Most of us are exhausted from the challenges of the past years. Weary of each other, annoyed by petty habits of those with whom we live, fearful of new pandemic scares, feeling stuck in our careers. We’re “done” with grumpy teenagers, depleted by ever-present demanding toddlers, tired of ourselves, sick of bad news, lonely, and yet still anxious about the uncertainty of the future.
We long for a new year. A new vision. A fresh wind of HOPE.
We look for a sense of certainty in world that guarantees none.
We are weary of the “same old, same old.”
We need something fresh, something new.
January means new resolutions, but we may not have the energy to make them. Instead, we stagger into a new year numb. So much disappointment has depleted our incentive. Resolutions can be good. They give us goals, and a sense of progress (until we fail again!).
However, in the depths of our being what we really long for is HOPE.
We need a NEW song to sing.
Where can we find fresh hope, a new song, for this new year?
David encourages us:
I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in Him.” (Psalm 40: 1-3 NIV)
Uncertainty lies ahead and produces fear. Only one thing is certain: God with us. Immanuel. It is to Him that we must turn for a new song, for fresh hope.
What might this look like? Where might we discover fresh hope?
1. In His Creation
Lately we’ve all been singing the great old hymn, “Joy to the World.”
Recently on a walk in the woods I found myself singing the refrain, ‘’Let heaven and nature sing.” I asked myself, What does it look like for nature to sing?
Slowing down my pace, I began to notice God’s decorations. Green moss on old rock wall, red berries decorating stark barren limbs, a singing creek clapping as it splashed over rocks, different fungi in a creative pattern on dead limbs, God’s gift of sculpture in the weird shapes of trees.
I imagined the fun our Father God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit had in creation.
God has sorrow certainly, but God has fun too.
And this was just a start.
David tells us,
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.“ (Psalm 19: 1-2 NIV)
Spend regular time in God’s creation. Turn your phone off and remove your earphones. Walk in silence and ask Him to reveal new things about Himself to you in His creation.
When we focus on Him instead of “our stuff,” our hearts will become lighter as we are reminded of how big and beautiful and fun He is.
2. In His Word
His word is the one truth. It’s the one place we can go to for comfort, for training, for conviction, for hope. His words are not merely wise sayings but the Power of the Almighty God. How we long for it. And we can’t get along without it!
The main prayer I’ve prayed over the years for my kids and grandkids is that they would fall in love with the word of God. (from Psalm 119:105) His word is our one certainty. They need this one authority and so do I. As I get older, I find that I am more desperate for time alone in His word every day.
Make time first thing in the morning to be alone in the scriptures. Put your cell phone away. Ask God to reveal something to you for this day. Use a paper Bible for your study and mark it up. Show your kids. One day this marked up Bible will be a treasure to hand down to the next generation.
3. With His People
One of many things we’ve realized from the pandemic is how much we need each other. Zoom will not suffice. We need interaction, hugs, smiles, shared laughter, touch. We can’t grow alone. Isolation will lead to depression. We were created for community.
God himself is part of a community of 3 — Father, Son and Spirit, surrounded by innumerable angels. Jesus himself had the 12 disciples and of the 12 he had 3 best buddies, Peter, James, and John.
One way to discover fresh Hope is to return to church as you are able. It is far easier to sing and worship in person with others. It can be tempting to stay in our PJ’s with our coffee and watch online. (This is a blessing and the only option for some.) For most of us, a return to worship in person will bring a fresh excitement to our faith.
Lifting our hands together in praise and singing loudly is far more natural in person than on the couch. Looking in another’s eyes and asking how they are doing reminds us that life is not all about us. We need to become other-centered rather than slipping into a self-centered lifestyle which will only deepen misery.
4. Consider His Desires
Although new years’ resolutions can be beneficial, there may be something even better.
Several years ago I asked God to show me 3 things He wanted to do in my life in the coming year. I simply wanted 3 words that I could ask Him to do within me. He knows each one of us better than we know ourselves (Psalm 139) and He alone knows best what we need.
The first year I did this the 3 words that came to mind were: listen, become more laid back, and laugh. And so I began to ask God to do this within me. Just recognizing these needs made me more sensitive to His work within me in these areas.
Another year I felt I should ask for a pure heart, a praising heart, and a peaceful heart. This past year I’ve sensed that I should learn to wait, to watch, and to wonder. These are not attributes I expect to conquer and move on to something else. Rather they are gentle, continuous themes which I long for Him to continue to be developing in me the rest of this life.
I encourage you to consider asking Him what he would like to do in you in this new year. This is not something we resolve to do within ourselves. We can’t! Instead, it’s asking Him to do it within us.
Psalm 37: 4 says,
Take delight in the Lord and He will give you (HE will put within you) the desires of your heart.”
And Paul tells us in Philippians 2: 13,
For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”
HE will bring this about.
1 Thessalonians 5:24,
The one who calls you is faithful, he will do it.”
The sense is that God is the one who will both put His desires in our hearts and make them ours and that He will do the work in our hearts. It’s not up to us.
Father, I pray for each of us as we leave a difficult season behind that you would give us a fresh vision for this new year and the certainty of HOPE which can only be found in you. For you LOVE each of us more than we can ever imagine.