Happy New Year’s Eve! Every new year brings with it the hope for positive changes and experiences ahead for us. We reflect on the past year and consider what didn’t go as we expected or how we didn’t do the things we originally planned. Maybe your year has been filled with more successes and joy than you even imagined, or maybe it was filled with changes that brought loss and pain to your heart. Either way, we still seem to have this innate sense of reflection when a new year is about to begin, but why? There is something so refreshing about newness in life. It is why so many people love the season of spring so much, there is new life blooming all around us. New life is exciting and reminds us that even when the ground is dark and cold, there is life beneath it just waiting to explode into view. I guess it’s much the same sensation as we approach a new year. Winter is raging, but it feels as though a newness of life is growing, waiting to burst forth into view. New life represents a replenishment of hope. It’s a burst of energy. It’s a new focus or new commitment. But mostly it is a new perspective or a new vision of what lies ahead.
For those who live by faith, we know that God promises us new life not just at the dawning of a new year, but in every moment and every breath. We know we can start again and make positive changes in life, and if we fail, we can still get back up and keep going. What I find interesting is how often we make our plans and then ask for God’s help in executing those plans. We use our reasoning to determine the best course of action in our lives. We reflect, refocus and set goals we believe will bring the positive changes we so desire. It all seems so godly until we step back and look at things more objectively in the light of truth. Things start to shift when we get out of religion and into Christ. Suddenly our plans get shaken up, and, if we aren’t careful, we can start thinking that everything is going wrong when maybe it’s finally going right. And as I say that, I just keep thinking about the wisdom of Proverbs 3:5, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not to your own understanding.”
Sometimes God replenishes us and refreshes us through the difficult processes of letting go. I recently took several months off from my official responsibilities at church, and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I prayed about it over and over, as it is not my nature to take a break of any kind. I always scheduled vacations and business trips around being able to be in my place of service, so to know God was leading me to take a break from what I’ve felt I needed to do really rattled my brain! The key phrase to that last sentence is “what I’ve felt.” When we insist on operating under what we feel instead of what God is asking of us, it creates the most challenging disjoints. For one thing, we are called to walk by faith, not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7). If God wants us to walk by faith and not in what we can see with our own eyes, I’m certain He doesn’t want us walking by what we feel either! Our emotions can wreak havoc on the direction God is leading us in any situation, because we want to feel like what we are doing makes sense. I’ll speak for myself here: I don’t want to feel like what I’m doing is stupid or that others may see me as making decisions that appear to be rash or thoughtless. I don’t want to appear irresponsible or flaky. I don’t want to follow God’s leading only to have others judging me to be things I am not. Since it is the holiday season, it reminds me of how Joseph probably had many of those same thoughts when he realized that none of his friends or family were going to believe (or be privy to) all the details of his pregnant fiancee or why he didn’t “put her away.” He knew how people would look at him or talk about him, but he walked the path God laid out for him and let God take care of the details.
So where is this going? It is going to the heart of how you or I want to start this new year or live the rest of our lives. Do we want to constantly be striving for all the things we think will make our lives better, or do we really want to walk where God is leading us? Are we willing to lay back into His arms and (His will) and let Him refresh and replenish us, or are we determined to spin our wheels attempting to replenish ourselves through the execution of our well-thought out goals and plans?
We really need to remember that each new year doesn’t just begin on January 1st. Every breath is the beginning of a new year. Every heartbeat is the beginning of what our lives will become. Living with that kind of refreshed perspective brings hope for a better future, but whether or not anything changes depends on how we view ourselves in comparison to our Savior. Do I really think I’m smarter than Him or have more resources? Do I really think I’m more enlightened or understand more? He knows and sees what I am unable to, and He has already planned ways around or through the maze of my life. I need to remember He is working things for my ultimate good. I need to stop trying to cut openings in the dead ends just because I think I’m smart enough to see a better way and strong enough to create it. I need to remember that I am replenished when I step back, breathe, and follow wherever He leads no matter how it appears to others. I need to remember the depth of my Father’s love for me, and that everything He does or allows is is bathed in that pure and perfect love.
I read a great meme the other day that said, “Sometimes faith will make you look stupid until it starts to rain. – Noah.” New life most often springs from the most challenging circumstances IF we are willing to follow where our Father leads. It may not always coincide with the way we would do things, and it may even look to some as though we have lost all sense of reasoning, but that’s the point! If God is leading you to do (or not do) something, then follow that leading no matter how it looks to the rest of the world. We tell each other things like, “Don’t let anyone distract you from your goals,” but the greatest danger or true distraction to achieving our goals is the manner in which we set them in the first place.
If you are like me, we need to let go of what we think is best for us, or the worry and fear that comes with what others might think of us, and trust what our Father says to us in His word: “For I know the plans I have for you,”says the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11) His plans for our successes far exceed our ability to create our own, and His replenishment trumps our “resolutions.” Every. Single. Time.