With each new year, we are gifted with opportunities for new beginnings. For many of us, that brings with it a process of discerning and setting new year’s resolutions. While many of these may be tangible changes we would like to bring to fruition in our lives, the creating of new year’s resolutions can also make us reflect on transformations we wish to see in our faith lives. These types of resolutions can be harder to navigate. We may know what our end goals are, but what are the steps along the path to growing deeper into our faith, and what does it look like to put those in practice?
This month, on Ave Maria Radio’s monthly segment, No Bystanders, Dr. Marlon De La Torre joined to discuss the challenges of staying centered on Christ as we enter the new year and offered three pieces of advice on how we can all look for grace within our resolutions.
Ask God for help and be open to receiving it.
In our daily relationships, it isn’t always easy to ask for help, and the same can be true in our relationship with God. When we become stuck on relying on ourselves to solve every obstacle in our lives, we can quickly become overwhelmed. We may recognize the need to lean into relying on the guidance of the Holy Spirit, but when we have become accustomed to putting all the pressure on ourselves, it can be difficult to know where to begin in our act of surrendering to God.
According to Dr. De La Torre, the first steps to inviting ourselves to be led by God’s guidance involve a two-fold process of open communication.
First, he encourages us to become “beggars before God”, freely and directly asking the Lord for help, especially in areas where we have been resistant to surrendering our own control over to him.
Second and most importantly, Dr. De La Torre notes that beyond asking for God’s help, we must be open to receiving it. This involves asking questions like “Lord, how should I pray?” “What should I be praying for?” and taking the time to listen and receive the ways in which God answers. Keeping our communication in our prayer life an open, two-way dialogue allows us to be authentically receptive to the Spirit working in our lives.
Be confident in who you are in God’s love for you.
Growing in our spiritual lives is an opportunity to walk with Christ, and throughout our journey of encountering him, we are often met with roads that act as catalysts to more deeply develop our trust. In times of deepening our trust in the Lord, it is essential to remember that Christ calls us not only to take up our daily crosses but to do so and to follow him. He does not leave us to carry our crosses down difficult roads alone. Rather, he is always walking with us, accompanying us on the journey. Dr. De La Torre says that we must all “recognize that we were born into the kingdom of God and know he loves us.”
Accepting our identity as children born to the kingdom of God with a certainty of his love for us gives us the confidence we need to go forward in hope. In doing so, we reflect a worldview that is Christ-focused to those around us, one which brings our goals for spiritual growth into alignment with morally centered values that call us to recognize the inherent dignity of each person we meet along our walk with Christ.
Seek God’s will, and put yours to the side.
As we strive each day to maintain a worldview that is Christ-centered, both morally and spiritually, we must remember that beyond just holding a set of beliefs, they must be lived out in our daily actions. Putting our goals for spiritual growth into practice means looking at how our reactions to our intentions and circumstances act as a model to others. If we are not willing to live out the values we are preaching, we are unable to become effective teachers and evangelizers. Dr. De La Torre states, “it is part of our own transformation to reflect on the example we are modeling to those around us.”
As we interact with family, friends, and members of our community, we must ask ourselves if the example we are setting is reflecting our own will or the will of God. On our journey as servants to Christ and to others, we must be willing to accept this transformation within ourselves through our call to live out the good news of the Gospel, setting our own plans and notions aside to take up the mission of sharing God’s love.
As we step into the new year, we can commit to cultivating our openness to God’s work in our lives through welcoming the opportunity to begin again in our daily spiritual practice. By accepting the vulnerability of asking for and receiving God’s help, maintaining our confidence in our identity as loved children of God, and having the willingness to lay down our own designs in seeking to be a reflection of God’s will, we can invite grace into our new year’s resolutions and warmly embrace the season of transformation each one of us is offered by the new year.
Listen to Dr. De La Torre on Ave Maria Radio.