I’ve always loved the thrill of buying a new journal—a literal clean slate.
I peel back the plastic packaging and smell the fresh blank pages with exhilaration. The possibilities seem endless. I excitedly begin to fill the pages with my thoughts, dreams, and goals.
But after only a few days, the journal lies untouched and unused simply because I don’t like my handwriting or what I wrote, or maybe it just loses its initial luster.
The novelty quickly wears off and soon I am no longer excited about writing in the now-abandoned journal. I then proceed to buy a new journal, repeating the same process again and again, resulting in a journal graveyard.
THE NOVELTY OF NEW
People are enamored with the idea of leaving the old things behind—the mistakes, the regrets, the hard things—and moving on towards the new to have a tabula rasa or a clean slate.
There's something about starting fresh that’s appealing to the human spirit. Perhaps that’s why New Year’s is so alluring. It's a feeling of starting anew, of leaving all the wrongs and mistakes in the past and turning a new page, or perhaps writing a whole new book. Our souls feel the weight of the past, and we desire to throw off the burdens of sin and begin again.
New Year’s is not something magical. It’s merely the start of a new calendar year. With its coming and passing there is no real absolution of the past, but we like to think there is. We think that though last year was engrossed in personal failures, we will resolve to be better, to try harder this year.
ALL IS VANITY
Every year people make resolutions regarding how they will change themselves and avoid the mistakes of the past. But often these resolutions aren't lived out past January 15.
We fail to eat less, to exercise more, to love better, to spend less, or to be the person we hoped we could be. These unmet resolutions are laid to rest in a graveyard of cemetery of sentiment, reminding us of our failures and our frailty.
Solomon, the writer of Ecclesiastes, knew this feeling all too well, as he once exclaimed in frustration: “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity. What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?” (Eccl. 1:2-3).
Solomon was renowned as the wisest man in all the world, yet he claimed that all was vanity. He searched and searched, but somehow he still found it all to be empty and meaningless.
In the midst of trying harder and striving to do better, Solomon realized there is no lasting value in the things we resolve to fix. They are meaningless.
The doing, doing, doing and going, going, going—it only adds to the burdens we long to throw off at the turn of every year.
A TRULY BLANK SLATE
With the coming and passing of every New Year we come to stare our failures and shortcomings in the face once again. Is there hope?
In the midst of his lamentations, the weeping prophet Jeremiah found comfort—and speaks comfort over us—in this unequivocal truth: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning, great is your faithfulness” (Lam. 3:22-23).
In God's economy, there is mercy for us every day. It never runs out.
Though we've messed up and will continue to mess up, each day is a new day. The past is forgotten. We can start anew. A clean slate is ours in Christ. Forget starting over every year—every day in Christ is a second chance!
This is not some Jedi mind trick. This is not ignoring the past; rather this is an actual cleansing, a true and much-needed absolution for our weary souls.
In Isaiah 1:18 God says to his people, “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” This indicates a complete cleansing of our past failures and sins.
When we come to God with our baggage, realizing that no amount of good works can cover up our guilt and sin, he washes them away through Christ's work on the cross. Jesus took our sins upon himself and was crushed for us!
“Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities” —Isa. 53:10-11
FREEDOM IN CHRIST
With this clean slate received through Christ we can wake up each day and put our feet on the floor with that brand-new feeling that’s far better than the momentary feeling of a new year. Resolutions are no longer weights hung about our necks, pulling us down and causing us to condemn ourselves when we fail to live under the pressure.
Instead, by understanding the truth of Christ’s redemption, we are free to love God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind, and to love others as ourselves. We can do everything out of gratefulness to God rather than trying to prove ourselves to him and to others.
With this newness that comes from Christ, we can exceed any of our resolutions and have a joyful heart in the process. We can rely on the Holy Spirit to empower us to do the things God has purposed for us, trusting that even if we fail to meet the resolutions and standards we’ve set for ourselves. We are still new, clean, and beautiful before God.
START EACH DAY ANEW
If you find yourself in the wake of failed resolutions and self-condemnation, I invite you into the freedom of Christ. I invite you to start each day anew by placing your hope in him, letting him be everything you need.
To the Christian who has a hard time wrapping their mind around the great extent of God's grace, remember that each day is free from condemnation, and each day God’s mercies are new.
Stamp this verse on your mind: “There is therefore now no condemnation [or accusation, disapproval, damnation, judgement, blame, denouncement, or doom] to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Rom. 8:1).
Remember that truth. Bask in that glory. And let it marinate in your mind and heart all year long!