Imagine, in just two days we will step into the brand new year of 2021. This thought evokes a myriad of emotions for most people, influencing exactly “how” we step into the new year before us. I believe this is common for each new year we face, but given what we experienced in 2020, stepping into the new year with hope feels elusive. A few people I talked with, mentioned feelings of hope for 2021, but then quickly followed those sentiments with, “But what if 2021 is worse?”
While many of us would agree that other years offered us personal suffering and trials, 2020 brought global suffering, unrest and uncertainty. When we face personal suffering, while distressing, we find a measure of comfort and relief that the world around us seems “right”. Coming to the close of 2020, we naturally look forward to 2021 with hope, but also trepidation. Perhaps stepping into the new year with hope this time requires an altered perspective.
fleeing a year of grumbling and hardship
Running as fast as possible toward 2021, with the delusion that the new year promises relief describes many people I know. This thinking implies a tick of the clock and a turn of a calendar page changes everything. Oh if only it worked that way. At least one colleague honestly reflected they felt 2019 went poorly and they ran into 2020 thinking better days awaited them. More than disappointed, they now fear what 2021 has in the offing.
Yes, weariness and disappointment plague me too. I fell prey to the foolish “after this” mindset. Week after week, month after month of telling myself, “after this change, restriction, loss…things will improve”. Resulting in a semi-permanent state of disappointment and discontent. Ultimately creating the urge of fleeing that which I can’t control. But honestly, stepping into the new year with hope remains both my strongest desire and greatest challenge.
stepping into the new year requires a backward glance
“Out with the old and in with the new” pushes us ahead with little reflection on how we arrived to this moment of transition. It also leaves us with thoughts that the “old” has no value, while the “new” offers everything we want. I submit you can’t fully appreciate the new apart from valuing lessons learned from the old. I strongly advocate taking time for a year end review which offers the fullness of valuing the previous year in a practical way. Find full instruction on performing a year end review coupled with mindfulness in this post.
Taking a backward glance before stepping into the new year opens our eyes to God’s work in our lives, the lives of others and our world. We see clearly instances of His mercy, grace, love, provision and faithfulness, perhaps when we did not see them initially. Spending time reflecting on how God showed up throughout the year, creates space for gratitude which sets off a chain reaction that leads to hope.
“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.”
gratitude paves the new year with hope
Disappointment, anxiety, complaining and grumbling are normal responses to the circumstances presented to us by the year 2020. Giving thanks to God in the midst of hardship and distress does not come natural to us. If we offer thanksgiving to God in adverse circumstances, it results only because God Himself gave us the ability to do so. Gratitude not only touches everything, it changes everything it touches.
The apostle Paul illustrates this truth in Colossians 3:15-17. He exhorts us to let the peace of God rule in our hearts, and to be thankful. This thankfulness results in praise to God, releasing an aroma of thankfulness, which transforms others, our circumstances and testifies of God’s goodness to all. We may think of thankfulness as an affection resulting from God’s good provision for us, but it is in fact a discipline. We must choose gratitude, fighting to see God’s goodness in the darkest times. When we fight for gratitude in years like 2020, our hearts begin to fill with hope.
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.”
Stepping into the new year with hope
Hardship and distress birth gratitude. While the year 2020 offered much in the way of hardship and distress, every year brings a measure of the same. When we take time to fully acknowledge the trials, disappointments, and losses of each year through the lens of gratitude, we reap a harvest of hope. Sitting with God on the precipice of a new year, we can look back with gratitude for His presence, provision and protection in every circumstance.
Giving thanks to God in fair weather is good, proper and right. But real gratitude is not a fair weather friend. If you find you are unable to thank God in the valley, perhaps your mountaintop gratitude lacked genuineness. Perhaps it only indicated a contentment in the comfort and security of the moment. Those who thank God in the valley, had their hearts firmly set on God before they ever reached the valley.
looking forward with the confidence of hope
Stepping into the new year with hope means we have confidence in the fact that God goes before us. No matter how many more valleys we may travel through, we have plenty of reasons for thankfulness. Having passed time in reflection of the past year through the lens of gratitude, our perspective alters. Evidence of God’s faithfulness in every circumstance fills our heart with confident assurance of His presence with us in the new year.
Ultimately merging all hopes for the new year into one hope; that of knowing Christ more intimately through each circumstance that awaits us. With our hope focused on knowing Christ through each circumstance, we learn reliance on God, rather than in ourselves or events. That hope cannot fail regardless of what the new year offers. May we step into this new year armed with evidence of God’s faithfulness, and our hearts centered on the single hope of knowing Christ more deeply throughout.