For many years I have spent New Year’s Eve reflecting on the year past and New Year’s Day anticipating the year to come. I have learned the importance of closing the book on the past and opening a new one for the future.
First, we need to close the book on the insults and injuries we may have suffered. Failure to close the book on these can cripple us in our efforts to embrace the future. We can only overcome past insults and injuries by practicing forgiveness. Jesus taught us to pray, “Father, forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” And, after teaching us to pray, He drew the application: “For, if you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”
Second, we need to close the book on our own sins and transgressions. We all regret things we did and things we left undone, words spoken and words we failed to speak. The guilt and regret of the past can become a heavy burden that weighs us down and prevents us from achieving our best. God wants to take this weight from our shoulders.
In Psalms the Bible says, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His loving kindness toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.” (Ps 103:11-13). And in Hebrews, “Let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus.” (Hebrews 1:1-2).
We also need to open a new book on a future with endless possibilities. Americans have always been optimistic. Alexis de Tocqueville was the first to document American optimism nourished by widespread Christian faith in the 1830s. That faith and optimism carried us through two World Wars, the assassinations of JFK, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy, Kent State, Watergate, Vietnam and the Cold War. But today, our optimism and our faith are being tested.
It is always God’s desire that we look to the future with optimism and hope. We can look forward to the future based on God’s promises. “For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” Both Paul and Peter agreed that Jesus is the source of this confidence. “Just as it is written, ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, and he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.’” (Ro. 9:33; 1 Pe. 2:6; Ps 118:22; Isa. 28:16).
May this be a year of forgiveness, optimism and faith! May it be your best year ever!