an understanding that supersedes the will.
So how do we experience change if we can’t will it? How do we eliminate the harmful and painful habits that destroy us?
By turning to relationship with the author of our wills rather than our wills themselves!
By pursuing intimacy and connection, without concern for the “results”, results usually show up.
By saying, “God I don’t feel this way but I want to. Help me.” We step away from the battle of wills and step behind the warrior. We allow God’s will to supersede our own and provide divine breakthrough where we couldn’t resolve and follow through alone.
So, when your next “resolution” fails don’t look at it as a failure, but instead look at it as an opportunity to put your desire squarely in the hand of the author of your will and get ready to experience freedom!