Plans of the Heart

It’s a brand new year. On this day, perhaps more than any other, my heart is brimful of hopes and plans for the future. Maybe your heart is also.

Proverbs 16:9 reminds me that there is a plan bigger and more sure than mine. The Lord has a plan that cannot be altered by human will. It is also a reminder that I do not secure my future- that is God’s doing. So, I’ll make plans and work toward them, but I’ll rest in the knowledge that is does not depend on my power to establish them.

My list of resolutions and goals encompass all my little cares in life, but by God’s grace, I don’t have to cling to them fiercely. I’ll make my plans and then submit them to the Lord’s plan for completion or unfulfillment. In prayer, I’ll work, because stewardship is my providence, but success is God’s. In faith I can trust because His plans are full of love and for my good.

“Whoever gives thought to the word will discover good, and blessed is he who trusts in the Lord.” Proverbs‬ ‭16:20‬ ‭

Read all of Proverbs 16 here.

The Desire for What is New

The desire for newness seems entrenched in the human soul. Not mere newness for the sake of being new, but newness in the sense of a better, pure, hopeful rebirth. Looking forward to the new year, we set goals for how the next year will be better, how we will have new adventures, how we will be healthier and happier and more organized, how we won’t repeat past mistakes. So, we welcome the new year and gladly relinquish the old year that has passed.

As this year comes to a close, I find myself meditating on this idea of newness. I’m convinced this desire for newness is a reflection of the newness spoken into the hearts of believers in Christ:

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26

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

The promise is not only that new comes, but also that the old, the broken, the harden, the impure, and the worthless is gone. And we are saved to walk in newness of life. Are not my new year’s hopes a shadow of this grace-filled reality?

But, as happens every year, we realize that while there is new, much old is repeated in this year as in the last. What happens when the sayings of the sage resonate deeply in our hearts? Is there really “nothing new under the sun”?

In the believer’s failings, we read that the new self itself “is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” (Col. 3:10)

That in our old troubles, the Lord’s mercies are new each morning. (Lamentations 3:22-23)

That in the world full of the old hate, injustice, suffering, and death, there is a new world coming.

“For behold, I create new heavens
And a new earth,
And the former things shall not be remembered
Or come to mind.
But be glad and rejoice forever
In that which I create;
For behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy,
And her people to be a gladness.
… No more shall be heard the sound of weeping and the cry of distress.
No more shall there be in it
And infant who lives but a few days,
Or an old man who does not fill out his days…
They shall not build and another inhabit;
They shall not plant and another eat…
They shall not labor in vain
Or bear children for calamity…
Isaiah 65:17-23

The all-powerful, trustworthy God is the foundation of all hope in a new future without any stain of the old. So, while I clean out my house, plan a budget, and set goals for a new year, I do so with hope, not discouragement that old will settle back in — as we all know it will. I remember that what I do at the end of each year is not my hope for a better future, but merely an imperfect reflection of the perfect reality that is coming with Christ’s return at the end of all years:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I 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 the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, ” Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21:1-5)

With that hope, Happy New Year!

New Year 2012: Will I begin with pride or humility?

Like many others do this time of year, I have made resolutions that I fully intended to carry out.  At least until June.  (By then it should be habit, right?)  Often, I set out to conquer, determined to be strong.  The temptation and tendency to pride is pretty strong.  I will be better.  I will be skinnier.  I will be more disciplined.  I will read more books.  I will simplify.  I will. I will.  I will.

This quickly turns in to “This is my will and I will do it on my own strength.”  Pride.

The second aspect of celebrating the New Year is looking back on the “old” year.  That is a different and more beautiful story.  Maybe my plans worked out.  Maybe they didn’t.  But, it was God’s will and God’s plan that was always fulfilled.  And never once did I carry myself — not even in the happy times.  Looking back, I see my strength leave, and God’s grace restore from an unending supply.  I see many blessings that I didn’t know could even be had.  I see how God revealed more of His love and mercy to me.  I see Him break my will;  I see Him restore my joy.  Pride can’t look at that and live.  Humility can.

My New Year’s prayer for myself is that my heart would not be so divided as to look on the past with humble amazement and the future with prideful ambition.  May I consider both with humility and “go out with joy and go forth in peace.”

Happy New Year!  May you be blessed with much joy and confidence as you see God’s plan unfold in this next year!

(P.S.  And please, please check out this post from the GirlTalk blog Sitting in the New Year.  This is an amazing post on how to approach New Year’s resolutions with a humble focus on God)