Solomon would likely roll his eyes a bit at our national obsession with January and new-year do-overs. I’m sitting here watching the Today show this morning, and I’m both amused and kind of disgusted that we Americans continue to believe that we’re only one book, one product, one class away from the answer to all our challenges.
I just watched a segment advertising a Roomba and a high-tech exercise bike one after the other, and I’m looking across the living room at my old twenty-pound Kirby vacuum cleaner with new appreciation for its built-in weight-training capabilities.
“The end of a matter is better than its beginning,
and patience is better than pride.” -Ecc. 7:8
Every year, every January 1, our American obsession with self-determination and “being our best self” means we dust off our gym shoes, charge up our heart rate monitors, and start over.
But by February 15, …it’s back to the old habits. The shiny new start we were given at 12:01 on January 1 assumes the old patina of apathy and less-than-perfect attempts at waking up early, going for that run, making it to that yoga class.
What if, however, we threw out the old American tradition of self-determination and believed the scriptural principle of getting a new start every morning?
“Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.” -Lamentations 3:21-24
This is from Lamentations, of all places, and the verses here come after a long, long list of reasons the author believes that God has turned His face from him. The whole list comes to a turn, however, with the realization that God’s not through with him yet, and that he has another chance.
The Lord’s compassions never fail.
Read on through Lamentations 3, and you’ll see that the writer’s hope is not in his own self-determination to do better. It’s in a knowledge and a belief that God will never fail himself. We have one job: to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. And waiting is exactly what we don’t want to do on January 1. Waiting is so essentially anti-American. Give us a to-do list. Tell us how to get rid of our belly fat, how to get more done in a day, how to put down the phone and pay attention to our kids. All of these are good things, but here’s the kicker:
“Who can speak and have it happen
if the Lord has not decreed it?” -Lamentations 3:37
The author of Lamentations has come to the end of himself. He’s not without hope: he’s without a way to dig himself out. He’s finding his way not by grabbing a shovel and digging, but by laying it all down, finding restoration in lament, and looking up for a way out. I think we would learn much by his example.
“Is it not from the mouth of the Most High
that both calamities and good things come?
Why should the living complain
when punished for their sins?
Let us examine our ways and test them,
and let us return to the Lord.” -Lamentations 3:38-40
There’s a to-do list that I can put my hope in. Take a few minutes today and journey through Lamentations 3. Let it turn your new year plans and hopes completely upside down, and when the gym shoes start collecting dust again in a couple weeks, remember those new mercies every morning. Remember His compassion, and rely on God’s continual restoration for your hope. And then, blow the dust off and go for that run.