New Every Morning

Is the new year feeling old already?

One reason the large majority of New Year’s resolutions go unkept is that people treat them like magic-lamp wishes: just say it and it’s as good as done. In the week between Christmas and New Year’s, most people experience a lull in the normal busyness of life, a period when dreams have time for free rein and when it feels plausible that the night of December 31-January 1 possesses some magical power to permanently erase all life’s struggles and failures. Of course, by the time the first week of January closes, most of us are back at the old grind, there are as few hours in the day as ever, and our desire to really work at change has experienced no miraculous surge. And our resolutions are put in a drawer and forgotten, until late December again raises the delusion that life-altering change can be quick and easy.

It wouldn’t matter if we moved New Year’s Day to March 31 or August 7: technically, every new day is like any other in that time moves at the same speed; habits put up the same fight against lasting change; and “in this world we will have trouble,” whether it comes in the form of a traffic delay or a major earthquake. No amount of wishing or good intentions will remove all obstacles of circumstance–or of our own laziness and impatience. If we really want things to change for the better, we have to work at it and work at it and work at it; persevere through the times when it seems we’re getting nowhere; plan our route and promise ourselves and God to stick to it, and then “keep [our] promises even when it hurts” (Psalm 15:4, NLT). And it will hurt–emotionally and mentally if not physically–until our brains get sufficiently used to the new habits to displace the old “comfort channels.”

Even when we know to trust in the Holy Spirit for the perseverance we can’t summon on our own, it’s easy to resent God for favoring the “no pain, no gain” approach to spiritual growth. Much of our desire to improve is actually selfishness: we make resolutions in the hope of achieving better health and wealth and less stress, and we want those end products when we want them–not in eight months, not in eight weeks, but in eight days or eight hours, before the endorphin rush of a new challenge has the chance to wear off and the forward surge slows to an agonizing plod. While few of us would give God a conscious ultimatum–“If You won’t do this my way, then I won’t do it Your way either!”–thousands of us choose the “then” by default, with the result that “it” doesn’t get done at all.

Thankfully, if we’ve fallen down already on this year’s resolutions–or, for that matter, if our last resolutions were for 2015 or 2012 or 1999–we don’t have to wait another eleven-and-a-half months to start fresh. We can start fresh literally any day of the year; as Lamentations 3:22-23 says, “The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.”

Many who know this much-quoted passage are unaware that its Scriptural context–both the whole chapter and the entire book of Lamentations–is a time of the worst trouble and struggle. Judah had just lost a war against Babylon; most of the country, including the capital city, was in ruins; and the Jews not killed or taken as prisoners of war were living in the interim between the time catastrophic disaster strikes and the time some governing organization restores a semblance of order: living quarters reduced to rubble; food limited to what could be scrounged from garbage or found growing wild; violence running unchecked; all purpose in life reduced to surviving one more day and clinging to the desperate hope that somehow, someday, things would improve.

Most of us have never had to deal with anything near such extreme circumstances; but perhaps that last clause strikes a chord. Who hasn’t, at one time or another, looked at his or her life and seen little more than one stressful day after another, no real sense of going anywhere–and had a fleeting thought along the lines of, “If I had no hope that there should be any more to life, I’d kill myself”? The typical response is to quickly drown such feelings by plunging back into the busyness of life–to seek brief satisfaction in the sense of “at least I’ve finished something successfully.” But isn’t there a better way to handle the temptation to despair?

God’s way is that we trust in Him, that we come to Him regularly for recharging, that we listen to Him to learn what changes need to be made and what actions need to be taken. He can give us a sense of resolve greater than any found in the rush of New Year’s excitement.

With Him, every new day is as good as a formal New Year.

(For more on the challenges involved in change and how to overcome them, see these articles: “7 Surefire Ways to Fail at Your New Year’s Resolutions,” and “3 Reasons Why Relying on ‘Just Do It’ Keeps You from Getting It Done.”)

 

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2 Comments

  1. Jerrie

     /  January 15, 2016

    `Good words. Thank you for encouraging words to begin our new year’s journey.

    Reply
  2. Jo Swank

     /  January 15, 2016

    Wow! Amen! I love this….thank you, Kathy. Beautifully written and insightful as always. : )

    Reply

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