Sometimes there is joy at the beginning of a new year – the excitement of the unknown, the freshness of a clean slate, the optimism of new opportunities and adventures. But often for me, a new year is ominous. It causes an unsettled fear that some bad things are lurking around the corners of the calendar page. Will this be the year of an unwanted diagnosis? A life-altering accident? A death?
There are ways of dealing with these fears. Some calculate the likelihood of certain things happening and find comfort in the odds of the unlikely. Others practice the power of positive thinking, or to put a “Christian” twist on it, believing in “faith” that God has good things planned for His children which don’t involve suffering. Some turn to medication to help calm anxiety and ease the harshness of reality. And others enter the year as Epicureans, eating drinking and being merry with no thought of the future.
None of those options are really helpful to me. They can even be harmful, unnecessary crutches, keeping me from relying on Christ completely. So how do I face 2012?
My fears remind me of my humble position. I am finite. I have limited knowledge and am dependent on God for everything from the care of my family to the next breath I take. Going to sleep reminds me of the same things. When I close my eyes, I’m humbly admitting my weakness – I need sleep, and my dependence – I trust One who needs nothing and sees everything when I am unable to see anything. Those reminders are magnified at a new year, when it’s not just 7 hours I’m depending on Him for, but 12 months…52 weeks…365 days!
A few years ago, I read Womanly Dominion, by Mark Chanski. Although I don’t prefer the way he handles some of the subjects in the book, there are a couple chapters that more than make up for the weaknesses. The chapter, “Womanly Dominion in Facing Your Fears,” is one of them.
Time and time again, I have gone back to the Bible truths he posits. He says, “Fretting and paralyzing fear is no condition for the spiritually healthy, well-adjusted child of God. Psalm 37:1 says, “Do not fret…” The wise woman will continually tell herself, “Do not fret.” “The wicked flee when no one is pursuing, but the righteous are bold as a lion” (Proverbs 28:1). Lion-like confidence is the fitting face and heart for a woman of God. Retreating and paralyzing fear is the handiwork of the Devil.”
So he counseled me, as he did a 20-something woman sitting in his office fighting oppression and depression stemming from the fear she’d never marry:
‘”Stare your worst fears right in the eye…You need to climb into that attic [of your worst fears]…It seems unbearable. But is it really? Shine the light on it. I know it seems unendurably bleak and dark like ‘the valley of the shadow of death.’ But shine the light of God’s word on it. Look! You’re not alone at all. Your Good Shepherd is with you there in that…valley. He’s pledged, ‘Lo I am with you always, even to the end of the age’ (Matthew 28:20). Your Father promised to provide all of your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19). If you spend some time meditatively exploring this attic in light of the Scriptures, you’ll sleep much better and glorify God much more.”‘
These gospel truths enable me to stare the fears of 2012 in the face. Not in a presumptuous way, as if I’m the master of my own destiny, but in bold humility. I can step with joyful confidence into another year. This stepping isn’t a blind, existential leap of faith, or a superstitious, rub-the-rabbit’s-foot-before-I-jump, leap of faith. It’s a step that is backed by all the promises of God in Christ that are “Yes!” And in Him, “Amen!” (2 Corinthians 1:20). It’s a step that knows He is faithful to me because He cannot deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13). Faithful is who He is. It’s a sure step, because “I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him [the salvation of my soul] until that day” (2 Timothy 1:12).
With that kind of gospel confidence, I can truthfully say, “Happy New Year!”