Back in the day—you know, the good old days—things were so much better…
Recently, as an American, it seems to me that our nation has been infatuated with an over-idealized past. It doesn’t really matter where you find yourself along the political spectrum but, certainly, conservatism appears most comfortable donning rose-colored glasses.
Why? Because, as a nation, we feel drained, sluggish, and not as pristine as we were, say, a few decades ago. We want today what we had yesterday. The old days were better; today is a wreck. Why were the former days better than these?
But, should we really be pinning after the “good” ol’ days?
Don’t ask that question
Solomon gives us a powerful piece of advice in scripture on how to deal with these feelings. It comes from the book of Ecclesiastes.
Say not, “Why were the former days better than these?” For it is not from wisdom that you ask this. — Ecclesiastes 7:10.
Wisdom is much more sober than our emotions. It transcends momentary frustration and societal unrest to survey not merely what is immediately before us but also what went behind us. Wisdom commands us to stop for a moment and truly reflect on what we wish for.
Let’s wisely ask a simple question: “When, exactly, were the ‘good’ ol’ days?”
Were they the 1990s? When inner-city crime was so high that families in the suburbs feared to enter major cities and families in urban contexts endured seemingly insatiable violence?
Were they the 1980s? When at any moment the world’s two super powers could have annihilated the planet with the flick of some buttons?
Were they the 1960–70s? When Jim Crow laws discriminated against blacks and the Vietnam War was killing thousands?
Were they the 1930–40s? When Nazism plagued Germany and Marxism infected the Soviet Union? When millions of people were being slaughtered in concentration camps, killed in combat, or died as non-combatant casualties of war?
When were these good old days, again? Don’t say anything before the 1930s because typhoid, global poverty, and WWI will swat your idealizing down in an instant.
Don’t get me wrong—I understand what people are saying from their subjective standpoint. It seems like the nation was more unified and prosperous in the past. But, I’m afraid that we sometimes overemphasize past achievements while minimizing past bruises to create a caricature of our culture that never existed. Then, we pine for days that never were.
Better days ahead
For believers, Solomon’s advice is a great reminder of setting our eyes forward. He issues a call to look ahead, not backwards, to better days. Doubtless, the earliest readers of Eccl 7:10 would have thought back to grumbling Israel in the wilderness wishing that they had remained in Egypt (Exo 16:2–3).
Israel asked, “Why were the former days better than these? Remember the good ol’ days in Egypt when we had food and a place to live?”
What Israel conveniently forgot was that they were slaves in Egypt, abused by their masters, and unable to worship God.
Like Israel, we too were called out of slavery of sin. The old self has died; the new self is alive! “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come (2 Co 5:17).” By God’s grace, we may follow Paul’s admonition: “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead (Phil 3:13).”
Let wisdom soberly remind us that, in Christ, our best days are yet to come. Let’s not look backwards, but forward to Christ. Let’s also remember to share the message of Christ so that we may see many people enter his kingdom with us.
Why? Because King Jesus is coming again, and, because of his resurrection, we can look forward to the good new days ahead of us.