These days a lot of people are complaining about all the bad news we constantly hear on the TV news, newspapers, the internet, and just in casual conversation. I myself have done some of that complaining. Like so many other people, I sometimes feel that life in this world in these times is just about hopeless. Sometimes I say to myself what so many other people are saying. “If only things could be like they were in the good old days.” For me, the good old days were the late 1940s through the mid-1960s. But were the good old days really all that good? Think about what was going on during my good old days – the Viet Nam war, the Cuban Missile crisis (we came to the very brink of nuclear war). riots in our cities, protests marches in the streets, sit-ins at government facilities, colleges, and other public places, drugs, gangs, corrupt politicians, our president assassinated, etc. Does any of this sound familiar?
During my good old days I recall many people of my parent’s generation wishing that they could go back to their good old days (the 1920s and 30s). I’ve read some biographies and memoirs of famous and ordinary people over the years, some written hundreds of years ago. Even back then people were wishing they could go back to their good old days. In the first chapter of the Book of Acts in the Bible, written about 2,000 years ago, Jesus’ disciples are hoping that he will restore the good old days of ancient of ancient Israel under King David 1,000 years. I would paraphrase his response as “forget aboutreliving the good old days. Just do what I tell you to do here and now.” It seems to me that this business of responding to the bad news of the present by hoping to go back to the good old days of the past is nothing new. What is the present for us will be the good old days for our grandchildren when they complain about the bad news they will be hearing about and experiencing in their future.
I have no problem with reminiscing about the good old days. I like to hear, read, and talk about them. I like to look at old photos. I’m thankful I have CDs that allow me to hear the music of my good old days. But I do have a problem with hoping for a return to the good old days. The problem is that such a hope is a false hope. It’s wishful thinking. It’s a waste of time. Nowhere in recorded history has anyone ever literally gone back in time to the good old days. You can tell all the stories and look at all the pictures from the good old days, and hear all the music from the good old days, but you can never go there again.
I believe that the farther in time we get away from our good old days, the better they look to us. We tend to have selective memory. We forget about those things that were not so good in the good old days. We not only remember the good things from way back when, but we make them even better than they really were. However, as I take an honest look back at my own past, and history in general, I find that life in any age has always been an experience of some good and some bad. There were times when things were geting better and better, but sooner or later something went wrong. But eventually things got better again. I believe the overall trend during all of recorded history has been positive. I’d like to visit my good old days if I could, but I wouldn’t want to live there again. I’d rather be living in the present, with hope for the future, despite all that is wrong in these times, than reliving the 1950s, or any other time in history. But what should we do when we are faced with the reality of so much bad news every day? Just ignore it? Act as though everything is okay, even though we know it isn’t? Or just go on moaning and groaning about it? I don’t think so.
Here’s what I try to do:
* Remember the past * Live in the present *Hope and prepare for the future
* Remember the past, but don’t try to or expect to live in the past. Learn from the past. Remember what was good and use that knowledge and experience to make life for yourself and others better now. Remember what was bad and do your best to avoid that in the present and the future. Thank God for the past and for your ability to remember the past.
* Live in the present. Look for and share good news with others. Do all you possibly can to demonstrate love to others. That’s what the followers of Jesus did in the 1st century. They practiced loving each other. Other people saw that and said “My how those Christians love each other”. There was still a lot of really bad news back then. But there was something new happening. There was good news in the midst of bad news. The good news could be wrapped up in one word – LOVE. Thank God for loving you and giving you the ability to love others.
* Hope and prepare for the future. That begins with seeking God’s guidance and direction as to what he wants to do with you to make your life and the lives of others better. It also requires believing that God will provide you with everything you need to participate with him in making a better future. Thank God for using you as good news in the midst of bad news.
Those are the three things I try to do to overcome the bad news that we all keep hearing. And it works. Yes, I still have my moments when things look hopeless to me. But they are just that – moments – which quickly disappear. What this all adds up to is that we should seek ways to give real hope to each other. We need to live our lives in such a way that we demonstrate love for each other. The more we do that, individually and collectively, the more we demonstrate that there is good news in the midst of the bad news which is so visible. When we do that, we become good news. The more we do that, the more other people will do that. The more time we spend being good news to and for each other, the less time we will waste on wishful thinking, hoping for a return to the good old days. The more we do this, the more we will find how true are the words of a popular song I remember from a few years ago – “These are the good old days”.
May God’s grace and peace be with you, Ray
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