I’ll be honest, the whole ‘New Years’ thing is tiresome to me in some ways. I know what you’re probably thinking – “of course you’re tired, it’s straight after Christmas and almost everyone is tired after Christmas”, but I mean more than that, at least, I think I do…
Don’t get me wrong, I certainly enjoy quality time spent with family and friends. Aside from that though, each time ‘New Years’ rolls round it feels like I scroll through my social media feeds on the last day in December and the first day of the New Year and see a plethora of articles, roundups/summaries and New Year posts – some reflective, others sort of angry at the year that’s been (and therefore expressing their joy at leaving it behind) and others talking about hoped or intended change or progression of some kind in the year to come. It’s sometimes hard to navigate and digest the many and varied messages from people sharing their thankfulness/frustrations/hopes and dreams/words of wisdom/top (insert number here) reflections on the year just ended, and so on. A few years back I wrote an article called 2017 might not be your ‘best year yet’… and that’s ok – and I believe what I wrote then still holds water today. I’m all up for positivity as we approach something new, but I’d much rather my positivity was based on a foundational hope in the goodness of God to work in and through me in the midst of whatever circumstances I face, rather than in my own ability to effect change in my life or in the world during this next 12-month period. I don’t say this because I think resolutions are inherently bad, or to give myself permission to take an apathetic approach to the year ahead, but because I know I am fallible and God is infallible, and even the good works I do are a result of God working in me (Philippians 2:12-13), so all credit should go to Him. In short, as we complete another trip around the sun, I want my biggest desire, my greatest hope and my source of daily strength and joy to stem from a life centred around God’s Son – the One who is before all things and in whom all things hold together (Colossians 1:15-20).
Last year, I set a goal to read 24 books. I read nine… so I guess that’s a case in point as to why I don’t want my success at meeting my goals and resolutions to be the barometer for how I see my year in 2020! This year, I am setting the same goal, however arbitrary it may be, and I have intentionally chosen to read ‘A Praying Life’ by Paul Miller as the first new book I will work through this year. I can’t really think of a better way to begin the year than investing in my understanding of prayer and better equipping myself for ‘connecting with God in a distracting world’, as the book’s subtitle puts it.
In thinking about whether or not I wanted to post anything to my own social media profiles at the start of a new year, and indeed a new decade, I felt the following excerpts from the prayers ‘Year’s End’ and ‘New Year’ in The Valley of Vision were likely far more valuable than any words I could pen, as my words could potentially just be a relatively unhelpful addition to the general social media ‘noise’. I encourage you to seek out a copy of The Valley of Vision – a Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions and pray through these prayers in their entirety.
“Thou hast loved me before the foundation of the world, and in love didst redeem my soul; … Thy goodness has been with me during another year, leading me through a twisting wilderness, in retreat helping me to advance, when beaten back making sure headway. Thy goodness will be with me in the year ahead; I hoist sail and draw up anchor, with thee as the blessed Pilot of my future as of my past.”…“O LORD, length of days does not profit me except the days are passed in thy presence, in thy service, to thy glory. Give me grace that precedes, follows, guides, sustains, sanctifies, aids every hour, that I may not one moment be apart from thee. … I launch my bark on the unknown waters of this year, with thee, O Father, as my harbour, thee, O Son, at my helm, thee, O Holy Spirit, filling my sails. Give me thy grace to sanctify me, thy comforts to cheer, thy wisdom to teach, thy right hand to guide, thy counsel to instruct, thy law to judge, thy presence to stabilize. May thy fear be my awe, thy triumphs my joy.”From ‘Year’s End’ and ‘New Year’ in The Valley of Vision, a Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions.
Once again, thanks for reading. Praise God that He is with us always, in every year and every season of life (Hebrews 13:5, Matthew 28:20). Here’s to remembering and holding this promise tight in the unknown waters of 2020 and beyond.