A little less than a month ago, people all around the world celebrated New Years. Some of us stayed up till midnight; some of us were smart and went to bed. Regardless of how we celebrated, I think you’d be hard pressed to find even a single household that didn’t at least recognize that the New Year was here, and didn’t feel, to some degree, that it was something to celebrate.
There’s something about another year, another twelve months, another January, that makes us feel hopeful. I cannot help but wonder if these raucous midnight parties, celebratory fireworks, and late night movies, aside from an excuse to celebrate and extend the cheer of the holidays, finds its root ultimately in the deeper inner workings of the human heart. For whatever reason we may consciously celebrate New Years, all of us, all humans, instinctively know that something new is needed in this broken world, and that whatever this new thing is, it must also be better.
The world we live in is broken. You don’t have to be a genius to figure that out. You don’t even have to read the Bible to know that. You just have to be human. You just have to have felt pain, or lost a loved one, or experienced the fallout of a shattered relationship.
And in the midst of all this brokenness, there is an acute instinct of the human heart that tells us the solution to our pain can be found in something new, and that whatever that new thing is, for it to really fix all of our problems, it should also be better. It is my belief that the holiday of New Years, and even Christmas and Thanksgiving, taps into that universal dream for the new and better thing.
For 363 of the 365 days of the year, your average Joe is running around like a chicken with their head cut off. We are busy people, and in all our busyness we forget, or at least somewhat shove aside, our longing for something more.
But when the holiday season rolls around, and people start singing about peace on earth, and we stay up till midnight just to see and experience with our own eyes and hearts the coming of another year, something inside of us stirs. Like a waking giant, our dissatisfaction with how things are, our wanting of something new, stands up to its full height and screams for our attention. And for once, miraculously, we don’t ignore it. We embrace it. We hope.
After all, it’s a new year isn’t it? Maybe this year we will finally find what we are looking for!
But then, January hits. Normal life resumes. We go back to work. We go back to school. Our glamorous projections of the New Year prove to be sorely unfounded. We find we are no better off than we were before. The giant of our unsatisfied souls, smothered in deadlines and demands, settles back into sleep. Its slumbering body is a dead weight in our hearts. We can still feel it, even if we like to pretend it isn’t there. We find ourselves restless.
The search begins.
We empty our bank accounts. We job hop. We get a haircut. We change up our diet. We set goals for self-betterment. And the constant striving and looking and searching and not finding leads to a constant reshuffling of life, or a futile clutching that tries to keep the job or the car as new and shiny as they seemed when we first discovered them.
It never works.
No matter the initial joy at such discoveries, in the end it is all disappointment. What is new fades. It becomes clear that what we have acquired is no better than what we had before.
We realize, sometimes too late, that we placed our hope in the wrong things…
At least, that is what happens if we do not know what it is we long for.
You see, friends, the experience I just described, the awakening of hope and the vain search for the fulfillment of that hope in the things of this world, that is the experience of one who does not know the Truth. Of one who does not know Christ. For those outside of the faith, the longing for something more constantly lodges itself in the fleeting treasures of this world. New things, but things that are not better.
But for those of the faith– the longing for the new and better thing can take shape. Solid form, tangible and real– into something that will never fade. Into something better than a New Year or a new career.
Friend, I am writing this post because I want to remind you that, if you are a Christian, the hope that was awakened in you over the holidays is not like the world’s hope. It is not nameless or unknown– never to be satisfied or fulfilled. Your hope is a satisfiable hope. The post-holiday depression need not drive you to an endless search. You have already found what your heart longs for.
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to earth to satisfy your hope. The giant that screamed for your attention during the holidays and reminded you of your dissatisfaction with this broken world can be quieted in the presence of the carpenter from Nazareth. For he, in himself, has brought the new and better thing: eternal life, knowing and having a personal relationship with him (John 17:3).
You are no longer isolated and enslaved to sin. You have been freed and your heart has been knit to the heart of your elder brother for all of eternity, never to be torn asunder. You may wander, but God’s steady hand guides you. You may fear, but in his wisdom and love he has a plan for you. You may hurt, but he is here to comfort you. You may be weak, but he will give you strength.
You are a new creation.
You are a better creation.
Hope has been made incarnate. For you. For me.
And yet, while our longings have already found their home in Jesus Christ, they have not yet been put to rest.
We still ache.
We collapse on our beds after a long day of battling sin and long to know that the war is over. Our hearts throb as we watch a loved one battle illness, or even battle it ourselves, as we wish for healing once and for all. We sympathize with Paul, who said in Romans 8:22-23: “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruit of the Spirit, groan inwardly…”
But, friend, take heart. Even these groanings will be satisfied. Because unlike the world, our groanings are directed at something. We long for what we know is coming, not for what we cannot find. Paul continues: “we ourselves, who have the first fruit of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”
Paul anticipated a time when what was broken would be healed. When our bodies would be redeemed. When we would be made complete– and so would our hope. Because not only did God promise in Philippians 1:6 that he will complete the good work that has begun in you, but God has also promised that he will return.
Jesus Christ, who first came as a suffering Savior, will come again as an all-powerful, conquering king, vanquishing the devil, killing sin, establishing justice, and healing every broken thing. Redeeming your body. Redeeming the world.
This life is not all there is. This year is not all there is. Paradise is on its way!
I think John says it best:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth … And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”
All things– new. You are not made, Christian, for a new year. You are made for a new world. A world that is coming as surely as if it were already here. Yes, friends, something new is coming, and it will be a thousand times better than what we could ever imagine!
Hope Lived Out
The desire for the new and better thing that was awakened in you over the holidays will be brought to its fulfillment. But until then, do not sit on your longing, wasting in waiting. Channel it. Seize hold of your longing and run the race well. Hope is not meant to be held in place. Hope is meant to be used. Hope is a weapon. Hope is meant to be lived out. Live for what you hope for. Live for eternity.
Follow the example of Paul, who said in Philippians 3:12-14 that though he had not yet obtained the resurrection of the dead (in other words, the hope of eternity) he pressed on because Christ Jesus had claimed him as his own, “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
That is your call, Christian. You have experienced something new and better, and one day you will experience the completion of that new and better thing. But until then, dig in deep. Press on. Strain. Work. Live for Christ and eternity, not for the inferior treasures of this world. Keep your eyes on the prize.
Perhaps you are experiencing the post-holiday slump. The settling depression as normal life resumes and the hope and highs of the holidays suddenly become the valleys and plains of everyday life. Perhaps you had hoped that this year would be better, and yet these past few weeks of January have not delivered. And you’re disappointed.
Your hope is not in this New Year anyway. You have been promised something far better. 2022 will not satisfy you. It will not always go the way you want. But what does it matter, when eternity is waiting?
This is, indeed, a New Year. Another year. Another opportunity. Let 2022 be the year that you shine your light like never before. For though this year may not be better, you may, by God’s grace, live better in it.