Three Truths That Hold You (When The New Year Lets You Down)
What is it about a new digit appearing on the calendar that makes us think everything will be different now? After 42 years, you could assume that I would know better by now. Obviously, I don’t.
Somehow, a new calendar, or unwrapping my new diary, or even just that first time my muscle memory is challenged when writing out the date by hand — somehow it would seem, these otherwise mundane events exert a subtle trickery of mysticism over my mind. Suddenly, the opening days of the New Year seem bright and hopeful, where all the weariness of last year is washed away, the painful days forgotten, and the grief that cut so deep suddenly soothed. “This year will be better”, I think to myself.
That’s right. Two days. That’s how long it lasted before reality came crashing back down with a sarcastic roar — “Ha, you fool, you can’t get rid of me that easily!”
It doesn’t matter what the particulars of my dose of hardship are, because I’m sure by now, just a couple of weeks into the New Year, you’ve been confronted with your own harsh brand of reality, am I right? Sin that somehow slipped into the New Year just as easily as you did. Broken relationships that didn’t magically heal over the holiday break. Disappointments that hadn’t resolved themselves. I’m sure you could add to the list, because I can easily add to mine.
So what should we do? Bunker down for the long 11 months ahead, then rinse and repeat, hoping that this time a new decade might do the trick? We both know that won’t cut it, right? Well, here are three truths that hold you in times like these.
Suffering Doesn’t Travel Alone — So While Hardship May Arrive Today, You Can Expect Better Guests Tomorrow
The problem with pain is that usually produces short-sightedness. Difficulties often curb our ability to see beyond the present and we easily become absorbed by the immediate. But just because we can’t see beyond the horizon doesn’t mean other lands don’t exist. Here is what you and I need to remember: suffering doesn’t travel alone.
Romans 5:3-5 — Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Paul tells us that suffering has strange bed-fellows. Suffering travels in a group, and though he is often the front-runner, he does not tell the whole story. So while suffering may be writing the current chapter of your life, endurance will soon pick up the pen, followed by character, then finally hope. Paul says that there is no shame in this story, because while suffering has the first word, hope will have the last.
The Pain And Sorrow Of Today Has An Expiry Date — Their End Has Already Been Seen To
I know it’s early in the year, but I need you to consider ’tense’ for a moment—as in, past, present, and future. This is important, so stick with me. When Jesus was preparing his disciples for the reality of life without his physical presence, he said this to them:
John 16:33 — I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
This is where we need to notice the tense Jesus uses. What is it that Jesus wants for his friends? The answer is easy, right? Peace — He wants them (and us) to know peace in a continually present way. But what does he also say will happen? Tribulation — We will have hardship, that’s what this world has to offer. Now look at what Jesus says he already has done (past tense). “I have overcome the world.” So here’s how this works: You can know peace (present tense), even though you will face trouble (future tense), because Jesus has overcome the world (past tense). What is this truth meant to accomplish? Well that’s in the text as well: Jesus wants us to“take heart”.
The New Year Isn’t A Magical Portal, But It Is A Divine Signpost
I began this post by saying that I should know better, that I shouldn’t be duped by mystical expectations of the New Year, and, to a degree, I’m right. We know there isn’t anything magical about the changing of the year, but we also need to make sure that we don’t get carried away with our modern cynicism, because there is something special about the New Year. It isn’t a portal, but it is a signpost.
Every year as the calendar flips over to January 1, it points to a coming reality where the old is finally put away, and the new begins. Each New Year’s Day foreshadows a greater era when calendars will no longer be needed to count the passing of time. So though I still feel the effect of the passing of time, with all its pains, right now, the New Year reminds me that all this is just temporary. A greater day is about to dawn.
Revelation 21:1-5 — Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”…