The way the holidays fell on Sunday this year made everything even more discombobulated for me than usual. Instead of Sunday church services at our church, we had Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve services and no services for two Sundays in a row. Throughout New Year's Day I kept forgetting it was Sunday. The only time we have a relaxing, stay at home and do nothing Sunday is on those rare occasions when snow shuts everything down in our city. On Monday, January 2nd, I thought that normal life in the new year would begin, except it was the official New Year's holiday for banks, the postal service, and most places of business. Finally, Tuesday, January 3rd arrived, the day when the holidays were officially over and the new year could begin with all of its endless possibilities.
Who doesn't love new beginnings? Every new year, whether you're one to make resolutions or not, most of us think of the new year as a fresh start. We make our inner vows to eat healthier, love better, work harder, read more...this new year, this new beginning, is our chance to let go of the baggage and negativity of the past and to embrace the hope that we really can change, that things for us really can be better than the reality that we are now experiencing.
The reality for me? Four days into the new year and I still couldn't walk by a salty spicy bowl of chips and salsa without indulging. I then came face to face with the fact that the top two items on my prayer list are the same two things I've been praying for longer than I care to remember. Four days into the new year and I began to feel the hope that this year would be any different than the last sliding through my fingers as I realized that the flip of a page on the calendar didn't make a single one of my problems, weaknesses, challenges or frustrations go away. At this point, satan began to whisper his lies to me, fanning the flames of worry, anxiety, fear, hopelessness and frustration. he's an expert at kicking us when we're down isn't he? There's nothing he'd like more than to ensnare us in a bad case of the new year blues. he wants to make me and you give up before the year has barely begun.
How do you and I face 2017 with hopeful expectation, even while facing the reality that the beginning of a new year doesn't automatically sever the past struggles and problems we faced in 2016? God graciously used a scripture to remind me of where my hope for a fresh start and real and lasting change comes from. It doesn't come from resolutions to be better and try harder. It doesn't come from starting a new calendar planner and determining to be more organized and a better steward of my time. It doesn't come from joining a gym and going on a juice detox diet. It doesn't come from decluttering the house and determining to embrace minimalism. I've tried many of those things, and I bet many of you have as well. What I have found that helps me not to lie down and give up, is staying connected to hope, to the Source of hope and staying connected to the Source of patient endurance, that steadfast perseverance that helps us to not give up.
"For whatever was thus written in former days was written for our instruction, that by [our steadfast and patient] endurance and the encouragement [drawn] from the Scriptures we might hold fast to cherish hope.Now may the God Who gives the power of patient endurance (steadfastness) and Who supplies encouragement, grant you to live in such mutual harmony such full sympathy with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus," Romans 15:4-5
In the Old Testament, the word for hope is related to the word for cord. Here in Romans 15, we are reminded to hold fast to that cord of hope. One way this passage indicates that we do that is to draw encouragement from the scriptures. Just as healthy food is necessary to properly fuel your physical body, the Word of God is the fuel needed to keep hope alive and strong in you. I love that this verse also promises us that God will give us the power of patient endurance and will supply us with encouragement. Four days into the new year and I already need some of that patient endurance and encouragement in order to keep pressing on. Thank God that He has a never ending supply for us to draw from! I don't want to be a quitter, and I bet you don't want to either. Next year at this time, I want to look at 2017 with satisfaction that I didn't give up and that I saw real growth and progress in my life. Now, let's do this!