A new year is upon us: 2018. For many this marks the end of one season and the beginning of another—a chance to start over or a challenge to make this year even better than the last. New Year’s resolutions fill our minds and crowd our social media feeds as we celebrate “making it through” another year.
We should recognize that this can be both joyful and painful for many people. Like most holidays, New Years can remind us of deep loss in the midst of joyful celebration.
My point is this—for some people 2017 was the best year of their lives and for some it was the worst. Many experienced tragedy and loss, others found great success and victory. Some greet 2018 with a breath of relief—finally a chance to start over, to move past the horrors of this past year. Others mourn at the thought of a fresh start—this year can’t possibly be better than the last…I’ve peaked, now all that’s left is decline.
A Biblical Hope
So what does the Bible have to say about these things?
I don’t think there’s a single verse that cleanly addresses all of this, but there are certainly lessons and truths that can encourage both people—the one who mourns and the one who celebrates—as we walk into a new year.
To Those Who Celebrate the End of 2017
Maybe 2017 was one of the worst years of your life. Maybe you’ve entered the new year with an understanding that it can’t possibly get worse. Thankfully, God’s not quiet when it comes to suffering and loss—Read the end of 1 Peter:
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 5:6-11
There are three important things we should take away from this passage.
- Suffering is real, and we are not alone in it. (v.9)
- Peter’s response to suffering is humble submission to God. (v.6-7)
- God’s ultimate plan includes restoration and the end of suffering. (v.10)
Because the presence of evil can be overwhelming at times, we must be very intentional about where we place our trust. God is our rock, and His plan is always for His glory and our good (v.10-11).
To Those Who Mourn the End of 2017
We should never presume that God is done working in our lives. Even if 2017 was the best year of your life—even if God shattered your expectations of what was possible—He’s capable of doing abundantly more. The heart that doubts God’s ability to do even greater things in 2018 has missed this altogether.
Look at the testimony of Abraham in Romans 4. There is nothing God can’t do, and we should be excited about this truth as we walk into 2018.
2018: Pressing Forward
As followers of Jesus, our hope isn’t found in the circumstances of life as they change, but in the God who never does. He is constant, and this is our hope. As we walk into this new year, may we be encouraged and sustained by the truth of who God is—no matter what we’re leaving behind in 2017.
Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.