A new year, a fresh start. I really need it.

I wrote this post a year ago – at the end of 2016 – but I have “sat on it,” as I often do, waiting for the right time to post.  I think its content is still applicable as we turn the leaf from 2017 to 2018.  I pray that it blesses you, even a year after it was penned.  

2016. How can we describe this year? From what I’ve seen my friends post on Facebook, we will all be happy to stand and wave goodbye to 2016. It was a year rife with political and racial tension. No one will miss the hateful and derogatory political memes and the internal struggle of how to vote. For my home state, we suffered an incredible natural disaster with Hurricane Matthew. In my church, we endured an awkward and painful change in staffing.

For me personally, this year was hard. Excruciating. Almost more than I could bear. I loathe conflict, and I had to have difficult, face-to-face conversations with quite a few people this year.  I’m thankful to say that my heart has healed from the lacerations of this year but the scars and memories have yet to fade. That’s why I will celebrate when we turn the paper or digital calendar to a new year. I’m ready for a fresh start.

Hasta la vista 2016…I won’t miss you one iota. 

New years are like the sweetness of a crisp early morning in the spring. New years are like a freshly fallen snow that has no footprints. New years are like a pound cake fresh out of the oven, full of tantalizing aromas but not yet cut. New years are full of hope, of promise, of freshness, of a fresh start.

And don’t we all need a fresh start? Are there some mistakes and failures of the past year that you are ready to release to history? Are there hurtful words that you want to let go of, and sin that you want to be free from?

Our God is a God of newness.
Our God is a God of fresh starts.
Our God believes in new beginnings.

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:19

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17

But even when God is offering us a fresh, clean, new start, He knows that the hurts of our past remain. He knows the tears that we have shed. He knows of the despair and desperation and disappointment. He knows of the grief and the sorrow and the pain.

He knows how hard this world is, and that’s why He sent Jesus.

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them
a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of joy instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
Isaiah 61:1-3

God binds up the broken hearts we have sustained in the previous year. He comforts those of us who are mourning from things we lost: friends, family, hope, or health. He replaces our despair with praise and He gives us the oil of joy instead of mourning.

He gives us beauty for ashes.

God, we give you the ashes of the past year. We give you our worst days and we give you the tears we shed. We give you our colossal failures and our worst mistakes. We give you our sin and our selfishness and our pride. We give you our strained relationships and our fragile health.

We give you our brokenness, and you give us beauty.

I know that the new year won’t be a piece of cake. There will still be struggle and conflict and hard days. But God will be with us, every step of the way, continually giving us beauty for ashes. We can grab hold of a fresh, new, hope-filled new year because we have a faithful God.

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