New Year’s Hopes; New Year’s Failures

Posted by Paul Suckling on January 3, 2012

The beginning of a new year is often a time of great optimism and hope. New Year’s resolutions often set high goals and expectations for the year ahead. But, of course, there are lots of reasons for pessimism. How should we approach the new year?

When I was a small boy, I recall standing at the third floor window of our home in north London late on New Year’s Eve. I was listening for the faint sound of the 12 strokes of the clock known worldwide as Big Ben.

We were in the midst of World War II. Hearing the clock that had survived the bombing of central London was always reassuring. I was especially excited to hear its deep resonating clangs sounding the beginning of a new year.

It was a dark time, but as children we didn’t always focus on that. Our play areas many times consisted of areas where houses once stood, and the rubble provided a place to have fun. Building bonfires and having camps on these wrecked areas was great fun for us.

Even in the midst of war, we looked forward with hope.

New Year’s Eve today

In New York City’s Times Square, a million plus people gather to watch the crystal ball drop as everyone counts down: 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1! Then everyone yells out, “Happy New Year!” With huge rejoicing and cheering, people hug and kiss and celebrate—all in hopes of a better year ahead.

Hope springs eternal

The natural human expectation is that no matter what is happening in the world, things will get better. We hope that wars will end. We believe business will pick up again, and companies hope that they will expand, make a profit and begin to employ others. We want to believe the future looks brighter.

My own experiences in life—as well as many others’ experiences—tended to support this optimistic view. World War II did end, and some families had more money to spend and more goods to buy and, as soon as rationing of food was stopped in 1951, more candy to eat!

As the fighting stopped and Europe recovered from the worst of all wars, trade began to improve internationally. Travel increased, and it seemed that life would just continue on the road to recovery and prosperity.

Wishing each other a “Happy and Prosperous New Year” was more than a hope—it was an expectation.

New Year’s resolutions

This optimistic approach can also be seen in many of the New Year’s resolutions so many people make. They feel they are really doing a worthwhile thing by making a promise about what they will change or what they will accomplish during the next 12 months.

They are often well-meaning sentiments, but how many will truly see these promises through? It’s often just seen as a bit of fun that’s soon forgotten. Many readers who are honest with themselves know that many of these promises are really just wishes or pipe dreams.

Reality strikes back

Too often the hopes for a new year are soon dashed by reality. The post-war upward swing of prosperity and optimism has now been trending in the opposite direction. Today’s news carries reports of continuing and escalating conflicts and economic crises. And too soon we fail in our well-intentioned resolutions and goals.

If we put all our trust in human beings—including ourselves—our optimism will eventually be disappointed. The Bible makes it clear that while man can make great inventions and accomplishments, in the long run mankind’s selfish choices lead to more conflict and suffering, ultimately bringing mankind to the brink of destruction (Matthew 24:21-22).

But if we put our trust in God and His promises, our optimism will be rewarded. God has a plan that is reflected in the festival seasons of the Bible, not the humanly devised holidays like New Year’s Day. God’s new year actually begins in the spring. Learn more in our booklet From Holidays to Holy Days: God’s Plan for You.

A challenge for 2012

In setting goals for our lives, it is important to consider things from God’s perspective. How will our goals fit with His plan? Our challenge in setting and achieving good goals includes:

  • Basing our plans and goals on God’s Word—the Holy Bible.
  • Following through—applying self-control and endurance and seeking God’s help to achieve those goals.

If we do these things, turning our life over to God, we will have every reason to approach the future with optimism and real hope.

For more about the hope God sets before us, see The Mystery of the Kingdom.

Paul Suckling is a Church of God, a Worldwide Association, pastor from England who now lives in New England.

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