By Rob Genin
Welcome to a new year. How are you processing 2024 so far?
For some, there are few things in life as invigorating as a fresh start. A chance to wipe the slate clean and begin again, or to keep building on a great year last year …. on the other hand, not everyone looks at January 1 with excitement. Those that work in sales may look at a new year and wonder – “Can I climb that mountain (my quota) again this year?” New starts can be hopeful or hard. Knowing that we may experience a wide spectrum of feelings at a time like this, I want to consider a word from the Bible that offers hope as we start the year:
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” Lamentations 3:22-24
These words are at the center of an important book of Old Testament poetry called Lamentations. It is a worthwhile study as a book, for there is amazing parallelism and structure in this poem. These words, situated in the exact center of the poem, are buried like a diamond amid a tortuous rubble of grief.
The author, Jeremiah, was an Israelite. His country had been decimated by a marauding country, the Babylonians. The capital city, Jerusalem, was razed to the ground, and its people had been mostly killed or carried away into slavery. Jeremiah wrote this poem reflecting on the devastation. That might seem like a sad topic to frame a reflection around, but sad things can be very instructive. There are several key points of Jeremiah’s perspective which can help us as we start a new year.
1) God is in control of difficult circumstances. If the past year has been hard, know that these are not random chance events. The trouble we face has a purpose. God promises that all things work for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). Jeremiah reflected thoughtfully on the trials of his people and saw God’s design even in the hard things.
2) God is not just in control – He is faithfully watching over us. It is precisely the hard things that frame Lamentations that make this phrase so precious: “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases”. It would be one thing to say that after an easy summer day. It is another to say it while beholding the smoldering ruins of your home.
3) Not only each year, but every day is a fresh start. Jeremiah affirms that God’s mercies are new every morning. Not just once a year, but every morning we have a chance to start again, seeking God afresh. The day is an important timeframe in God’s design – Jesus taught us to pray for our daily bread (Matthew 6:12), Paul said we should not let the sun go down on our anger (Ephesians 4:25). The great news of this is, if your year has already started in a difficult way, tomorrow is another new start, too.
In all of these words and affirmations, Jeremiah affirms, “The LORD is my portion”. It is not enough to look at a new year or day and say, “I get a fresh start”. You do. But all of this encouragement is grounded in the commitment that the new year and the new day and even our very lives belong to God. He belongs to us, if we belong to Him. If that is true of you today, take heart! If it is not true yet, consider – there will be nothing more important to resolve in 2024. Contact us if you’d like to talk about it!