Rev Dr David Latimer
Rev Dr David Latimer

The month of January is named after Janus, the Roman god of beginnings, who was symbolised as a man with two faces - one looking back and the other looking ahead, which is the way most of us approach the New Year!

Launching out into the unknown of a New Year is as good a time as any to look back. The past for all of us is punctuated by an array of activities, events, meetings and memories and, while we’d dearly love to experience repeats of all that was enjoyable, lovely and good, the truth is, the past has, for each of us in varying shapes or forms, been associated with disappointment, pain and unhappiness.

Interestingly, it was no different for God’s chosen people, the Children of Israel. Forty years of living in the desert provided them with a mix of good times and bad, happy events and sad. Still, the advice from Moses is, ‘Remember how the Lord your God led you in the desert these 40 years.’

Clearly, looking back would serve to remind the Israelites of times when, to all intents and purposes, it looked as if God had deserted them. Ironically, it was by reflecting on darker life experiences that served to draw them back towards their Maker and furnish them with sound reasons for moving ever onwards.

Thomas Edison, who was more responsible than anyone for the creation of the modern world, was working in his lab at 2 o’clock in the morning when an assistant came into the room and noticed the inventor was smiling broadly. ‘Have you solved the problem?’ inquired the assistant. ‘No’, replied Edison, ‘that experiment didn’t work at all; now I can begin again.’

Anguish, despair and disappointment could so easily have wrecked Edison, but they didn’t.

Instead of blocking his path, they widened it, enabling him to keep on trying and never to lose hope or give up.

Unexpected and unwelcome periods of hurt, loss and pain that have thrust themselves into our lives could so easily rob us of happiness and determine how we will conduct ourselves during 2014. Wise advice, which none of us should ignore, is helpfully provided by nineteenth century American poet and professor Henry Wordsworth Longfellow who wrote, ‘Look not mournfully into the past; it comes not back again; wisely improve the present; it is thine. Go forth to meet the shadowy future, without fear and with a manly heart.’

While what has happened in the past could so easily turn any of us into people we didn’t start out to be, it is reassuring to know that God, the Maker of heaven and earth, is able to redeem everything about us, around us and within us and nothing with Him will ever be lost. This means God can take the joyous moments, which everyone fondly remembers, as well as the bad and sad experiences we’d all prefer to forget, and progressively use these to mould us into shape and make us better people.

No one, therefore, regardless of their past, should ever decide to give up on life or on God because God doesn’t give up on anyone.

With Him, there’s no such thing as a loser - only potential winners who have lost their way!

‘Not till the loom is silent and the shuttles case to fly; will God unroll the canvas and reveal the reason why the dark threads are as needful in the Weaver’s skilful hands, as the threads of gold and silver in the pattern He has planned.’