Wishing for the “Good Old Days”?
“Do not say, "Why were the old days better than these?" For it is not wise to ask such questions.” (Ecclesiastes 7:10)
This is a fascinating and unusual bit of wisdom found in the Bible. It is quite common to hear our parents and grandparents reminisce about the past with an air of wistful longing. Even those who didn’t expect our world to make it to 2024 should heed these words and the ones to come. After describing the benefits of wisdom in verses 11-12, the author, traditionally attributed to Solomon, says this:
“Consider what God has done: Who can straighten what he has made crooked? When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, a man cannot discover anything about his future. (Ecclesiastes 7:13-14) Apart from the Final End, we do not know what the future may hold. I can only accept by faith on what I’m told or read that what has happened prior to 1975 actually occurred. For the most part, I believe it! But what I’m told from God’s Word (even in this passage) is that God has ordained the times we live in, bad and good, and we live in them for a specific purpose, namely to bring Him glory! Wisdom would tell us that we are a part of a grand story, leading to a glorious End, but we don’t exactly know where we are on God’s timeline!
Is it helpful to wish for the “Good Ol’ Days”? Think for a moment, with me, and reflect upon relatively modern history. It was not that long ago that we had no internet. I can remember back to the days when the “answering machine” was just getting started, and we had to run to phone on the wall to answer it before it went to the machine, and we had no idea who was calling! I even remember having a “wringer” in my earliest childhood to squeeze the water out of clothes that were hand-washed!
Let’s go back just a little further…say about a hundred years ago. The first manned flight did not occur until 1903, when Wilbur and Orville Wright took to the air, and only for 120 feet! Some of those alive who witnessed that also saw two men walk on the moon in 1969! About 100 years ago:
The average life expectancy in America was 47. Now US has a quarter of a million centenarians! (100+)
100 years ago: Only 14% of the homes in the U.S. had a bathtub, & only 8% of homes had a telephone.
A three-minute call from Denver to New York City cost $11 when that among was close to $100 dollars today, if you could get through.
There were only 8,000 cars in the U.S. and only 144 miles of paved roads.
The average wage in the U.S. was $0.22/hour, and made $200–$400 a year.
Humorist P. J. O’Rourke wrote, “When you think of the good old days, think ‘dentistry.’” One of the greatest inventions of the modern world was anesthetics. Prior to that, people either drank alcohol until they practically passed out, or they had to “grit and bear it”. 100 years ago, the leading causes of death were, (1) pneumonia and influenza, (2) tuberculosis, and (3) diarrhea. Today, America’s #1 publicized health risk is Obesity! Certainly not the worst problem in comparison…
Before today’s polluting vehicles, our nation had city life where 100’s of horses defecated in the streets, producing between 15-20lbs of manure a day per horse, which led to bacteria-laden dust that people would have to breathe. Some have suggested that cholera, yellow fever, small pox and typhoid were primarily caused by the atmosphere of putrefying filth where horse manure was the chief culprit!
You only have to go back a little bit further, or outside of the US, to read about when tyrants ruled, the revolutions, the raping, pillaging, and mass starvation. Speaking of pandemics, many history books record the ravaging of Europe by the Black Death, killing approximately 50% percent of its people, estimated to be around 25-50 million in that region. (back when the world’s pop. was under 500 million)
It is to every era that God has placed His remnant of faithful believers, and often through the most difficult of circumstances. I think of the story of Ruth and Naomi in the book of Ruth. Naomi had lost a husband and 2 sons, but gained a daughter in law who helped her. Naomi in her grief, told others to call her “Mara”, meaning “bitter”, feeling that all seemed lost, compared to the “good ol’ days”. Little did she know that God would work through her and Ruth’s descendants to bring about the world’s Messiah!
Solomon could have been thinking back to the days when Israel was united under 12 tribes under David, but understands that he couldn’t return to the past, and so that is an exercise in futility. Yes, it is tragic that men and women in the most prosperous times in America have abandoned the God who blessed them. Yes, we need to recognize that with every modern advancement, like social media, there comes inherent dangers that we need to protect our families from. Yes, there are issues that Christians must continually battle to conserve, protect, and recover in every generation.
We need to see that our Creator has placed us in this season to fight the battles he has for us, “snatching others from the fire” (Jude 1:23), praying all the while, “Your Kingdom come, Your Will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”! (Matthew 6:10) May we be found faithful in OUR day, trusting that our Lord will use it for Glory!