History is a subject that fascinated me at school. I loved the sweeping stories of the past, brought to life by visits to ruined castles and monasteries: Monk Bretton Priory, Conisbrough Castle, Fountains Abbey, the castles of North Yorkshire all fuelled my imagination in ways I could barely fathom. Then I discovered science fiction and was thrust into an improbable but equally fascinating imaginative world of the future a utopia I knew from history actually meant ‘nowhere’, but still a fun place to imagine and explore!
At seventeen, I became a Christian and discovered a world of ancient truth that had hitherto passed me by. I discovered history in spades, you might say, and with it a knowledge of human nature that resonated with modern-day life. The truth of Ecclesiastes 1:9 became very relevant: ‘what has been will be again; what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.’
Ecclesiastes has often been thought of as a depressing book, all about futility, lack of meaning and vanity. The writer explores wisdom, wealth, success and learning and finds them all equally meaningless. Only in God is any hope found.
Being pessimistic by nature, I was not daunted by the apparent helplessness of Ecclesiastes. I actually found it refreshing to hear such things voiced and admitted. The historian in me was already very familiar with the cyclical nature of history and the fact that sadly, human nature never seem ed to learn much from the past, despite it being a veritable treasure trove of truth and example.
So as another year dawns, I find I have no expectation of ‘new’ things as such. There will still be war, disease, sorrow and grief to face. The lies and duplicity of humanity will continue. But despite this, I have hope, because what will also continue are the the presence and power of God in our world. He does not change.His compassions never fail; His mercies are new every morning (as another difficult book, Lamentations, reminds us.) Because of this, there is hope for this new year: hope in God.