Humans are really good at looking backwards. In college you talk about high school, in your 20s you talk about college, in your 30s you wish you could go back to the simpler times of your 20s, in your 40s you wish your body felt the way it did in your 30s, and so on and so forth.
We look back, oftentimes wishing we could regain what we left. Convinced things were better before.
Nostalgia plays a huge part in our culture today. It seems like the only movies that are getting released today are sequels to popular movies or reboots to those same popular movies. There are 40,000 Fast and Furious movies. Maybe they're actually just terrible drivers..?
But they do this because they know people are comfortable with what they know. Old television shows will have often have reunions so everyone can see the whole group again. And bands will have reunion tours, trying to recapture the magic they had in the 70s or 80s. Angus Young of AC/DC STILL wears that school boy outfit.
We always seem to look back.
Especially when things aren’t going great, in any capacity. Like the reason you may get excited for a band having a reunion tour is because you don’t like or enjoy the music today. The reason you often think about your high school football career is because you wish you could still move like you did at that point in your life. And the reason we look back in our own life is because we may be unhappy with where we at now.
Especially with how things are right now.
How many times recently have we looked back at 2019 and longed for the normalcy of it all. Or even the relative political normalcy of 2015. We long for normalcy and for a sense of peace, remembering a time when we had a sense of what was going on or what to expect. Because we’re uncomfortable with the unknown.
We’re good when things are easy and we can be happy with less effort. And we’re usually fine when things are hard, because even though times are difficult, we know and can see the goal. We know that even though things will be hard, we can do x and y will happen. You can see that light at the end of the tunnel.
But a lot of times, including the past year, we have no idea what’s going on. No clue what's going to happen. We don’t know what needs to be done for this or that to happen. There is no clear path out. And we wish we could see that clear path and to finally come out on the other side.
A few months ago, in the middle of all this, like in June or something, back when we thought there was no way this would last much longer, let alone until 2021. When things were already out of control and nobody knew what to expect for the future. Events were getting cancelled and normal summer activities had a big question mark, I was standing at the coffee maker and I had this thought. That if these things weren’t happening, the virus and everything else, we would be making plans like normal. We would be discussing our summer events, people would be putting together their back to school plans, we’d be going on vacations and to sporting events, and we’d be none the wiser that a reality like this was even possible.
Are you telling me there’s a possibility I don’t get to do what I want to do? The fun things that I have planned aren’t going to happen? How could that be? Why would that happen to me? If this virus hadn't taken hold, our lives would be unchanged. We would be having a normal year right now.
As I had these thoughts in that moment I kept coming back to a question... how could we be so arrogant? We all know from experience that life is hard and we’ll encounter heartache and pain, but it’s often self contained and there are usually clear reasons why. And we’d still live a normal life through this pain, going to work, celebrations, events, school, while dealing with those hardships.
But this is different. How could we have been so arrogant?
And then a couple weeks later I come across this verse. This is THE verse of the times we're in. Write this down, save it, or highlight it.
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” James 4:13-15
Wow. That verse feels like it was written for this specific moment.
Who do we think we are that we make these plans and expect them to happen? God is the only sovereign one here, he makes plans and they happen. We make plans, and God determines our steps. How could we be so arrogant.
When life is going according to plan, God is great. When it’s not, where are you God?
Hosea 13:6 says, "When I fed them, they were satisfied; when they were satisfied, they became proud; then they forgot me."
Paul says in James that someone who reads the Word and doesn’t do what it says is like a man who looks in the mirror, walks away and forgets what he looks like.
We were told what to expect in this life. We were told we don’t have the final say. We are told God’s will for this world would be done. But we’re shocked when we aren’t able to fulfill the plans we made.
So like everything else in this world, we long for the days gone by. Relative to now, things were so easy a year ago. Can we please just go back to normal? Will there ever be a normal?
I remember a couple years ago, I was living in Fargo at this point. And there was a few weeks period where all I could think about was my senior year of college, and how fun that was. And how not fun right then was. I had a lot of friends in close proximity, I felt very excited about my career path, I had two great jobs, the weather was amazing, I was enjoying my classes, my prospects were high. It was a great time. I had been reliving those memories for a few days, wishing I could get back to them. And get back to something similar to the feelings I had during that time.
And then one day I was in church at Heartland Community Church and I was listening to the sermon minding my own business when the pastor read a verse that hit me like a truck.
Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?” For it is not wise to ask such questions. Wisdom, like an inheritance, is a good thing and benefits those who see the sun. Wisdom is a shelter as money is a shelter, but the advantage of knowledge is this: Wisdom preserves those who have it. Consider what God has done: Who can straighten what he has made crooked? When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, no one can discover anything about their future. Ecclesiastes 7:10-14
When he read that I threw my hands up and mentally shouted “Oh come on!!” I immediately opened the Bible app and highlighted that verse and added the comment “Oh come on!!” I was shocked at the directness of God there. I even went up to the pastor after and told him how his verse blindsided me.
God was telling me directly that God created both those happy times and these bad times, do not wish for those past times.
One of my all time favorite verses is James 1:2-3:
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance."
So maybe we accept that even though things are bad, we shouldn’t wish for the good old days, we shouldn’t wish we could recapture what we had before and with God there’s a reason for this. Maybe we believe and understand all that. But we say, well if then is better than now, let's just head home! Let’s wrap this up, God. It’s obvious that’s where this is headed, so let’s get out of here. I’m done. I’m ready. Let’s go. In his letter to Philipi, Paul writes this famous verse:
"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain."
And he continues the letter with..
"If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me." Philipians 1:18-26
Paul knows there’s a reason for this. He wishes he could leave but knows there’s still work to be done. So he continues just as he always has.
So what IS the reason for everything that is happening? Well that’s between you and God to figure out. You aren’t alive during this time to be unaffected by what’s happening. A purpose will be mined out of todays events specifically for you. But life moved so fast before. Too preoccupied with our plans to hear what God was trying to tell us. So God did the only thing that would get your attention. He hit pause on this fast moving life and, especially in March, April, May, life had stopped moving completely. You saw empty streets and closed down restaurants and stores. And some of that continues still today obviously, but maybe things get back to a relative sense of normal in the coming months. So the question is this, did you get out of this what God was hoping you would?
In the book of Joshua we read of a battle that Israel won because God caused the sun and the moon to stand still in the sky. He delayed it so they could win that battle.
And I believe God caused life to stand still so his individual children could win their battles. So they could hop back on the horse of personal devotion. So they could learn to become a family again. So they could create an opportunity to talk to a certain friend about God. So we could refocus on Jesus.
So let us not wish for it to be the days gone by. We don’t need any new sequels to old movies or bands to reunite. For God has created the current moment for the exact amount of people alive right now for a specific reason. He created this atmosphere and these events for us personally and for us as a church, for us to gain wisdom, faith, perseverance, and opportunity.
The good old days aren’t all they cracked up to be.