spiritual journey

A New Song for a New Year



We are born homesick—longing for a land and a way of life we have never directly experienced, but which we know is somewhere, or at least ought to exist. —James Wilhoit


My family will tell you that I like to tie on the feedbag as much as the next guy. Still, I look forward to New Year’s Day, even though it can’t compete with the more flavorful holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. That’s because, as much as any holiday, New Year’s Day gets me reflecting on what God is doing in my life and where he’s taking me.

Each of us is on a spiritual journey. We’re all headed somewhere. This is just as true for those who rarely think about spiritual things as it is for those who are preoccupied with them. For me, the start of a new year is a chance to reflect on the journey.

I imagine ancient Hebrews doing this during their pilgrimages to the temple, driven by a desire to feel close to God and to pray to him.[1] On their way up to Jerusalem, they would sing “songs of ascent.”[2] Psalm 84 vividly portrays the longing of the pilgrim when it says, “My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God” (v. 2). These pilgrims would “go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion” (v. 7). In other words, they were strengthened by God along the way, which is why the psalmist prayed, “Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage” (v. 5).

The writer of Hebrews explains that they admitted, “they were foreigners and strangers on earth. . . . they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them” (Hebrews 11:13, 16).

Centuries later, Jesus came proclaiming a kingdom that’s “not of this world” (John 18:36). And when we answered his call to discipleship, we too became spiritual pilgrims in the best sense of the word. We may have experienced surprises and set-backs this year, but like our ancient counterparts we press on, celebrating our progress and anticipating our destination in due time.[3]

Discipleship is a journey, one that fulfills an ancient longing to be with God. We yearn for the heavenly city prepared for us. Along the way, we sing songs of hopeful anticipation.  

My prayer for you is that as you anticipate this new year our Lord would put a new song in your mouth, a hymn of praise to your God (Ps. 40:3).


[1]Many of the psalms of the Bible were sung during these pilgrimages up to Jerusalem, fifteen of them (Psalms 120-134) being designated explicitly for this purpose with the label “A song of ascents.”

[2]See Ps. 120-134.

[3]See also Phil. 3:13-14.

What Awaits Us at the End of Our Journey?


Why do we spend so much energy pursuing earthly carrots like affluence, accolades, and pleasure when we know these things can’t satisfy our deepest longings? And why is it that these things disappoint us so consistently? 

King Solomon gave us a clue when he said that God has “set eternity in the human heart” (Eccl. 3:11). Nothing temporal will ever truly satisfy us--not money, not the praise of others, not any earthly pleasure, trophy, or commodity. We yearn for something eternal, something transcendent. C. S. Lewis reasoned that, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

We were made for heaven. Followers of Jesus rightly consider it their home. Jesus said, “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:2-3). The apostle Paul certainly took this promise seriously. He wrote, “Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20; cf. Heb. 13:14). 

Ultimately, the reward that awaits us at the end of our earthly journey is Jesus himself. He’s what makes heaven so desirable. 

But the biblical writers also spoke of an inheritance that awaits us there. The apostle Peter calls it “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade--kept in heaven for you” (1 Pet. 1:4). The apostle Paul adds that the indwelling Holy Spirit serves as a deposit guaranteeing this inheritance (Eph. 1:13-14). What these biblical writers are saying is that our heavenly inheritance could not be more secure.

Still, the apostle Paul also spoke of this heavenly prize as something worth striving for. He said, “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13-14). As Christ followers, we strain toward the finish line not to earn the prize but to claim it. Christ has secured it for us. 

For disciples of Jesus, then, this life is a journey to our true home. What awaits us at the finish line is a joyous reunion with our Savior. There we’ll enter into our heavenly inheritance. Disappointment with the fleeting pleasures of this world will give way to what is eternal, transcendent. Our deepest longings will be satisfied. 

We’re going home!