In Job’s final speech to his friends, he talked about the past, the days he enjoyed a prosperous life, when he was able to help the poor with his material wealth. He remembered the strangers who found shelter in his home, and the respect he received from everyone who knew him.
“How I long for the months gone by,” he said in 29:2, “for the days when God watched over me.” In verse 4 he said, “Oh for the days when I was in my prime…” (Well, actually I have said the same a time or two myself!)
Job looked at the past with longing. And many of us do that, too. We remember the good old days, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing…
- unless we allow our memories to paralyze us. The truth is, life was easier for me before my back problems. Life was more exciting when I had more energy and the future was promising. But today the days of my past outnumber the days of my future. The days of the past were innocent and full of new things to learn. Today my look at the world can be jaded. So, do I sit in my recliner and remember the good old days while ignoring my present and future? Do I find more comfort remembering the past than I do embracing the present and looking ahead to my future? Isn’t it a waste of precious time to live in the past?
- unless our memories are not true. Our minds have a way of inflating the good while diminishing the reality of the ugliness that existed, too. The opposite can be true as well, and can be so destructive if all we remember is the bad. No past is all good, or all bad.
My dad loved being a dad. We five girls were his everything. That is, until we became teenagers, and then adults with minds of our own. That was hard for Dad. And I think he always longed to go back to the days when his little girls were still his little girls. I’m not saying we weren’t able to enjoy a good relationship with him once we got through those awkward teenage years. But I think he was always a bit disappointed we grew up. And I think that colored the relationships we had with him as adults.
Living in the past, whether real or imagined, is an act of futility. Life will never be the same as it was when we were kids. We can’t go back. Time marches on. And if I am honest, my past has been fun and blessed and amazing; but it has also been painful and lonely and hard. Would I really want to relive all of it?
Warren Wiersbe says this:
“The good old days are are often a combination of a bad memory and a good imagination.” (With The Word, Thomas Nelson Press; 1991; page 298)
Yep. That pretty much describes it, doesn’t it? But Wiresbe also said something that hit me this morning on page 297 of With The Word:
“The past must be more than a memory; it must be a ministry.”
I am thankful for the gift of memory, even though not all my memories make me happy. So, what am I doing with that gift of memory? Am I sitting on it in the privacy of my own home, wishing, longing, regretting, or obsessing? Or am I using my past experiences to help someone today, January 11, 2020? Am I remembering my blessings so to encourage others, my mistakes to challenge or to warn someone who needs a reality check?
The past is the past, there is no going back. But our past can also be a tool to be used on behalf of others, for their sakes and God’s glory. Let’s remember the good old, bad old days, and allow it to minister to someone who needs our wisdom and experience to help them along the way.