A Question We Shouldn’t Ask

Posted on October 6, 2021

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By David Ettinger

Better Days Behind
The past two years have been dark! The COVID-19 pandemic lit the fuse, and things exploded from there. Additionally, my 63-year-old body has been turning on me. Nothing severe, but enough to acutely remind me that I ain’t what I used to be.

If you’re like me, you long for those long-ago and far-away days when we didn’t have to wear masks, weren’t forced to put a substance into our bodies we were unsure of, and had the security of knowing our law-enforcement officers were allowed to do their jobs.

Looking back a little further, we recall the days when we were stronger and healthier. When we could engage in physically-challenging endeavors and not have to pay for it the next morning, when our hearts and various body parts were running smoothly, and when we were – in general – hale and in excellent shape.

These were the better days behind us. I sometimes find myself watching a movie from 1994 and saying to myself, What was I doing in 1994? Oh yeah, I went on a 5-hour hike in the Organ Mountains (in southern New Mexico) and hardly broke a sweat. Or I’ll watch a YouTube video from the 1980s and remember how easy life was then, and how the world seemed far less complicated.

But alas, those days are gone. And, alas, I find myself reminiscing. And, alas, I’m told by the Bible to cut it out!

Listen to King Solomon
When considering the entirety of King Solomon’s life, his legacy was more bad than good. However, he was the primary human author of Proverbs, which is very, very good.

He is also the human author of Ecclesiastes – one of my favorite books of the Bible, but one steeped in cynicism and skepticism. Written near the end of Solomon’s sad life, Ecclesiastes is a physical “this world” book rather than a spiritual “next world” book. It is filled with practical advice and observations, some astute, some questionable, but most of them logical.

Solomon could have reminisced, but chose not to, rather he dispensed common-sense counsel. Among his pearls was an admonition to not waste time pondering the past. He wrote it crisply and distinctly, and took but one verse to do it: “Do not say, ‘Why is it that the former days were better than these?’ For it is not from wisdom that you ask about this” (7:10).

Solomon makes no follow-up, leaving it there like low-hanging fruit to be picked by his readers and consumed. And it doesn’t take more than a few bites to see that he’s absolutely correct.

Moving Forward
The biggest reason we should not reminisce over the past is that, well, those days have come and gone. They are no longer. We live in the here and now and are to embrace the here and now.

We hate what the COVID pandemic has done to the world, but that’s the way it goes. We’re in a pandemic and have to live with it. We hate the widespread corruption plaguing our planet and is forever getting worse, but that’s where we find ourselves. And regarding our bodies, well, lament as we will, we’re not getting any better. Eat well and exercise by all means, but your bodies are never going to return to what they once were.

Perhaps I can put this in a softer light by juxtaposing Solomon’s admonition with one by the apostle Paul.

Solomon: “Do not say, ‘Why is it that the former days were better than these?’ For it is not from wisdom that you ask about this” (Ecclesiastes 7:10).  

Paul: “… but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).

No need to expound upon Paul’s admonition as a surface reading speaks for itself. Like Solomon, Paul does not want God’s people lamenting past glories. He wants us tackling the days in which we live, and doing it all for the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.

So the next time you find yourself saying, “the former days were better than these,” bite your tongue, banish the thought, and ask God to give you the strength and zeal to live for Him today – in the here and now!