“And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ And he said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.'” Revelation 21:5-6
There is something about the start of a new year that is transforming. New day, new month, new year, (new budget-ha!) And for me, it helps when it is sunny on New Year’s Day. We’re at the top of the calendar with 364 days to come. It’s an adventure.
But what if it isn’t sunny that day, or on January 2nd the budget still doesn’t pay the bills, or the 364 days to come are known to be already brimming with likely pain, overwhelming challenge or stinging regret? What do we do when the coming year is merely new, but not . . . happy?
There are no easy formulas, no series of steps that can make an aching heart less vulnerable to the despair that can so, so easily fog our sight and minds. (In fact, I am usually suspicious of people who offer short recipes for personal joy.)
But I am learning something that is making a difference in the “quality of the day.”
If you’re breathing, you’re probably wearing some deep dents from living this life. Like the wrinkles in tin foil, even after the passage of time or their being straightened out, these dents don’t just fade away. They can change the cadence of our steps and make us wary of change or challenge.
Except for the presence of the Living God, in the process of taking on dents or having them repaired, we could become consumed in a hopeless despair.
The greeting, “Happy New Year” could be heard laughing at us over its shoulder on its way into the night.
But our God won’t tolerate that. In His great love and compassion, He becomes more than a formula or series of steps to joy. He becomes present, Himself, with us in our circumstances. As Carl Jung said, “Bidden or not, God is present.”
And the budget doesn’t suddenly balance.
The test results aren’t changed.
The wayward child doesn’t always come home.
The rain often continues.
But somehow, in the circumstances of our days, something is different. We become aware of Another who is present with us, pouring strength and resolve into the desert of our souls. We are not alone. Hope finds us.
The transformative power of our faith-life is typically learned in these bitter dents of grief and often found among the smoking ashes of things gone wrong.
This is the great mystery of Emanuel: God With Us.
I can’t explain this mystery as much as I can testify to its reality. In the dark moments of my life, I have known the encouragement of Jesus, the Present One. Not with an audible voice or visible apparition, He has come in an idea for a next step; a thought to simply keep going; the encouragement to believe that eternal purposes may one day be understood; a soft ask to trust His perfect wisdom.
Peace and joy are found not in a place or a plan, but in a Person and His promises.
So as this year begins, while I am delighted with the morning’s bright, winter sunrise pouring across the frozen grass, and though my soul is lifted by the sharp edges of a crescent moon riding on a black sky of a thousand stars, my hope is in the steady companionship of the Living One, Jesus, who never leaves, always stays, always endures: the One who makes the life-dents wearable and the dark nights shorter.
The One who is making all things new.
“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:19