Found in most civilizations for thousands of years, the New Year’s holiday is perhaps the most commonly celebrated tradition throughout the world. Many Americans have fond memories of toasts, kisses, noisemakers, and fireworks, often while watching the Times Square Ball drop in New York City. Families, friends, and communities gather to commemorate what was, and to celebrate the hope of what can be by resolving to do something new or different or healthy—like losing weight, exercising, or being nice to the people around us. Out with the old and in with the new.
Along such lines, we surveyed a group of college students and asked them this question:
“If you were given the ability to take something you own or possess and make it new, what would you choose? It could be something old, worn, or shabby—turned into something fresh, elegant, or excitingly different. It could be a thing, a relationship, or something about you.”
What comes to mind first? You can choose anything—your car, a room in your house, or the whole house. It could be a damaged part of your body or even your whole body. Maybe you’d choose new eyes to see the world more clearly, skin without blemishes, or perhaps a new childlike wonder. It could be your personality, an old and tired friendship, or a broken marriage or family that is given a new fresh start.
Can you predict what the most common response was?
The Bible says that God has already begun the work of making things new. We are told that it is He who creates, and it is in His plan to make all things new. He tells Isaiah,
“Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past, for I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.” Isaiah 43:18-19 (NASB and NLT)
This passage contains a number of amazing promises:
I am about to do something new.
He is on the move and things are about to change. He takes hopeless situations and transforms them. What we worry and think about—the good times and the messed-up ones—is about to be surpassed, exceeded, bettered. Why is it so easy for us to miss it? Perhaps we have lost hope or simply no longer attribute changes to God. Perhaps we simply are not paying attention. Until I was twenty years old, I was unaware of God’s Son, the Spirit, or His Word. I was unconcerned with His ways and certainly not living a lifestyle that brought Him glory. And yet, He took my sinful heart and messed-up soul and made it new.
A pathway through the wilderness.
The image is of an uncultivated wasteland with no clear way out. Such places make us uncomfortable for we hate being in ambiguity. When our path or view is blocked and the future uncertain, we feel uneasy and unnerved. When I am unsure of the direction to take, I feel paralyzed like I cannot make a move. What should be easy—daily activities, making decisions, doing good work—seems overwhelming or impossible. The promise of a way out of the muddle and confusion comes as we renew our delight in God and as He gives us the desire of our heart—the path we are to take, the things we are to seek, the things He is making new. When we delight in Him, He places on our hearts His desires, His plans, His newness, His hope, and His way through the wilderness.
“Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, and He will do it.” Psalm 37:4 (NASB)
Rivers in the dry wasteland.
Can you imagine what it feels like to see a river of water when you are dying of thirst? On a hike recently, my wife and I ran out of water three miles from the end of a grueling climb. We knew water awaited us, but we still felt panicked. Fortunately, we found a few wild berries and a brief sprinkle of rain allowed us to catch some needed sips, but the dryness was unnerving. The dry wastelands we experience in life—broken relationships, lack of connection to others, doubting God’s presence or existence—can lead to desperation leaving us tired, empty, and bitter. The promise of life-giving water can restore our strength and renew our hopes.
“The Lord will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring.” Isaiah 58:11 (NLT)
The Most Common Response to Our Survey?
In our survey of students, 55% said they would make a relationship new. Most chose a friendship that had deteriorated and 13% said they would renew a relationship with their father. The remaining students said they would like to make new their relationship with family members—especially parents, brothers, and sisters.
One quarter of the students picked something about themselves that they would like to make new—their health, their heart, their emotions, or their mind.
One in five (20%) picked a thing—a car, truck, computer, house, or an older pet.
The question we often ponder during a new year is, “How do we keep the things we own or possess new, alive, or fresh?” Perhaps it begins with what is already around us and what has already been promised. We may be missing it because we are not paying attention or watching out for it. In this holiday season, when our thoughts turn to do-overs and newness, we have God’s promise—that He takes what is old or worn or shabby—and turns it into something fresh, elegant, and excitingly different.
“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 21:5 (ESV)
God’s Word is indeed trustworthy and true offering real hope of restoration, clarity, and renewed expectations. It truly celebrates the hope of what can be. Out with the old and in with the new.
Christopher Grace serves as the director of the Biola University Center for Marriage and Relationships and teaches psychology at Rosemead School of Psychology. He and his wife, Alisa, speak regularly to married couples, churches, singles and college students on the topic of relationships, dating and marriage. Grace earned his M.S. and Ph.D. in experimental social psychology from Colorado State University.