It was the end of 2012, and I was in high school. The thing everyone kept talking about was the end of the world AKA the end of the Mayan calendar. “This calendar is one of the most accurate,” people kept saying. “Since it’s ending, maybe the world will too.” Admittedly, this perspective was likely more sarcastic than anything, but that didn’t keep it from recurring often.
And then, lo and behold, the Mayan calendar ended – and the world lived on.
Okay, at this point you might be wondering how the Mayan calendar is relevant to this blog at all. It’s kind of off-track from the usual topics you read here. Which is a fair point.
But here’s the point I’m trying to make: When a calendar ends, it also starts over. We make it into this big deal, a big event, and what happens? The sun comes up on the New Year and it looks like any other day.
The world lives on, just like it did after the Mayan calendar ended. The world is the same as it was on the last day of the Mayan calendar, and honestly, January 1, 2020, will look pretty much the same as December 31, 2019. It’s simply another day in the cycle of the world.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t bother with New Year’s celebrations or resolutions. They’re good things, and we should enjoy people’s company and try to better ourselves. Improving ourselves is one of the best things we can do with our lives.
What I am saying is that there aren’t as many changes when a new year comes as we might like to tell ourselves. You won’t be a completely different person just because the sun went down and up for the 365th time this year.
Don’t let that discourage you. Look at it this way – instead of expecting that you’ll make monumental changes in your life this year, you can keep working on the small steps that will make real change.
You don’t need to take on a new goal just because it’s a new year. In fact, consistency with the most important things in your life will pay off far more than signing up for a gym membership will.
So here are the important things that won’t change going into the new year:
Christ is Our Savior – And He Loves Us
This really can’t be overstated. The reason we can look at a new year with hope is that Christ gave us hope. He came to Earth to experience what we experience. He suffered and died for us. He fulfilled God’s will and gave us His Atonement – a way back to Him and our Father in Heaven.
Christ did all of this because He loves us. And that never changes.
Think how cool that is – we live in a world full of impermanence, immediacy, and change. New products, new trends, new social norms – there’s always something to learn, buy, follow, replace, and join.
But Christ’s love and Atonement are permanent. Even when we mess up. Even when we don’t love Him. He’s always ready to show us His love and offer His Atonement the moment we turn to look at Him.
And, going into a new year, it’s comforting and encouraging to know that, whatever we are facing, we don’t have to face it alone.
Christ will still help us. He’ll still love us. And we can rely on that day after day, and year after year.
Something we Christians generally try to do is be like Christ. And that’s something we try for every day – not just at the new year. Hopefully.
As Elder Holland puts it:
To grasp the vision we are seeking, the healing that He promises, the significance we somehow know is here, we must cut through the commotion—joyful as it is—and fix our attention on Him.Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “The Message, the Meaning, and the Multitude,” October 2019
The only thing that should change about our relationship with Christ at any time of the year is the strength of it. If we continually and consistently work on and improve our relationship with Christ, then we’re right where we need to be – progressing forward.
Any Progress is Still Progress
The beginning of a new year can be a time of stress and frustration – with yourself. The resolutions you wanted to achieve last year fell short, you made more mistakes than you’d care to admit, and you feel like you end up in the same rut at the end of every year.
But that’s not a great way to motivate yourself for the coming year.
We are so hard on ourselves. Don’t brush past that sentence because you’ve heard it before – it’s still true.
We know what we want to achieve or who we want to be, but it takes time to make it that far. And the path to your goals is never the one you laid out in your head. We expect ourselves to be perfect, to do it right the first time (even when we’re beginners), and beat ourselves up when we don’t measure up.
But here’s a truth that doesn’t change: any progress you made, no matter how minor or “insignificant” is still progress.
You still changed. You still moved forward. You still relied on Christ to help you step forward and move on. And that’s what matters.
So look at the progress you have made. Accept it. Find joy in it. And keep doing it. Continual small progression will take you further than massive goals will.
Not only will you move forward, but you’ll be able to see what really matters and what doesn’t. If it isn’t a priority, you won’t focus on it.
Your Family Needs You
Families are emphasized in Christianity a lot, and there’s a reason for that. We believe we are a part of an eternal, divine family headed by our Father in Heaven. We rely on our Brother, Jesus Christ, to help us back home.
And our families we have now help us grow closer to Christ and return to our Father. Our best progression happens with family members.
We can learn from each other about the gospel, improve from each other’s examples, and support each other through any circumstances we face.
You may feel that your family doesn’t need you. Maybe you haven’t seen them for a while, or struggle to get along with them.
In most cases, they still need you. And you need them.
You can better each other. Be willing to look for the best in each other instead of the worst. Offer and allow forgiveness. And help where you can. Find ways to make Christ a focus for your entire family, and you’ll all come closer together.
Family is eternal, but we need each other now. Don’t let other goals and priorities come before your family. And if you’ve been distracted by other things, it isn’t too late to refocus.
Other People Need Christ Too
Sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ to other people has been important since Christ Himself was on the earth, if not earlier. He organized the first missionary efforts and those efforts are still happening now.
This commandment to invite others to Christ is not a new thing. It hasn’t changed and won’t change until Christ returns to the earth.
Which means that we need to keep our efforts going. The efforts don’t have to be traditional knocking-on-doors efforts, but there are a lot of ways to reach out to other people.
Who might you already know who needs Christ in their life? You could invite them to church or activities, but you could also just become better friends with them. Christ will act through you to reach them.
There are other ways to reach people as well. Just share your testimony. It doesn’t matter much how or where, but if you feel even a little prompting to share the gospel with others, take it.
I know this can be a stressful thing for a lot of people. So just start where you are and take it a step further. That could mean sharing a post on social media or referring someone you know to the missionaries. For me, this past year, it meant starting this blog. I don’t know if it’s made a huge difference, but it was a step forward for me.
You just need to find that step forward for you.
One Last Thing
You could easily take any of these four things and make resolutions out of them. But you don’t need to formalize it like that.
If, by the end of 2020, you want to be closer to God, you don’t have to start something new. Starting where you are is the best thing you can do. Build on the habits you already have. Rely on the truth you already know.
If that means making resolutions, great. But take comfort in the fact that these – the things that bring you closer to God – don’t really change. And your growth in these spiritual things might come in baby steps, not leaps and bounds.
Work on what you can, and rely on Christ to take you further. Your continual efforts will pay off.