- Eldon Peterson
New Year, New Hopes
Tomorrow we will need to change our calendars to 2016. How long will it be until you naturally start writing the correct date? I suppose for some, the transition is natural, even easy; for most of us though, it takes some time.
Time – have you given much thought to the meaning of time? We use numerous idioms to express our dilemma with time. Time waits for no one. It marches on. It flies by. It escapes us. We understand the expressions but they do not offer us much help in understanding time. For example, what does it mean to say that “Time marches on”? I appreciated Craig Mansfield’s answer, “To march, is to walk in the army, to a steady rhythm. One!! two, three four... ONE!!! two, three, four.......March on, means walk in that way, and keep going. Time marches on, means time keeps passing, in a way that's uniform and doesn't stop for anyone.”
Time waits for no one; if you wait too long, when you turn around you will find it gone. These may seem to paint a bit of a fatalistic view of time, but the truth is, “Ready or not, 2016 is coming!” Does that bring you comfort or does it cause you concern?
Often we struggle to look forward to our hopes for the New Year with anticipation because we are consumed with the failures of the past year. This is reflected in how our resolutions are influenced more by the missed opportunities of the past year than by embracing the hope of future possibilities in the New Year.
The top five resolutions from 2015 were: Stay fit and healthy; Lose weight; Enjoy life to the fullest; Spend less, save more; Spend more time with family and friends. Who would fault any of these and yet we repeat the same list every year. Why do we fail to keep our resolutions? Maybe the reason is that we have failed to integrate God into our understanding of time.
The dictionary says that time is “the indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole.” Another definition says that God has given us the portion of duration called time, the space in which all the operations of nature, of animals, and intellectual beings, are carried on. Understanding God’s role in time can enable us to be more successful in living out our desires for the future.
Ecclesiastes tells us, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2) Solomon argues that God has appointed a time for everything, from birth to death, from one season to the next. However, it is here that we can wrestle with our definition. Knowing that God has appointed these can cause us to wonder about how we are to respond to the challenges and difficulties of the New Year.
Nevertheless, when we consider the words of Ecclesiastes 3, we find that rather than seeing them as being fatalistic, they should bring us comfort. Ecclesiastes helps us realize that the events of the universe are ordered by a compassionate, gracious, long-suffering, faithful God. If tragedy strikes, we have but to wait patiently for the hour of redemption. Our struggle comes in our definition of time.
Maybe you can relate to the children’s song by Rappin Rabbit's on Christian Habits that declares, “I can’t wait to have patience, because patience is a wonderful thing. Hurry up, let me at it, got to have it now. I want it more than anything. This has taken long enough, give me some of that patience stuff.” There never seems to be enough time to do the things we desire; however, when we have God’s perspective on time we are able to have patience. Not an indifference for the future, but one of hope and anticipation.
In the rear-view mirror, we can see both the blessings and difficulties of 2015. Ecclesiastes tell us that God knows our future clearer than we do our past. Knowing that he has appointed the times and seasons offers hope for the future in Him. It allows us to look to 2016 with hope even when we recognize that the New Year will bring us challenges. Understanding that God is not surprised by the future provides us with the hope that we need for the New Year.