Well, here we go again - making our lists of all the things that we hope to accomplish in this New Year! What is it about the beginning of a new year that creates such a swell of hope and anticipation in the hearts of so many, where just 24 hours earlier there was only disappointment and despair? When you think about it, the beginning of a new year is not endowed with any special powers. It does not come with a special infusion of strength or youthfulness, or even prosperity that so many of us long for desperately.
Now, let’s be clear, most of the resolutions that we have already put on our list for 2017 were on last year’s list as well. And if we’re going to be brutally honest, they were also on our 2015 list. A recent study by British psychologist Richard Wiseman found, after following 3,000 people for a year, that 88% of them failed to achieve the goals they had set. Again the question begs to be asked, “why do we continue to put ourselves through this annual exercise in futility?” I will tell you why: Although there really isn’t any significant change from the last day of the year to the first day, the New Year gives us a sense of closure to the past. In many ways, I would liken it to the weekly Sabbath that allows us to pause and take a break from the previous 6 days, even if it is only a mental one.
I believe the apostle Paul said it best in his letter to the church at Philippi when he wrote,
“…but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13, 14).
I don’t believe that Paul is saying that he is able to actually forget his past, although I am sure many of us would love to be able to do that. But what I believe he means is that he is not going to allow himself to remain a prisoner of his past. And by prisoner, I don’t mean just doing the things that brought him pain, such as his past mistakes and failures, that like most of us, he would simply rather forget. I believe he is also referring to the many successes that he experienced, that could place him in a position to become complacent and ultimately prevent him from accomplishing what God has in store for him in the future.
So although there is no “special” power that comes with the unveiling of a New Year, there is something that is inherent in each new day, whether it is the final day of the year or the first, and that is hope. As I’ve said many times before, it’s not our job to keep hope alive; rather it is hope that keeps us alive. Each time the sun rises in the east it gives us a reason to hope. It gives us a reason to believe that today will be better than yesterday, even if it means that the only change we experience is in ourselves.