In the year 1850, the following lines by the famed Victorian poet, Tennyson, were published.
In this second stanza of his much-loved poem, “Ring out, wild bells,” the author alludes to the English tradition of ringing bells at midnight on New Year’s Eve to usher out the previous year and welcome in the new. The final line expresses his desire to see both better times and better virtues. A litany of things the poet wishes to do away with for the new year follows, including grief, poverty, strife, care, want, sin, pride, wars, disease, and the like.
Though written nearly two centuries ago, the list is the same today. I don’t know anybody who thinks that 2020 was so great that they do not wish for far better times in the year ahead. 2020 has been brutal, and for many, the hits just seem to keep coming.
I must confess to a strange addiction over the past ten months. Early on in the pandemic, a verse came to mind, which I had intended to use as a sort of buffer against the barrage of bad news in the media:
“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you”Psalm 143:8a
I wanted His Word to be the first “news” to hit my ears each morning and to anchor myself in that truth versus all of the constantly changing messages swirling around me.
I failed in this. I developed an almost obsessive habit of checking the same 3 or 4 online media outlets several times a day. Only a few days ago, I realized what an odd stronghold this had become. As I tried to analyze my motives, It became clear that what I was so frantically searching for was hope—the hope of change, of something new, something different from the perpetual doom and gloom which seemed to characterize every news story over the better part of the last year.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with wishing for a new start and a better day to come. We all hope for that in 2021. And yet, as an improvement in our circumstances is not guaranteed, we would do well to focus on the “new things” promised to us in Scripture.
No matter what our circumstances are, or the level of stress resulting from them, as believers in Christ for eternal life*, we can rise above it by allowing the Holy Spirit to transform our minds and change our thoughts, provoking a different response than the reaction generated by our flesh. We are promised this Spirit-enabled renewal in one of my favorite passages of Scripture:
"Therefore, we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory…”2 Cor. 4:16-17
Even as things are breaking down on the outside, we can take hope in the promise that we can be “...made new in the attitude of [our] minds” (Ephesians 4:23, NIV). Just a few lines above in Ephesians, Paul prayed in a similar vein that the believers in Ephesus would be“strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man” (Ephesians 3:16b-c). The renewal of our minds by the Holy Spirit (as we take in or call to mind and apply God’s Word to our situations) offers us both a new perspective and new strength to face the days ahead.
Not only can we take hope in God’s promise to renew us, but we can also depend on His presence and provision in every trial. During a time of particular anguish, the prophet Jeremiah penned the following words:
“Yet this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s faithful love we do not perish, for His mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness!”Lamentations 3:21-23 HCSB
In every difficulty, the Lord’s mercies are available to us. Like manna in the wilderness, His help is dispensed right on time and sufficient to meet our every need.
Recalling the Lord’s promise to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 31:6, the author of Hebrews encourages his readers to remember, “He himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5). Every morning, and in every circumstance, we can rely on the newness of His mercies. Not only will He help us, but His presence will go with us. In fact, as believers in the church age, we have the Holy Spirit resident within us! As such, we need never feel helpless or alone.
Ultimately, however, we must fix our hopes on a truly new day, and not just a new year. While tomorrow’s headlines may not bring strong encouragement for the year ahead, the most incredible promises imaginable fill the pages of Scripture in describing the believer’s future hope. Perhaps the most inspiring of these descriptions come from John in Revelation:
“Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”Revelation 21:1-4
No longer just wishful thinking from a poet long-deceased, one day soon (and very soon!), the greatest longings of our hearts will finally be fulfilled. Hope will become a reality as we receive new bodies and inhabit a new earth. Yesterday’s tidings of doom and gloom will fade away, and a beautiful new day will dawn. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to “ring in the new!”
*John 3:16 says: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.” What better news could there be than Jesus’ promise to give eternal life (that can never be lost!) to all who simply believe in Him for it!