2015: New Year’s Reflection

I never would have dreamed of hearing a theologically thought-provoking idea on the Food Network channel…but boy did I ever get one.  It was New Year’s Day 2014 – they were airing a New Year’s Day special where some of the chefs got together to cook food while chatting about their own New Year’s resolutions.  One of the celebrity chefs, Sunny Anderson, was asked what her New Year’s resolutions were.  She replied with this (paraphrased): “Well, I don’t really make New Year’s resolutions.  I have a faith that says everyday is a new day, full of new mercies and new opportunities for me to start over.  Everyday is New Year’s day to me!”

Stop.  Read that quote again – take a deep, deep breath (inhale…exhale), and then read it again.

I was utterly taken aback by that quote because I think there’s so much truth that can be gleamed from it.  I want to use this quote as a starting , foundational point in order to briefly share just a few of my own thoughts and ideas about New Year’s Day based on a passage of Scripture that have been percolating in my mind all day.

The passage I thought of when I heard Sunny’s quote was Lamentations 3:22-24 – “The faithful love of the Lord never ends!  His mercies never cease.  Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning.  I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in Him!’” (NLT).  Could this be the passage Sunny thought of when she talked about how we can experience new mercies and new opportunities everyday?  I have no idea…but nonetheless, I think it’s worth taking some time to ponder the passage anew.  

Let’s zoom in on the last clause – His mercies begin afresh each morning.  Think about it – each and every morning we wake up, we get a chance to take solace in knowing we serve a God who is faithful, loving, and who continuously pours out new mercies, new opportunities, and second chances.  I can’t even begin to describe how massive these few verses were for the weeping prophet, Jeremiah, to write in Lamentations.  The Hebrew word for lamentation‘Ekahdidn’t just mean a brief time of sadness or crying; it was a word commonly used at Israelite funeral dirges.  This sets the stage for the context of the entire book – Jeremiah is weeping bitterly because of the recent destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC by Babylon.  After so many warnings of judgement and destruction from prophets called by God, the people of Israel were thrown into captivity.  

Read the entire book – it is utterly depressing and full of sorrow from start to finish.  These verses, and a few others, are the only glimpses of hope in the entire book, and they occur smack-dab in the middle of the book.  This is where the structure of the book comes in – it’s an arch structure, with Lamentations 3:22-24 as the peak of the arch.  Lamentations 1-2 and 4-5 are bleak, but Lamentations 3 speaks of the “hope for the people of God: the chastisement would only be for their good; a better day would dawn for them.”  Theological scholars such as John MacArthur suggest that the point of having this type of arch structure to the book is to draw the attention and focus on Lamentations 3 – the chapter of new life, new hope, God’s faithful love, and new mercies every morning…to focus, not on the destruction which has happened, but on the reality of hope, faithful love, and new mercies.

I couldn’t agree more.  In Ecclesiastes, Solomon writes this:  “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven” (Ecc. 3:1 NKJV).  After listing all the designated times for things, he goes on to say, “He has made everything beautiful in its time” (Ecc. 3:11a NKJV).  I absolutely love that verse; it reminds me of a song I used to sing all the time in Sunday School:

“In His time, In His Time
He makes all things beautiful in His time.
Lord please show me every day
As You’re teaching me Your way
That You do just what You say
In Your time.

In Your time, In Your Time
You make all things beautiful in Your time.
Lord my life to You I bring
May each song I have to sing
Be to you a lovely thing
In Your time.”

For the believer in Christ, this could not be a more beautiful truth.  It’s also echoed by Paul in the New Testament: “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6 ESV).  Paul intentionally uses the words begangood, and complete in that specific order because that is the same order that they appear in the Genesis account of creation (Paul is using the Principle of First Mention).  What he’s saying here is this: the same creative expression that formed the entire universe and everything in it out of nothing is unleashed in us through our trust in what God is doing in the world through Jesus Christ (Rob Bell, What We Talk About When We Talk About God).  Which reminds me of anther Sunday School song:

“He’s still working on me
To make me what I need to be
It took him just a week to make the moon and stars
The sun and the earth and Jupiter and Mars
How loving and patient He must be
‘Cause He’s still workin’ on me” -The Hemphills

Let’s wrap things up here.  What does all this Bible commentary on Lamentations have to do with a Food Network chef’s quote about New Year’s time?  I’m glad you asked.

First, it means that everyday is a new day.  I’m not talking about the mushy-gushy-feel-good-prosperity gospel; I’m talking about the reality of who God is – a God who continuously ushers new mercies into each and every day.  What does this mean?  You don’t need to wait until January 1st to make new resolutions.  Of course, this doesn’t mean you can’t make resolutions on January 1st, but it does mean that you don’t have to limit yourself to making sincere resolutions only one day out of the year.

Second, we’re all a work in progress; we’re all on a journey.  According to statistics from the University of Scranton’s Journal of Clinical Psychology, only 8% of people are successful in keeping their resolutions.  Why?  My guess is that people simply give up entirely on keeping their resolutions as soon as they make a mistake and break them one time.  Relax, friends.  We’re all works in progress; He’s still working on us…in His time.  You will probably break your New Year’s resolutions at least once – breathe, it’s going to be okay.

Third, remember that hope is real, and is present even in our darkest times.  God never promises that there won’t be dark times throughout our years, but He does promise that He will be with you in the midst of them to carry you through them, even if those dark times are a result of complete and utter disobedience to Him, as was the case with Israel.  God is faithful, and His love is faithful.  We can trust that!  He wants us to trust that.

As you make your New Year’s resolutions, my hope is that you would pray this prayer: “Teach us to number each of our days so that we may grow in wisdom” -Ps. 90:12 (GW).  Believe it or not, our days, months, and years are numbered.  Let’s make the most of them by growing in wisdom, wisdom that comes by yielding and surrendering our hearts to the new mercies of the Lord each and every morning.

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