“Don’t long for ‘the good old days.’ This is not wise” (Ecclesiastes 7:10, NLT).
One commentator suggests, “This verse picks up on the previous text: it is pointless to look back to the good old days when corruption was not so common. Such days never existed. At the same time, v. 10 anticipates the following passage, which deals with economic cycles. It is foolish to long for the days of prosperity. Apart from the fact that such longing does no one any good, every period has its hardships and opportunities.”
I once read in one of Mark Batterson’s books that there comes a time in our neurological development that we tend to transition (or default) from the right-brain (imagination) to the left-brain (logic). In other words, we stop envisioning our world for what it could become and instead criticizing our word for what it has become. We focus our attention on wanting to go back rather than on moving forward. Optimism is replaced by cynicism.
Too often we see the troubles, trials, and tribulations of our day and we chalk them up as further signs that we live in the last days. However, Jesus taught that these signs would always be with us – visible and viable reminders that the last days began at the resurrection – now we anxiously await the last of the last days (and his return). Christ followers, especially, have this tendency to view history as a constant downward spiral – as if the human condition is constantly regressing. An good hard look of the Bible would discount such a perspective. There are ebbs and flows – each generation having their own fair share of challenges – regime changes, rebellions, repentance, and even revivals.
I remind our church often to not only love the city they live but the times they find themselves in. Sure, we are surrounded by our fair share challenges of obstacles and opposition to the good news of Jesus Christ. What generation didn’t have one form or another of hurts and hindrances to the mission? God did not make a mistake when he planted us right where we are, to reach who we are with, and all with what we have.
At the risk of appearing too political, I take issue with a campaign slogan like “Make America Great Again.” I understand why political figures use the mantra (one of this year’s candidates is not the first). The statement insinuates a return to a greater era. But how do we define (or measure) great? Each generation has indeed had amazing accomplishments – many by making indescribable sacrifices (the Builder Generation being a shining example of fortitude – being raised in the end of the Great Depression only to undergo the horrors of World War II). That being said, consider that there have also been chapters in our nation’s history that we wish were not included. Even then, to think that someone stood up and spoke up first (many of which were followers of Jesus) and said that injustice and immorality needed to stop. That is where the greatness of our nation (and really the greatness of God’s work in anyone willing to trust and obey) is to be found.
Often when someone says they wish to see the return of the good old days (or the greatness of a period or people), they are actually longing for comfort, stability, and predictability. At least we know what to expect from our past experiences. But in so doing, we will only miss the possibility and promise of God to be realized in our day. Instead, I pray for our unchanging God to be revealed in our changing times.