In our house, we have two little people, and they seem to be constantly going through growth spurts. Lately, my four-year-old has started using his growing as an opportunity to always have an “out” when he doesn’t want to do something. When it’s time to clean up toys or help with a small task, he likes to respond: “I am too tired to do that.” And sometimes he probably is actually tired, but we have started to talk through the difference between being tired and just not wanting to help out, even if they go hand in hand. When he declares he is too tired to do something, we have started asking him about the root of that statement. “Are you really too tired, or is helping your sister just something you don’t want to do right now?”
Excuses Are Easier
What he is learning to verbalize is what we would, as adults, call an excuse. Often, when pressed, he has another reason for declaring his tiredness. He is learning that he can make an excuse for his unwillingness to cooperate. It seems easier than admitting that what he is really struggling with is the tension of sin and his behavior choices.
Through working with him, I am reminded that it is often easier to throw the blame for our problems onto easy scapegoats. “I’m tired” is so much easier to say than admitting that I am struggling with a bigger heart issue like selfishness or impatience.
As I sit facing the end of one year and looking toward the next, it would be so easy to focus on the challenges and negative experiences that have certainly stacked up. It would also be easier in some ways to just declare that it’s all too much and I’m tired of dealing with “it.” But my real issue, much like my son’s, isn’t so much that I am tired but that I am sinful. If I am learning anything from this year, it is that it’s not helpful to let my tiredness become an excuse for not dealing with the inner issues at work in my heart.
No More Excuses
The year 2020 asked us to consider our neighbor and their needs in new ways. It asked us to serve our families intimately as we spent an increased amount of one-on-one time together. It showed us all of the places where our sinfulness was most raw. When faced with changes in routines or work environments, we were given opportunities to complain.
When disconnected from worshiping in person, we were given opportunities to not keep the Sabbath holy. When we saw how others around us were responding to the election or mask mandates, we were given opportunities to bear false testimony against our neighbor.
Are we tired after a long year? Maybe. But I think it is more helpful to recognize that we are struggling with the effects of sin and issues of the heart. Eventually we will, God willing, transition out of this pandemic. And at that point, one of our biggest excuses for complaining or tiredness will be stripped away from us. All we will be left with are the sinful intentions of our hearts. But that is exactly where God wants us—in a place where we are ready to repent.
Start with Repentance
Do you feel like singing praises from the rooftops about life and the year behind and the one ahead? Are you ending this year full of excitement and energy to tackle new challenges in the year ahead? Not so much? Yeah, me neither.
We may have nothing left that makes us feel like praising after this year, but we do have Jesus. The psalmist wrote: “Because Your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise You”(Psalm 63:3). As we look back on one year, recognizing the effects of sin wearing us down, and look forward to the next year, we can do this with praise. The love of our God is steadfast. It does not change and is not affected by sin like we are. In fact, His love takes our sinfulness and removes it, giving us a fresh start.
Although the turn of the calendar from one year to the next often has the effect of prompting people to set resolutions or intentions for the new year, I wonder whether we will be ready to undertake such a “normal” practice this year. Instead of starting a new resolution this year, perhaps we would be better served to start the new year in repentance.
The best place for this repentance is as close as your local church. This is the place that God has given you to gather with others and confess your sins. Much like my son needs help unpacking his behavior, we, too, need a place to go where we can freely be seen in our sin and given countless opportunities for fresh starts. Each and every time you confess your sinful heart to your heavenly Father, He washes you clean in the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ, who suffered on the cross to pay the penalty for all our laziness, excuses, and sin. In your church, He gives you a fresh start, feeding your spirit with His Word and Sacraments and giving you the strength to serve your family and neighbors anew. Then when you receive His forgiveness in Jesus Christ, He leads you to the same place as the psalmist: praise.
As we turn the calendar, use this free download to immerse yourself in praise. Let praise be on your lips each day as you read a passage of Scripture and consider a short prompt.