In the “Good Ole Days”

Good Ole Days when you could play with wild abandon

I was at the doctor last month and the receptionist reminisced about the “good ole days” where you could drink from your outside hose, ride your bike without a helmet, and sit on the floor of the car playing with your siblings when your family went on long trips.

Many of us wish for “the good ‘ole days”, especially as we get older. Back when people were nicer. There was less stress. When things were more affordable, and life was less complicated. When we could be silly – like standing on our head in the yard.

We all get nostalgic for the past, convinced that the carefree days of our youth were better than the challenges we’re facing now. Let’s face it: change is hard. Growing up is hard.

Even the Israelites during the Exodus (Exodus 16:2-3) had a “good ole days” problem, reminding Moses of the “good times” they had in Egypt, forgetting that they were slaves under harsh taskmasters for over 300 years.

Preachers wore robes in the Good Ole Days
Old-style Protestant preacher

We see this in the church as well:

  • I miss the old hymns. I don’t like this “modern” music
  • The old preacher was better … or the old preacher wouldn’t have done that
  • We’ve always done it this way
  • This preacher is trying to change everything!

In Ecclesiastes 7:10, God reminds us to Say not, “Why were the former days better than these?” For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.

Why does God discourage such thinking? 

Our memory is selective

The receptionist in my doctor’s office was born in 1978. She’s lived through the 9/11 attacks, wars in Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Iraq, the Syrian Civil War, a global economic crisis, the Rwandan Genocide, the collapse of the Soviet Union, a global pandemic, and numerous natural disasters (e.g., earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis). That does not sound like the “good ‘ole days” to me.

Maybe it was her parents that had “good ole days”. They would have been born in the early 1950s and had to also deal with the Korean & Vietnam Wars, the Cold War, the Six-Day War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the doomsday clock countdown, The Bay of Pigs Invasion, and the Civil Rights Movement, in addition to more natural disasters. Nope. Still not “good ole days”.

Our view is incomplete

When we drank from the outside hose or rode our bikes without helmets, we were children with few obligations. School and play characterized most of our days. Homework wasn’t easy, but it didn’t compare to worrying about putting food on the table for your family.

Our focus is wrong

When we live in the past, we open the door to anger, depression, anxiety, bitterness, and worry. “Woe is me! Nothing is like it used to be.” As Christians, the best is yet to come, but you wouldn’t know that by listening to most Christians.

Brackish pond water
Brackish water in a pond

There is an old saying: “If you swim in brackish waters, you’ll get brack all over you”.  Wishing for “the good old days” is like swimming in brackish water like in the pond in the picture to the right; you miss the blessings and opportunities of the present.

Where should we focus instead?

Ecclesiastes is an odd book. The writer, very likely King Solomon, talks about all of the things he’s tried – riches, wisdom, fame, work, and pleasures. He’s covered many of our big “wants” that we tend to think of as “needs”.

The wisest man ever then concluded: “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher; all is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 12:8).  Focusing on ourselves, including on the “good old days”, is meaningless and vain. “Things” will not bring us lasting joy and peace. Nearly a third of lottery winners go bankrupt. Surprise, even money can’t buy happiness, although most of us would like to test that theory.

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 sums up where we should focus instead (emphasis mine):

“The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.”

Our focus should be on obeying and honoring God. There, and only there, we will find lasting meaning, peace, and joy. Anything else will fall short.

Focus here instead

What is God challenging us to do instead of focusing on the past? We should

Celebrate what God has done for us in the past. Much of the Old Testament is God reminding His people of how He’s lovingly provided for them time after time. Did you have a happy, carefree childhood?  Thank God for that blessing. If your parents loved you, thank God. If you always had food on the table growing up, thank God.

Rejoice in what God is doing with and through you today. Stop and smell the roses. God made them for you to enjoy, in spite of the thorns. Each new day is a gift from God. Cultivate a spirit of gratitude; count your blessings and be amazed at what God has done. As Lamentations 3:22-23 reminds us “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness.”

Forget the good ole days and look towards heaven
A glimpse of heaven

Be excited about what God has planned for you. As Christians, our future is certain: abundant life now, followed by eternal life in heaven with a God that loves us beyond measure. There is no downside there.

Prayer:

Father, forgive me for being selfish and thinking only about myself. Help me remember that you have a plan for each of us, to prosper us and give us hope for the future. And that future is a glorious eternity with you. Thank you for loving me beyond measure.

Steve Choquette

Steve Choquette is a loving husband, father, and grandfather. After a 45 year career as a software engineer and a product manager, Steve is now retired for the third time. Time will tell if he stays retired. He loves writing, gardening, traveling, and spending time with his grandchildren.

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