It’s a fond memory I have from my childhood. I’m curled up near a warm fire, a cup of hot chocolate in hand, as my grandma or grandfather turns to me and says “Michael, let me tell you about the good old days.” Ah, yes. The good old days. A time when things were simpler, slower and more carefree. An era when things were safer, when people were happier and when life looked cheerful and bright. A time when things were simply better than they are today. Or where they?
Nostalgia. It’s a noun which can be defined as “a sentimental longing or wistful affection for a period in the past.” How natural it is for humanity to romanticise the past. But was this past really as good as we remember? Sure, there were moments of joy but we can all too frequently forget the moments of sorrow and trouble alongside them.
Additionally, just as we have a tendency to romanticise the past we also have our sights set on the future. Our minds naturally imagine a time when things will be better. Maybe we will have more money, better relationships or a more fulfilling career. Maybe then we’ll find the answers to peace, joy and happiness that so presently allude us. There is nothing wrong with having goals and ambitions but we shouldn’t let our longing for tomorrow limit our potential for today.
To quote an anonymous author: “He who wants his future to be better than the present must work for it now to make it so.”
Romanticising the past and awaiting the future. It’s easy enough to fall into this trap in our physical lives, but what about our spiritual ones? How easy it is to reflect on moments when we were closer to God. How often have we longed to get back to that “first love” again? What about looking forward to some future moment in time? How simple it is to convince ourselves that we’ll be better tomorrow – with our devotions, our prayers and our relationship with Him. We are not alone in thinking this way. There are countless examples in the Bible of characters who forgot about the God of Today.
THE WOMAN AT THE WELL
The fourth chapter of the Gospel of John tells the story of a Samaritan woman’s encounter with Jesus. To set the scene, Jesus is on a long journey and, taking a rest in the town of Sychar, asks the woman for a drink from the well. Upon revealing His identity, the woman questions Jesus, asking “Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself…” (John 4:12). Again in verse 20, she notes that her ancestors “worshiped on this mountain”, clearly communicating her idealisation of her people’s rich, spiritual past.
Furthermore, the woman speaks of her anticipation of a future Messiah. This is someone who, in her eyes, will guide her people into a new spiritual golden age (John 4:25). Clearly, this woman was so focused on what “was before” and what “could be” that she was unable to see the very real Son of God standing right in front of her.
MARTHA AND LAZARUS
Another example of this way of thinking can be found in John chapter 11. Here, Jesus arrives at the town of Bethany a few days after his friend Lazarus has died of leprosy. He is immediately greeted by Lazarus’ sister Martha who is clearly distressed.
“Lord,” Martha begins, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11:21). If only we could go back to the past. If only things could have turned out differently. To this, Jesus gently replies “Your brother will rise again.” (John 11:23). “I know he will rise again, in the resurrection on the last day,” Martha responds (John 11:24). Far off in the future, I will see my brother again.
Martha concentrated on the future while Jesus was focused on the present. She cared about “what-if’s” and “will-be’s”, while Jesus was fixed on “right now”.
THE ANCIENT ISRAELITES
Finally, in the wilderness of Sinai, the Israelites walked, looking forward to a future in the Promised Land – that land flowing with milk and honey they had been promised for so many years. Some even reminisced about their past life in Egypt:
“We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic.” (Numbers 11:5).
Focusing on their temporary blessings, they longed to return to a kingdom that had made them slaves. These Israelites craved a better future or reunion with the past, oblivious to the very real God raining manna down from heaven and leading them in a cloud (Numbers 11:25). They echoed the mindset of the Pharisees centuries later to whom Jesus said:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” (John 8:58).
It’s so easy for us to romanticise our spiritual walk of the past and to wish we could “get back there”. We may even wish we had made different choices and decisions in those days gone by. Furthermore, it’s equally as effortless to imagine a time in the future when we will be on fire for God again.
But that God who created life with a single word and will one day come again with thunder, lightning and the heavenly hosts is the same God who is speaking to you right now. The God of the past, present and future wants a relationship with you today. What will your answer be?
Would you like to learn more about this topic? Click this link to have a one on one discussion with one of our MWM staff.