The new year is quickly approaching and with it that predictable yet daunting question: “Are you making any new year’s resolutions this year?”
We feel a tinge of guilt.
On the one hand, we feel pressured to say, “Yes!” In a culture like ours, so focused on achievement and success, the prospect of leveraging the calendar for personal gain is too strong to resist.
But on the other hand, we’ve all been here before. We are well aware that the success rate for these sorts of resolutions isn’t high. Many of us have personally contributed to this statistic. Against this backdrop, the lure of seizing the new year, with all the benefits, honors, and opportunities therein, isn’t as enticing as it once was.
It is in moments like these where intentional meditation on Scripture becomes especially important and refreshing. God did not leave us by ourselves to independently navigate the narrow path to a life of righteousness and blessing. He has given us His Word to guide us, indeed, to be a light unto our feet, and we would do well to take up and read this gracious gift.
So what truth might we need to hear as we begin this new year? Let me suggest the following from the second Psalm of Ascent:
I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
Psalm 121:1-2 ESV.
In this passage, the psalmist acknowledges an important truth that many of us are reluctant to accept in our modern world: we need help! We cannot live this life alone. As human beings, we are too limited, frail, and dependent. And yet, we so often refuse to accept this reality.
I can’t help but think of the well-known poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling:
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you...
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same...
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
This poem sure is inspiring, and there is a reason it has secured itself so firmly in our cultural imagination: it is a secular benediction of self-reliance, stoic persistence, and human autonomy. It plants the idea in our minds that if we merely adopt the right mindset and attack our goals with the utmost tenacity, the world is our oyster to shape and form as we please.
Now don’t get me wrong--there are lots to be said for human potential, and all that great men and women have achieved over the years through a rare combination of intellect, persistence, and perhaps a little luck. Landing on the moon, after all, was no small feat. I can appreciate this poem, and the standard Kipling is to calling us up to meet.
But at the same time, it is precisely this message that leads so many people today to sorrow and despair. For, as I mentioned at the beginning of this blog, it doesn’t take long for the reality to hit us that we just aren’t as strong as we thought we were. We need help.
This help, let me encourage us, comes from God. God is our creator and provider. He knows each one of us by name. He is concerned with the most intricate details about us, including how many hairs rest on our heads. He has set the years each of us has to spend on earth.
What’s more, God is benevolent and wise. His plan is a good one. At this present moment, God is weaving together every event, every experience, every situation into a grand tapestry of good that he has envisioned. In His wisdom, He has set forth a path for each of us to tread. This path will be challenging at times. It won’t always lead where we would like to go. But we must remember as we set forth on this path that our vision is short-sighted and limited, and His vision is not.
So this year, as you look forward to 2020, let me encourage you to resolve to do one ultimate thing, even as perhaps you make several resolutions to do many little things: receive God’s help. Trust in His promises. Meditate on His Word. Let your requests be made known to Him.
Let me close with the words of the psalmist himself:
He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.
Psalm 121:3-8 ESV.
Listen to Psalm 121 sung by Susan Ashton here.
May God bless you and your family in the new year.