Spirit of Grace Ministries
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Spirit of Grace Ministries
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The "Good Old Days"

empty food court

by Dennis Pollock

I stopped by a mall the other day to have lunch. Although I hadn’t been there much lately, I know the mall very well. When our children were small we used to go there all the time. It was one of their favorite places, and the Toys R Us store was always visited, along with a number of other stores.

Usually during the Christmas season my wife and I would do some of our Christmas shopping there, and enjoy lunch at the bustling Food Court. That mall was packed in those days, but somehow I didn’t mind the crowds. Picking out Christmas treasures in the midst of large, bustling throngs of people just seemed like a “Christmasy” thing to do, and the truth is, I sort of enjoyed it.

But this time things were different. The mall was, to be painfully honest, dying. A number of the stores were now vacant, with those ugly chain barriers in front of the darkened buildings. And even though we were in mid-December there was just a handful of people walking around. During the old days the Food Court was so busy that you had to look carefully to try and find an empty table. No worries this day. Empty tables stretched out in every direction, and more than half the restaurants were closed. I felt sorry for those who worked there, as it seemed certain that this mall would close down altogether within a couple of years. The once-thriving, busy, noisy, congested mall had become a sort of ghost-mall, and the stores and restaurants that were still there were gloomy reminders of a once-glorious past.

No Pause Button

It made me sad. Even though I haven’t shopped there much lately, still I like things to stay the same. The problem is, they never do. Whether it is our lives, our seasons, our relationships, or businesses, or malls, our world is in a constant flux. There is no pause button we can hit, no magic formula to keep anything the way it is today, including our bodies, our looks, our health, or anything about our lives. One of life’s guarantees is that whatever exists and is happening now will not stay the same. Sometimes that’s a positive thing; other times, not so much.

Of course, this is not earth-shattering news. Everybody knows this, but once in a while we have an experience, like my lunch at the mall, which makes it stand out in vivid colors. Being of a somewhat philosophical bent, as I thought about this simple reality I decided there are several important insights to be gained. First, we should be thankful to God for the pleasures and the blessings of the past seasons of our lives. No, we can’t bring them back; life has no rewind button. But as we meditate on “the good old days” we can recognize that whatever sweetness was in them, it was God who graciously provided that sweetness. Rather than bemoan the fact that those days and those blessings are long gone, we should be thankful that we had them at all. Happy memories are a great treasure, and those who lack them are poor indeed.

As we study the heroes of the Scriptures, we find them weaving in and out of various seasons of their lives. The great leader of Israel, Moses, had three distinct seasons of his life. Throughout his youth and until he reached the age of forty, Moses enjoyed a life of immense privilege. Although he was truly the son of a Hebrew slave, he grew up as the adopted son of the princess of Egypt. He enjoyed the best that Egypt could provide: the best clothes, the best education, and the best connections. To put it into our vernacular, he had it made. But all of that changed one day, when God orchestrated a sudden, dramatic, and irreversible shift in his life and circumstances. The Bible tells us:

…When Moses was grown, he went out to his brethren and looked at their burdens. And he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren. So he looked this way and that way, and when he saw no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand (Exodus 2:11, 12).

The Calling Emerges

Seeing the abuse of one of his Hebrew brothers, something arose in the prophet’s heart, something God had placed within him at birth, but was just now unfolding and blossoming. It was a hatred of oppression and a passion for freedom, something which would eventually transform Moses into God’s great liberator of His people. Moses couldn’t know all of this at the time, of course. But once the act was done, Moses was quickly and unceremoniously plucked from his place of privilege, wealth, and power, and was forced to flee Egypt for his life.

He found a family in Midian that took him in, and his job description changed from prince in Egypt to lowly shepherd. Friends, position, authority, respect, and all the trappings of royalty were snatched from him in a moment, and he found himself living quietly as a shepherd. It all happened without so much as an “if you please.” God had not given him a word to leave; He had not asked Moses what he wanted to do. The Creator and Judge of all the earth had done according to His own will. Moses could not guess that it would all lead to him becoming known as one of the greatest men in the history of planet earth. All he knew was that the old days were gone, and unless I miss my guess, he probably had a few regrets about it all. Mr. Somebody had become Mr. Nobody. And it would stay that way for a good, long time – 40 quiet years. By the time God appeared to Moses in the burning bush, he had been changed from powerful young prince to an unknown old man who watched sheep for a living.

We know the end of the story, of course, but he didn’t. And it is often the same in our lives. Some new seasons we create and initiate ourselves. We decide to move, or to change jobs, or to get married, or to align ourselves with a particular job, church or ministry. And in those cases we know that if things don’t work out so well, at least we have no one to blame but ourselves. We made the choice; we set things in motion. But in other cases, we find ourselves blindsided by circumstances entirely beyond our control. We were going along, minding our own business, happy in our present situation, and suddenly out of nowhere something happened which changed everything. It came unasked, uninvited, and unwanted. Exit the old season; enter the new one. But we are not at all sure this new life is at all superior to the old one; in fact, we are nearly certain things are worse instead of better.

“All Things Work Together…”

This is where faith must be exercised. Here is where we find ourselves (or should find ourselves) quoting Romans 8:28 again and again: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” We must resist the temptation to pine for “the good old days.” For those who are in Christ Jesus, the good old days are always now. Wherever our Good Shepherd leads us, this is the only place we ever want to be. Not lagging behind Him, wishing we were back in Egypt where we ate so well. Nor running ahead, trying to pull Him along on paths in which He has no interest. The Bible says, “The way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jeremiah 10:23).

Of course, some seasons of our lives are happier than others, more fun than others, more stress-free than others. That is a given. But in whatever season we find ourselves, we can find sweetness and goodness, if we look for them. Our God is a great compensator, and when He moves us into circumstances that are difficult, He nearly always provides special grace and grants unique blessings to go along with the “bitter herbs” which we must endure.

When the days drew near for Jesus to be crucified, He gave His disciples advance warning. After His death and resurrection, things would never be the same. He knew that they would be tempted to long for the “good old days.” But they were not to do this. They must recognize that the new season would be vastly superior to the old one. Jesus told them:

But now I go away to Him who sent Me, and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. “Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you (John 16:5-7).

No doubt, when the disciples ran into difficult and perplexing situations after Jesus’ resurrection, they wished He were there with them, that they might go to Him and receive a quick resolution to their problems. But they were not allowed to wish for the former season. These days of being filled with the Holy Spirit, of preaching the gospel in the power of that Spirit, of going into cities and establishing thriving churches with scores, hundreds, and thousands of believers – these were the good old days. They would have plenty of time to be with Jesus in heaven after they lived out their short lives here on earth. But for now there was work to do – no time to sit around wishing Jesus were sitting beside them at their campfire.

Let Go!

It is futile and pointless to try and hold onto seasons which have served their purposes and are now on the way out. No season of our lives, no matter how pleasant and beautiful, was ever meant to last forever. Each season comes to us with its own built-in expiration date, and when that date arrives, the only reasonable thing to do is let it pass. God has other things for us, and there are treasures and sweet experiences awaiting us that we can never claim until we let our fingers relax from the vice-grip we are using to hold onto a time which is going to pass anyway, with or without our permission.

Finally, we must remember to be thankful for our current season. Chances are, at some point in the future we will look back at this time and think of it as the good old days. Look around. See what you have and remember John the Baptist’s famous declaration: “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven.” Best of all, know that Jesus Christ, our faithful and good Shepherd, is with us still. He accompanies us from season to season. When we step over life’s demarcation lines, He is there leading the way. When we rejoice at unexpected blessings and breakthroughs, He is with us, having orchestrated those blessings. And when we suffer, He is by our side, comforting, guiding, encouraging, and whispering promises of hope into our hearts. He is the constant Factor that never changes, never diminishes, and never fails us. And when we step over that final river which separates earthly life from heavenly glory, He will be there still. “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”


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