The possibility for fresh starts has always been important to me.

Did your fall semester in middle school, college or graduate school end on a low note? The spring semester that starts in a few days is a new beginning for you. Was last year a tough one at work? Did you lose a job? Did you have to move your family from a place everybody really liked to a new location? One way to cope is to think of what you can gain rather than what you’ve lost. Focus on what to learn from the experience in order to help you move forward. Make some new friends.

Is an important relationship in trouble? Did someone you love die? Are you worried about the bad-attitude friends your child has made? Maybe you need to look at these things through fresh eyes and with hope.

A sense of brokenness is often the mandatory first step to renewal and healing and it isn’t a bad thing to lament our losses. But it is a terribly bad thing to spend the rest of our lives looking over a shoulder to the past instead of lifting our eyes to the future. It can be fatal to the spirit.

As you might expect in light of all this, the turning of the calendar to a new year is a big deal to me. Doesn’t the idea of a clean slate appeal to you too? Doesn’t the chance to start over sound great? I’m not suggesting that you make a long list of New Year’s Resolutions. In fact, I’m against it.

Long lists are intimidating and frustrating. Most resolutions are too vague—reduce stress, save more money, be more helpful at home. And the notion of pledging to do something for 365 days is tough on people who are honest about just how often failure visits them. Perhaps there is a better way.

Do you remember the advice Jesus gave about just taking care of today and not biting off tomorrow’s troubles? “Each day has challenges enough of its own!” he said. Think about it and you will realize that your own experiences confirm it.

In the context of that statement, Jesus gave this counsel: “Strive above all else for the reign of God in your life, and the things that have been worrying you will resolve!” God’s reign requires conscious surrender, not of the entire year but of today’s trouble, a current stress or a particular loss.

New Year 2021 is God’s mercy to you. With his presence being a reality and in a one-day-at-a-time surrender to him, creative new things will come out of the waste-and-void chaos of the past. And life can be fresh every morning.

Pastor Rubel Shelly