I’m a self-professed choir nerd. Or I used to be. The melodies of a choral ensemble warming up before state competitions are the most memorable soundtracks of my high school years. Show choir, girls’ pop, quartet — you name the combination, I wanted to sing in it. Rarely a stand-alone soloist, I was at my best harmonizing with a group. Singing for the choir created a very tidy category for my identity. At the start of every new semester, every new school year, I knew my place in my little world and had a letterman jacket branded to prove it.
I just turned forty and the older I get, the harder it is to fit into such a neat category. Almost every life change can easily become an existential crisis: Who am I, really? Where is this all going? I’ve felt this on a deeper, sometimes unbearable level, living through a global pandemic, and polarizing politics where unwelcomed change is our new normal.
As we launch into 2021, you and I may not know where we belong or how we fit in any given situation. And now we need to regroup and kick off a brand-new year while many of us feel depleted from our hardest year ever behind us.
I want to speak to any of us desperate for a fresh start but worried it’s not even possible. And I’ll give it all away up front.
When we need a new beginning, God shows up to make it possible.
This is the hope we need to mark in our 2021 calendars. It might feel hard to believe, but that’s the truth.
In the Bible we see this most clearly in the Old Testament’s first book, Genesis, and in one of the first New Testament books, the gospel of John. Both writers, Moses and John, chose to open their records of history with the phrase “In the beginning.” Whether it’s through Moses’ testimony in Genesis about our first beginnings —
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth — Genesis 1:1 —
or through John’s testimony in his gospel about our new beginnings —
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God — John 1:1
—one thing is clear. Jesus is the Genesis Creator and Beginning Maker. Three little words, in the beginning, remind us that God specializes in a genesis of any kind.
In the same way God made something from nothing during creation, this year He can make your nothing-left-to-give self into your something-to-write-home-about self. In the same way God came to redeem us through Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection through His incarnation, He can burst onto the scenes of our life with unfathomable hope that all is not lost.
Wherever you need “in the beginning” to be a part of your story this year, God is able to create and recreate. To those who feel undeserving of a new beginning, remember, it’s grace. Grace upon grace, actually. No one deserves it, but it’s available to us now through Jesus.
What I’m struggling with this January is accepting “foreboding joy,” a term Brené Brown defines in her book Daring Greatly. She describes how practiced most of us are at resisting joyful feelings to protect ourselves from disappointment.1 Instead of attacking my 2021 goals, I’m waiting for the shoe to drop, and I’m flow-charting worst-case scenarios. That, my friends, is foreboding joy. We are so practiced at living disappointed, we have to retrain our hearts and minds to experience the joy of Jesus’s new beginnings.
I want to leave you with a list I have pinned to my wall near my computer screen. This list serves as a reminder and a challenge to me. A reminder that my Genesis Creator and Beginning Maker, Jesus, has good things planned for me this year. And a challenge to embrace joy.
- What God starts, He brings to completion (Philippians 1:6).
- All good things come from God (James 1:17).
- God is able, always (Ephesians 3:20).
- God will make a way (Isaiah 43:19).
- Goodness and faithful love will follow me all the days of my life (Psalm 23:6).
- God is my friend (John 15:15).
- God has good plans for me. I can trust His plan (Romans 8:28).
- God will be with me every step of the way (Isaiah 43:2).
- God never tires (Isaiah 40:28).
If you don’t have the energy, hope, or faith to follow Jesus into the New Year, take heart: He comes to you. God has proven time and time again that He will make a way to be with us, most notably through His Son, Jesus Christ. This person, Jesus, who was fully God and fully man, is the one who brings Heaven to earth. While we are looking for launching points into new opportunities or transition markers that confirm we are moving in the right direction, we can be sure that no matter where we are or where we end up, God will make His way there. God’s presence is the start of a joyful new beginning.
- Brené Brown, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead (New York: Avery, 2012), 117–23.
Adapted with permission from The In-Between Place by Kat Armstrong, copyright Kat Armstrong.
* * *
Don’t be afraid of 2021! All is not lost! We need a new beginning and God is here to bring it! Come share your thoughts with us. We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily