It’s an early morning, frigid and blustery outside my cabin. The awakening sun is chasing the stubborn, frosty mist out of my woods, dragging behind it a brilliantly blue sky. A robin cheerily bobs about the frozen grass and leftover patches of glistening snow in my back yard. I smile, wondering what he’s doing here. Doesn’t he know it’s January?
Off with the old. On with the new. A fresh start. A gut-it-out resolve. Goals. Change. Fixing the messes and broken places of yesterday. Beginning again. Getting it right.
A glimmer of hope, however elusive and fragile it may be, flickers inside each of us. Maybe this year will be different. Maybe this year I will be different—fulfilled, purposeful, peaceful.
And big business is on to us, ready to exploit our innate yearning to change up the past and begin once more. Sales circulars and stores are jammed full of exercise equipment and home organizational paraphernalia, not-so-subtly hinting to us that we should drop some blubber and clean up our clutter as the year commences. The promise seems to be, somehow, that thinner thighs and alphabetized cupboards will fix us or satisfy our desire for a new and improved 2019. The commercial world capitalizes on this January mindset, one we all embrace at some level, consciously or not.
Some of us write our new goals down so we can hold ourselves accountable to them. We even solicit friends to help us stay with it. We purchase self-help books or join the gym or scan the want ads or sign up for an online dating service.
Others make a mental list they will push through alone. If they give up and quit, no one will be the wiser.
Some desperately resolve that this year is going to be, has to be altered, but they don’t have a plan in place and may not know where to even begin to find whatever will bring them that something they know is missing.
Unhappily, some don’t even try. Why bother? Nothing satisfies. Nothing works.
Sorry to say, having a buff body, living in a showplace, finding a new set of friends, reading the right books, having a diversified portfolio, or even landing that dream job probably won’t bring you the lasting happiness and contentment that your heart aches to apprehend.
Whatever we do and however we do it, January is the month we gaze into an almost frightening expanse of 365 days. These days endlessly stretch out before us, the boxes on our calendars nearly all empty. Though some have given up, the vast majority of us have determined that something has to change; we will try to do better, to be better, and to make this year better than last, a year where we will find our elusive purpose and meaning.
And our success is dependent, for the most part, on what we fill those boxes with, how we choose to spend our precious minutes, hours, and days, on what or whom we think will make our lives better.
Sadly, that’s where the problem comes in.
We’re prone to make poor choices. Too often we expect the wrong people and the wrong things to give us life, to affect the change we need, to rescue us, to fix us. We cram our calendars full of futile and hollow relationships and activities, searching for genuine fulfillment, joy, and purpose for our existence. We know we were made for more—much more. But…
Happy New Year! Right.
Paul Tripp would say, and I agree, that this problem is sin. For one thing, sin causes us to be self-focused, making all of life about us, our needs, wants, and feelings. It’s a miserable life of jealousy and discontentment. But there’s more.
Sin also blinds us.
“It causes us to look horizontally for what can only ever be found vertically. So we look to creation for life, hope, peace, rest, contentment, identity, meaning and purpose, inner peace, and motivation to continue. The problem is that nothing in creation can give you these things. Creation was never designed to satisfy your heart. Creation was made to be one big finger pointing you to the One who alone has the ability to satisfy your heart. Many people will get up today and in some way will ask creation to be their savior, that is, to give them what only God is able to give.
“Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (Psalm 73:25-26).
“These are the words of a man who learned the secret to contentment. When you are satisfied with the Giver because you have found in him the life you were looking for, you are freed from the ravenous quest for satisfaction that is the discouraging existence of so many people. Yes, it is true that your heart will rest only ever when it has found its rest in him.
“Here is one of the most beautiful fruits of grace—a heart that is content, more given to worship than demand, and more given to the joy of gratitude than the anxiety of want. It is grace and grace alone that can make this idea of peaceful living possible for each of us. Won’t you reach out today for that grace?”
Won’t you start off this brand new year knowing that, because of God’s extravagant grace, you can finally find all that your heart has been searching for all year long?
Don’t keep scratching around like that sadly mixed-up and out-of-place springtime bird in my yard, searching and striving for something he will never find.
Let 2019 be the year you discover your identity, your purpose, and your satisfaction in your loving and true Savior.
Make space on your calendar for spending time with him. Get to know him intimately. Marvel at his beauty, his goodness, his greatness, and his glory. Revel in his grace to you.
Now that will be a really Happy New Year, won’t it?
(Quotes from New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional, Paul Tripp. January 6)
A great book to put on your calendar as a must-read every day to keep your thinking straight!