Jesus, Our Hope for a New Year

person wearing silver ring on ring finger on book page

It’s easy to search for hope and fulfillment in a new year. If only I had a new routine, a better diet, a cleaner house, more money, a better social life, or more me-time. If these things changed, I’d finally feel happy and at rest, right?!

New Year’s resolutions are great, I’m not trying to knock them. It’s an admirable desire to grow, mature, and love more in the upcoming year. Desiring to live a life that pleases God, live with purpose and meaning, and be godly are all good things. They are given to us by God. The problem with those is not the destination of living a life pleasing to God, but the means by which we get there. The problem lies in the push to do everything and be better in our own strength and for the purpose of self-glory instead of God’s glory

And what happens when, two weeks in, you didn’t follow through with your resolutions? Well, maybe they were simply too lofty, and you give up in frustration. Or on the contrary, you keep trying in your own strength, becoming exhausted by the push to do x, y, and z, and thinking only that will bring you peace. 

Instead, Jesus calls us to something greater, something less burdensome, something actually hopeful. He calls us to rest in humility. He calls us to Himself. Consider this verse from Matthew 11:

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, for I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” . 

Matthew 11:28-30

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden

In this verse, Jesus invites those who labor and are heavy laden, but what does that mean? It’s easy to picture someone tilling the ground or working a field of crops (a far stretch from my life as a wife and mom), but what can it look like in our own lives? For me, as a follower of Jesus, it’s trying to read the Bible in a year, but fizzling out by day 62.  As a wife, it’s using kind words until about 9 am, when I get frustrated about dishes and say a snide remark about it.  As a mom, I can be patient until there is an ocean of food on the floor, kids yelling, and I am trying to clean dishes at the same time, and I just lose it. As a friend, I can reach out and say kind things, but then I get busy and forget to reply for 3 days… again!  And in all honesty, this is just the tip of the iceberg of my shortcomings.

When I fall short in these different areas of my life, I often feel the heavy weight of putting my best foot forward, but feeling that it’s not enough to gain the love, acceptance, and approval I desire from God, others, or even myself.

As a result, I can feel heavy, emotionally exhausted, and just plain frustrated. I told myself I would be better this year. I would take deep breaths, I would wake up earlier for quiet time. Why can’t I just get myself together? Our culture gives us the idea that we should effortlessly make everything work, in our own strength, with a smile on our face. When we labor, in our own strength, it creates a heaviness we can’t escape. We are confronted with struggles, failures, and shortcomings that plunge us deeper into a cycle that keeps us coming back to work harder and prove ourselves further. When we realize this cycle is burdensome and come to Jesus, we’re greeted by the one who IS perfect — who is humble and kind enough to receive those who aren’t.

Take my yoke upon you, for I am lowly and humble in heart

Jesus uses the image of a yoke because the yoke is a symbol of authority. By calling us to take His yoke, Jesus is calling us to submit to Him.  Paul writes in Galatians 5:1, “for freedom Christ has set us free…do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.” We can be slaves to ourselves, to other’s expectations, to fear. God is giving us freedom if we only come to Him and “learn from Him” – when we walk in humility the way he is humble. 

Paul Tripp, in his devotional, “Come Let Us Adore Him” writes, “Jesus willingly humbled himself and lived in poverty, rather than sovereignty, so that through his life and death he would rescue self sovereigns from themselves. He placed himself under broken and unjust human rule in order to liberate us from self-rule and transform us into people who celebrate and willingly submit to his rule.” 

When we come to Jesus, when we pray, read his word, and see who He is, we clearly see who we are not. He is the one that keeps the world running, not us. He is the creator; we are the creation. Yet, despite His power and authority, He gave himself on the cross so that we who are powerless and imperfect could come to Him and receive the rest our hearts desire, but our own strength could never deliver. And it’s in this gift that we find humility.

Nineteenth-century pastor Andrew Murray writes in his book Humility, “Humility is simply acknowledging the position of [our] position as creature and yielding to God his place.”  Humility allows us to come to Jesus with our shortcomings and sin, ask for forgiveness and help, and know that God is redeeming and transforming us with His power, not by our strength.

Our hope 

With all the things that 2020 brought, we press forward, knowing that Jesus is our hope. Our hope is not in 2021. Our hope is not in anything that is created, not any perfect earthly relationship, not in ourselves and our accomplishments, but in Jesus alone. No amount of good works makes us worthy of God’s love. Yet He loves us because Jesus humbled himself, even to the point of death on a cross, in order to give us the righteous standing that He alone earned. 

As we work from God’s love, not for God’s love, to accomplish our goals and resolutions this upcoming year, we know that “from him and through him and to him are all things.” Since  “apart from him we can do nothing”, we find beauty in what he has put in front of us, and it frees us to pursue our goals with a sense of hope, knowing that the one that started a good work in us is sure to finish it.

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