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While the new year is upon us with well wishes, and fireworks, for many people the new year is a time of regret.

Many regret and feel discouraged about their lives. They have not lived up to what they wanted and their lives did not measure up to what they had hoped and planned for.

For so many it is a time of tremendous loneliness and isolation when in silence we ask ourselves 'what have I done really.' Very often, the answer is nothing. We have ignored our friends and family and sometimes felt bored with almost all that we do and lament that 'no one listens to us.'

New years eve is a time when we try to reach out to our friends to see if we still matter to them. To see if they value us, to see if they listen to us. It is a time when we try to reconnect with our spouses or our children. It is a time when we resolve to make more time for them. Yet the stronger our resolve, it seems the more things get in the way and our resolve dissolves like a bath bomb in hot water.

When I was much younger, my sister had a friend who would open the door on a frosty midnight and shout out into the black night "happy new year!" There was no response, no one wished the 12 year old a happy new year back. Her cry was met with silence.

So where do we find an answer? Where do we find hope and encouragement in the frosty cold nights when we are alone and close our doors in solitude. To whom do we turn when we feel as if we do not matter and are deeply discouraged?

This is not a small problem. I have had many clients for whom loneliness and a sense of meaning is crippling and plagues them. They wait in vain for their children to call them or anyone. They watch TV or read and some of them have cats and dogs but in the end,

there is a gnawing and aching sense that they 'don't matter and that they have no value!'

The late Pope Benedict XV wrote the following words which I think will help tremendously, in his book On Christian hope he writes: " A first essential setting for finding hope is prayer. When no one listens to me anymore, God still hears me. When I can no longer talk to anyone or call anyone, I can always talk to God. When there is no longer anyone who can help me deal with a need or expectation that goes beyond the human capacity for hope, He can help me"

The basis of our hope is our weakness and our vulnerability. To overcome discouragement therefore it is essential that that we do not give up hope in God. We are slow to help others, we are lazy and self indulgent we want the 'easy way' and because we fail so often in our emotional and spiritual life, we get very discouraged.

We try, we fail. Never give up on God and His mercy to help you. He knows how weak we are and yet we must always turn to Him and rely on His help. This is far more effective than our will power. Our will power is rather like Nicky calling out 'Happy New year" like her small voice, our will power will fizzle in the dark. Yet when we call upon God in our times of discouragement and emptiness, we call out not to the darkness but to the Living God who, in His mercy hears us and give us the strength to go on,

We must live faithful to God and to see His will in all things. To have hope in Him. This is not easy and we will need to remind ourselves all the time that we can in fact grow closer to the very one who will never abandon us, namely our Lord Himself.

Discouragement therefore is simply what happens when we despair in the love and mercy of God towards us.

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