All you need to do is take one glance at the news, and you’ll see it. This blurry film of despondency that seems to cast a haziness on all we see and hear.
The world is chock full of threats and despair. Sadness abounds. Anxiety mounts. The political future of our country is uncertain. New fears pop up every day. Cancer rages on. Hardships press in on every side.
We’ve just come off the holidays and we’re still lingering in the revelry of family gatherings and festive celebrations. But sometimes when we look around, the standard phrase, "Happy New Year!" just doesn't seem to be sufficient.
In one day, I heard news that a friend’s husband left her, and a different friend’s dad died unexpectedly. Those friends of mine are not going to have a happy new year.
There’s far too much sorrow in this life for “happy” to be enough. We need more than “happy” – we need something lasting. Something eternal.
So what do we do when "Happy New Year" isn't enough?
Well, we can start by remembering these three truths:
1. Not only has God given us a new year, He has also given us new life in Him
Sometimes it’s easy to get so caught up in our day-to-day cares and responsibilities, we forget about where we’ve come from, and where we’re going. We get stuck with our noses to the ground, barely strong enough to focus on the next step. We get locked in the present and fail to remember the past or look ahead to the future.
Think for a moment about what your life was like before you knew Jesus. Now cast your mind to what your life will be like when Christ returns. “If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17) We have much to be thankful for, don’t we?
Jesus is coming back, and because of His death and resurrection, we are filled with hope. We no longer have to linger in the depths of despair – the God of light and love came for us, resides in us now through His Spirit, and is still coming for us. It’s incredible, isn’t it? This precious gift of new life in Christ is the greatest gift of all.
2. Not only has God given us a new year, He gives new mercies every morning
I’ll confess: I don’t love mornings. I wish I did. I’d love to be a morning person who wakes up early and cheerful, and bustles around with happy productivity. Instead I often wake up with a burdensome checklist pressing down on my chest, and I feel behind before I’ve even started.
I get overwhelmed by the situations and circumstances I can’t control, and am often tempted to despair. I start worrying about tomorrow, forgetting that each day has enough trouble of its own (Matthew 6:34).
In this new year, rather than letting the cares of the whole world weigh on me, I’m asking God to narrow my perspective a little. My prayer is that I would stop fearing the future and start focusing on God’s goodness here and now. “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him” (Lamentations 3:22-24).
The next time I wake up grumpy, I’m asking the Lord to remind me of these verses, and help me to rejoice in His mercies which are new every morning.
3. Not only has God given us a new year, He is making all things new
We might not see it when we look out the window. We might just see bulging garbage bins waiting on the side of the road, a dented mailbox, muddied remnants of snow in the street. It’s so easy to miss – this hope of renewal.
But “He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’” (Revelation 21:5) God is in the restoration business. It may not look like it right now, but soon and very soon there will be “new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind” (Isaiah 65:17, ESV).
Through Jesus, God is reconciling “to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross” (Colossians 1:20, ESV). It’s on this promise of renewal that we hang our hope.
When pain seeps in through every crack, when “Happy New Year” isn’t enough – we can look beyond. We can swipe away the foggy blur of media and muck, and gaze upon the clear promises of the One who gives new life. He is a kind and gracious God who gives new mercies every morning, and guarantees more than we can ask or imagine in the life to come.
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Kate Motaung grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan before spending ten years in Cape Town, South Africa. She is married to a South African and together they have three children. Kate is the author of the e-book, Letters to Grief, hosts the Five Minute Friday blog link-up, and has contributed to several other online publications. She blogs at Heading Home and can be found on Twitter @k8motaung.