Last week my personal devotions were from Ecclesiastes. It can be a challenging book to understand. One particular verse caught my attention and I have been turning it over in my mind for several days. Ecclesiastes 7:10 “Do not say, Why were the old days better than these? For it is not wise to ask such questions” (NIV). Throughout my ministry it seems that most people long for the good old days. Church leaders remember a time with the attendance was better and the offerings were larger. At church pot luck dinners everyone remembers those one or two saints of old that cooked a certain dish that no one has ever been able to match since. When trying to find volunteers to serve, pastors remember when people wanted to serve instead of wanting to be served. It seems that most everyone remembers the good old days as being better than our current ones. Perhaps that is true.
It might also be true that we only remember the good parts and forget the bad parts. I recall an older deacon who once told me “I remember the good old days, and they were not that great!” He loved to tell stories of his childhood growing up on a farm in northern New England. He remembers the wind whistling through the rafters in the old farmhouse and being cold in the winter no matter how many blankets he piled on his bed. He took me to that farmhouse once, which has now been purchased by someone from out of state. The new owner used government grants to “restore” the farmhouse so it could be preserved for historical purposes. Deacon Bill said the roof was never that straight, nor the walls that square when he lived in the house. And he remembers well that when he lived there it had a “bath down a path, not a bath and a half!” Bill was quite the character, but he was also honest. The good old days had their share of hardship, toils and difficulties. Though he missed certain aspects of them, he had no desire to go back.
When discussing this scripture, and those who long for the past that it addresses, one commentator said, “in his moody discontent he looks on what is around him with a jaundiced eye, and sees the past through a rose-tinted atmosphere, as an age of heroism, faith, and righteousness.” Another commentator reminds us that “Every age has its light and dark side; the past was not wholly light, the present is not wholly dark.” We can become so nostalgic about the past that we miss the good things going on around us. Maybe church attendance is not what it once was, but the people who are there deserve our love and attention, not our pinning for the past. Maybe the offerings are not as large as they once were, but they should be used wisely for Kingdom advance, not hoarded by a small cabal of power people. Perhaps church workers were easier to recruit in yesteryear, but that makes the ones we have now all the more valuable. Instead of constantly looking at the past, let us look forward to bright future that God has in store for all of those who are called by Him and serving Him faithfully.
Dr. Terry W. Dorsett is a church planter in New England. He is a happy husband, proud father, giggling grandfather, thankful cancer survivor, and the author of numerous books aimed at helping small churches become healthier and individual Christians grow in their faith. You can find his books at: