A new year always comes at the heels of Christmas. In the words of John Lennon and Yoko Ono:
“And so this is Christmas and what have we done
Another year over, a new one just begun.”
The end of a year brings reflection and remembrance, and a new year ushers in fresh hope and purpose. What have we done? What will we do now? All of these ideas center around one central hub: the passing of time.
Though we always want to look back, we move ever forward in time’s current, year after year. This year, we can spend some of our time to stop and think. How can we make the most of our time when all it seems to do is sprout wings and fly?
How time shows us who we are
Scripture helps us grasp time’s fleeting nature. King Solomon knew that “A generation goes, and a generation comes. The sun rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it rises” (Ecclesiastes 1:4-5), for “Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow” (Psalm 144:4).
These two verses paint a picture of humanity we don’t always like to talk about. It’s a picture of weakness and powerlessness. A picture of dependence and near insignificance. But these scriptural truths are not meant to be depressing. Their purpose is to help us see ourselves accurately, especially in relationship to God.
David, too, teaches us the importance of confronting our own mortality: “O LORD, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath!” (Psalm 39:4-5).
What happens when we confront our mortality? We grow in humility and godliness. When we accept the fact that we are creatures, we are standing in a place where God designed us to be. When we live inside God’s purposes for us, then we attain more peace in our lives. When we accept the truth that we are finite, that we can’t do everything and control everything, we make way for peace this New Year.
At the same time, when we worship God as the Creator, when we acknowledge and celebrate his power in our lives, then our relationship with him flourishes. When we see God’s power in others’ lives, we can let go of our need to control them. We’re not afraid to cry out with David, “O Lord, make me know my end.” Because we know our place, we can welcome God to order our hearts and minds, our lives and relationships.
When God entered time
As we ponder our limits this New Year, Christmas appears even more miraculous. The Creator became like his creatures. The infinite became finite. The ruler of time constricted himself into a timeline. Jesus was (and is) “God with us.” And when Jesus was on earth he instructed us on how to use our time. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:34).
Jesus is telling us to live in the present. Worrying about the future does nothing. Worrying about the past does nothing. We can’t change the past and we only have so much power to change our future. Many aspects of our lives are beyond our control. But God knows all these things. As Jesus said:
“But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all” (Matthew 6:30-32).
Each new year it’s easy to fall into two traps. We can stay stuck in the past. We can have a hyper-focus on the future. But Jesus tells us that the place of peace and rest is the present. Focus on today! It has enough troubles of its own and enough work for us to do. Our heavenly Father promises to give us daily bread, the nourishment and sustenance we need for right now.
God has not given us tomorrow’s rations because it’s not tomorrow yet. But the One who is the same, yesterday, today, and forever promises to meet us at that time—tomorrow—with his grace and power. Until then, let’s ask him for our bread today.
Why you don’t need more time
God’s grace is available for our past, present, and future because his timeline is not like ours—he is not constrained by time. Moses recognizes this truth about God in Psalm 90: “You return man to dust and say, ‘Return, O children of man!’ For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night” (verses 3-4). God’s perspective on time is hard for our dusty minds to grasp.
Later in the Psalm, Moses says, “We bring our years to an end like a sigh. The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away” (9-10). In the midst of this sobering reminder, Moses implores God to “Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (12).
Moses seems to think that this wisdom will be the key to dealing with our short, finite lives. What is this wisdom? That in seeing our frailty and weakness we would gain a greater understanding of our eternal God. A wise heart is in awe of God. Our God limited himself to frail humanity at Christmas, so we could experience a “new year” in his resurrection. He is making all things new—even our lives (Revelation 21:5).
As we ponder time’s passing this new year this is marvelous news. In wrestling with our mortality and accepting its limitations, we find that where we are in the moment is where Jesus calls us. Numbering our days helps us gain the wisdom that can lead to a truer view of God.
Another year is over and a new one has just begun. Instead of asking, “What have we done?” let’s ask instead, “What has God done?”—and then respond in gratitude to the One who continually gives us a “new year” of the soul.
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