Family Goal Setting Revisited: When It’s Hard to Follow Through

By Jessica Wolstenholm

Last night, as I was writing an article about praying for peace in my family this year, my oldest got out of bed and argued with me about going back to sleep. Long story short (though predictable), I ended up yelling at my daughter in the middle of writing that optimistic and hopeful article about my goals for a peaceful family.

Reaching goals is hard enough. When you combine it with the immeasurably harder task of parenting, well, it feels nearly impossible! So, what’s a parent to do?

When we recognize the difficulty of setting and reaching goals for our families, should we just give up? Maybe we just lower the bar a little bit – again? Or do we turn pragmatic and avoid disappointment by forgoing goals at all?

No way!

As parents many of us have written mission statements, made resolutions and set goals for our families just as we’ve done all that for ourselves. And just like we find reasons not to work out or floss our teeth or take our multivitamin on day three of the new year, new month, new week . . . we are just as easily tripped up with the goals we set for our families.

Even though I said I was sticking with one goal and one goal only this year (peace), I have a couple dozen strategies in mind for making that happen. Getting up early to pray. Reading a devotion with each of my kids. Putting my phone down more and looking them in the eyes more. But even in the first few days of this new year I found myself slipping back into old habits. It’s easy, after all, because there’s always SOMETHING.

  • It’s still Christmas break and our schedule is messed up.
  • We’re just getting back into a regular routine.
  • I’m sick.
  • They’re sick.
  • I have a meeting.
  • She has basketball practice.

And the excuses just keep coming, because life just keeps coming. The real, messy, everyday, can’t-plan-for-it life just keeps coming! And all of that makes it real hard to follow through on those big plans I made for my family and myself just a few weeks ago.

Fortunately, God isn’t surprised by any of the roadblocks we find ourselves facing. He knows full and well, even as we’re promising Him that this year will be different, that this time we’re gonna DO THIS THING, that we are going to stumble. He knows doing the right thing is hard. (If it wasn’t hard, then I guess we wouldn’t need to keep setting these goals for ourselves!) And that is why He’s given us encouragement in His word:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3 NIV

Running the race with family goals – whether that means daily devotions with your children, eating dinner together more frequently, holding your tongue when you want to yell, or going to church on a regular basis – isn’t easy. But God will give us strength to keep going.

More often than I’d like to admit, I find myself apologizing to my family. They are infuriating in so many ways (like only a family can be), but they are all quick to forgive. I’m grateful for that, and I strive to return the same grace to them (easier said than done).

The important part of all that mess, though, is that when we apologize to each other, when we acknowledge where we’ve fallen short of those goals (again), we don’t let it get us down. We are determined not to become weary in doing good (or at least attempting it). And we remind each other that tomorrow is a new day, that we can start over, that we can offer each other and ourselves fresh mercies, just as God offers them to us.

Originally published on 01/26/2017