There’s something about turning the calendar over to a new year that feels fresh, restores hope. While this is true, the same could be said for a new month, new week, or even a new day. A chance to start over again. Try again, do better.
So my first bit of commentary is toward our penchant for creating New Year’s Resolutions, which really makes no sense. If you disagree, ask yourself how many resolutions from this year you recycled from last year. The reason they make no sense is the way we tend to approach them, which is basically little more than wishes for the new year. I’ll borrow (and slightly alter) a phrase from Yoda of “Star Wars” fame: “Do or do not. There is no resolve.” If instead the goal is to make lasting change in your life, then read a book about habits–forming good ones and breaking bad ones. An excellent one I read and recommend is Atomic Habits, by James Clear.
One other quick note in this regard. Some people have a sense that they should read through the Bible, perhaps setting a goal to do so in a year. While this is a worthy goal–this is, after all, one way our loving Father in Heaven has chosen to communicate with us–it can also be a daunting undertaking. And I really don’t recommend reading it from cover to cover like you would a “normal” book. At the very least, I think you should read some from the Old Testament and some from the New Testament each day (I’d be happy to explain why if anyone is wondering). Better yet, My.Bible.com (aka YouVersion) has some excellent reading plans available, and they make many translations available across multiple devices, so it’s a great resource worth checking out. And finally, another personal favorite of mine is to take a guided journey through the Bible in a year with Brian Hardin and the Daily Audio Bible (DAB) family. I’ve done this many years now, and I still hear from God in different ways all throughout the year. Brian is an ordained pastor (and this is his “church”), so following each day’s reading, he spends a few minutes (yes, just a few) talking about whatever God put on his heart to discuss from that day’s reading. This is an excellent way to go through the Bible, with a trained professional to help you make sense of it all.
OK, so back to the hope that can be associated with turning the calendar over to a new year. I’m right there with most of the world celebrating closing the book on 2020. But as much as I hate to point this out, nothing has really changed. Most (if not all) of the problems that were present in our world on December 31, 2020, were still with us on January 1, 2021. Why should the new year give us hope?
Maybe it’s not the new year that gives us hope per se, but rather the reset that it brings with it–the chance to remind ourselves that all is not lost, even if the outlook in the world remains bleak. We can recall that God is in control, even if it doesn’t look like it to us. We can and should (daily!) find comfort in God and His promises–there are gems of hope and comfort and peace woven all throughout the Bible. Here are just a few:
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.Romans 5:1-5 (NIV, emphasis added)
…we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf.Hebrews 6:18b-20a
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.1 Peter 1:3-5 (NIV, emphasis added)
Also, besides the tender message of hope woven throughout God’s love letter to us, He also assures of His protection. He wants nothing but the best for us. Here are some examples:
But you, God, shield me on all sides;King David, in Psalm 3:3-4, 7-8 (MSG)
You ground my feet, you lift my head high;
With all my might I shout up to God,
His answers thunder from the holy mountain.
Real help comes from God.
Your blessing clothes your people!
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NIV, emphasis added)
So go boldly into 2021, knowing that God goes before you as a shield. Hold onto the hope that only He can bring, and give to you personally. I pray that God blesses you richly in this new year, and that you (we all) will have the eyes to see those blessings.