I’ve always been a goal-setter. I need a plan, a direction, a purpose. I love new beginnings. But my compulsion to plan ahead deserted me this past year. I was in the personal position of needing to be flexible with my time, of caring for a family member and putting my routine on hold.
Stronger personalities may well have pushed through this challenge without missing a beat, but that’s not who I am. I had to choose my focus, and although the decision was simple, the application was not.
With the setting aside of goals, guilt appeared. First in the shadows, then in full force. It followed me throughout the time I set aside my personal and professional goals. Guilt told me I was letting myself down, letting my readers down, moving into a passive role instead of taking charge.
And so, besides failing to meet my writing goals and feeling defeated about that, guilt also pushed its way into my caregiving role and hounded me with thoughts of shoulda-coulda-woulda. All the things I wished I’d done as a caregiver.
I’m guessing I’m not alone in this narrative. It’s as old as time, as far-reaching as the tempter himself. Why do we allow the twosome of goals & guilt to survive? Because we’re human.
Is there a way out? Yes, but it’s not easy.
After giving this problem much thought, I’d say the only way to deal with the guilt is to lay it out before Jesus. I love the story in 2 Kings chapters 18 and 19 where Israel is trapped by the Assyrians and there seems no way out. King Hezekiah takes the devastating letter which the invading king has written to him, full of warnings, suggestions and intimidation; and lays it before the Lord in the Temple (2 Kings 19:14). How often do I so practically lay my hopes and plans before God for his blessing? For his direction? I admit I don’t always think about it. I rush to my computer to start writing and wonder why the page is so difficult to fill.
Just as the Lord came to King Hezekiah’s aid back in the day, so he will come to our aid as we rely on him and ask for his direction.
And then we set to work. Again, it isn’t easy, but when we work with God, we can be at ease with his “interruptions” in our lives. Because maybe those interruptions are the real reason we are here today. We don’t know the big picture. If we put our faith in God’s plan, we can sweep the guilt out of our way and do whatever the Lord lays out for us to do.
I got a kick out of a group e-mail I received from Susie May Warren. In part, she wrote:
A few years ago, in jest, I made anti-goals:
• I resolve NOT to run a marathon.
• I resolve NOT to lose more than 10 lbs.
• I resolve to procrastinate as much as possible.
Those, I kept.
I’m not at all against setting goals, but let’s remain flexible to the will of God in all things. His Word tells us that:
“ ‘…my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord” (Isaiah 55:8).
Connection with him and obedience to his often still, small voice is the path to success.
“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying,
‘This is the way; walk in it’” (Isaiah 30:21).
I encourage all who read this to join me in committing more fully to Jesus this new year for whatever he has planned for our lives.
Janice L. Dick writes historical and contemporary fiction, inspirational articles and book reviews. She also edits and presents writing workshops.