Not Consumed

“How was your week?”

I felt rather awkward making small talk after this past week.  I was pretty certain my answer to that question didn’t fall in the ‘small talk’ category.

I felt overwhelmed.

I was exhausted.

It seemed like the universe was against me getting any sleep.

As an indicator of how the week went, take Monday. After 11 hours at work, I came home, did laundry, cooked dinner and Tuesday’s lunch, washed dishes, and finished up lesson prep.  At 11:30 p.m., 5 1/2 short hours before my Tuesday morning alarm, I was trying to fish a broken measuring spoon out of the garbage disposal with a pair of chopsticks while holding a flashlight in my mouth so that maybe the disposal would work again.  The rotting fruits and vegetables couldn’t wait another 17 hours until the faculty meeting was over and I was off the clock again. I didn’t remember signing up for this.

I was grumpy.  I didn’t want to be a public school teacher anymore. I didn’t want to be a homeowner. I didn’t want to have to interact with any other people for the foreseeable future.

Did I mention I was tired?

I felt overwhelmed by things to do and beset by the temptation to be short tempered, complaining, impatient, and unkind.  In my discontentment, I didn’t feel like fighting the temptation.  After all, I felt justified.  And surely God wouldn’t expect me to keep fighting when I was obviously overwhelmed.

How was my week?

I felt consumed.

I felt consumed by work, by impatience, by inadequacy, by discouragement, by weariness.

But then, the Holy Spirit sent a timely reminder.

I am not consumed.

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,

for his compassions never fail.

They are new every morning;

great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23 NIV

My feelings were strong, but not stronger than the reality. If God’s great mercy means I am not consumed by his righteous wrath, how much less can the urgency and pressures of the world and my own heart consume me?

Meditating on that didn’t make getting the measuring spoon out of the sink any easier, or earn me extra hours to sleep.  It did, however, take away the tyranny of the discouragement and bitterness that threatened to seize my heart. What light was brought to my mind by the beauty and glory of that thought!

Trials may try to consume, but the Lord’s love is greater still. Struggles will eventually cease, but his compassions will never fail.  Discouragement and weariness may be great, but God’s faithfulness is greater still.

 

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!