“The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there,” wrote L.P. Hartley in his 1953 novel “The Go-Between.” And so as we take our first steps into the “new country” of 2023 it may feel a bit like emigrating – frightening, yet exciting at the same time.
When my husband and I immigrated to Australia in 2006, we made a conscious decision to burn our bridges and not look back. We left our friends, we left some family; we left a lovely big house and our two dogs and my husband’s stable job. It was risky and scary and thrilling to bring our three children, all still under three year’s old, to a new country where we had no friends, no job and no idea of what the future held.
And we have been extremely happy. I attribute that in part to the fact that we chose to face forward and not second-guess ourselves. Many fellow-immigrants we have met keep harking back to what might have been or all they left behind and they have not made the transition as well. “Whinging poms” is a well-known criticism, but “whinging Saffas” equally applies!
In the same way, launching into 2023 we need to leave the failures, disappointments, and regrets of 2022, in the past; and look with expectation and determination at what lies ahead. We can’t fix yesterday, no matter how much we fret about it, but we can make the best of tomorrow.
And it is just as unhelpful to nostalgically live longing for things to be the way they once were. We need to leave 2022’s achievements, milestones and joys back there too.
In the Bible is the famous story of Lot’s wife looking back to the city of Sodom as God was destroying it, and being turned into a pillar of salt. There is also the story of the Israelites wandering in the desert and hankering back to the foods they ate in slavery in Egypt, rather than looking forward to the honey of the Promised Land.
These stories illustrate how a backward focus either freezes us in place, stuck in the past; or it makes us grumble, complain and compare. We are then unable to appreciate the better things ahead.
However, we all know things in our world are not good at the moment. Looking forward into 2023 might even be a bit scary. We might be fearful about the future of the economy, or politics, or the climate, or crime, or moral decline, or whatever else we worry about. We may be entering the year with health concerns, or relationship strife or financial burdens.
Nevertheless, Christianity gives me, and many others, the courage to look forward and face the new year with boldness because we serve a God who knows the end from the beginning. The God of the Bible already knows all about 2023. Neither the past nor the future are a foreign county to Him.
He promises those who trust in Him that He will eventually right all the wrongs in the world, evil will be judged, and pain, sin and death will finally be defeated. For Christians the best still lies ahead, at the end of the age, in a new heavens and a new earth. As some Christians like to say, ‘if it’s not good; it’s not over yet!’
In a religion like Hinduism, with its concepts of karma and reincarnation, your past determines your future; however, in Christianity your past sins are washed away and separated from you as far as the east is from the west, because Jesus paid for them on the cross.
If you want your future to be bright, regardless of politics and climate change; nuclear threats or pandemics, then throw your lot in with Jesus; let Him deal with the sins of your past, direct the plans of your present and give you a future beyond your wildest imagination.
“That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him.’” 1 Corinthians 2:9