Do not say, “Why is it that the former days were better than these?”
For it is not from wisdom that you ask about this. Eccl.7:10
We all have the habit of looking back to our pasts. At times, we glorify the past beyond what it deserves. Our childhood reminds us of the age of innocence and playfulness. We recall our adolescence with memories of adventures, first dates, proms, dreams, and youthfulness. The beginning of our careers seemed so hopeful; we had great plans of saving the world and making a name for ourselves. The time of courtship with our spouse was full of love and promise, as if life were being laid with foundations of health and joy and unity and harmony. We remember how we looked, how easy and simple everything seemed, and how much promise was ahead of us. We remember our wedding nights, the birth of our first children, our graduation days, our first jobs, our first big promotions, and on and on. Everything was full of hope, and the future seemed so bright!
But at some point in the journey, the dreams got shattered; the relationships were damaged; the body stopped being healthy and strong; the hopeful career did not turn out as hoped and planned; friends betrayed us; divorces happened; loved ones died; the person in the mirror did not impress us anymore; and no matter how hard we tried, it was never good enough! Despair set in. Memories of our past became painful and life lost its luster and shine. Where was God in all this? “How could he have promised so much and delivered so little?” we think to ourselves!
The Preacher is advising us, in the above text, that this is exactly the wrong way to perceive our lives. A wise person knows that life is full of ups and downs, and there is a season for everything (Eccl.3:1-8). The walk with God is a journey toward spiritual maturity: a walk that entails greater challenges, demands, and a tough work-out regimen to build our spiritual muscles. As one moves to a higher grade, one faces more difficult tests to pass and deeper truths to grasp. The walk with God is a journey, but not for the purpose of earthly pleasures. It is to conform us to the image of Christ, both the crucified Christ and the resurrected Christ. Godly wisdom and holiness do not come easily. They come as we “work out” our salvation with “fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12) by the power of His Spirit, the working of His grace, and under His providential hand. God shows us darkness so that we may be able to recognize light. He takes us through valleys so that we may depend on Him and learn that He alone is our Savior. He takes away things to which we are attached so that we may cling only to Him and know that this life is transient and temporary. He brings us to face our own mortality that we may long for immortality with Him and in Him. Through this He makes us wise that we may thank Him for this moment and every other moment planned by a loving Father for His child (1 Thess.5:18).