“I think of the good old days, long since ended,
when my nights were filled with joyful songs.
I search my soul and ponder the difference now.”
Psalms 77:5-6 NLT
Asaph, today’s Psalmist, seemed to be in a place of trouble. A place where he was calling out to God, but there were no answers to his cries of distress. And he wrote in verse 4, “You don’t let me sleep. I am too distressed even to pray!” Have we ever been in a place like that? One where the Heavens seem to be made of brass and we wonder if God is taking a holiday?
The Psalmist did what we tend to do when life is difficult. He reflected on times past, the “good old days”. When life seemed so much easier than it is today. “Why did I ever leave that job – it was much easier than today and the people were much nicer”. Or, “I wish our old minister had never retired”. Or “I always seemed to have money in my pocket then – it’s difficult making ends meet today because things are so much more expensive.” The list is endless. But the problem is that we tend to look back with what have been called “rose-tinted glasses”. Remembering the good bits in our lives but conveniently forgetting the hard and difficult times. And, like the Psalmist, we compare our memories with life today and ponder.
But such a strategy is unproductive. Though it is good to take our memories out of the closet where we keep them and dust them off from time to time, we would do well to remember that we cannot relive those times. They are gone. As I keep reminding myself when times seem tough, what lies before me is what I make of it. With God’s help I can deal with any issues and move on. We must use the memories to remind ourselves of how we handled tough times, not lapse into self-pity, dwelling on “if only…”.
The Psalmist does the same. He turns away from the nostalgic analysis of his memories, instead leveraging them for his current situation. He wrote, “But then I recall all you have done, O Lord; I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago. They are constantly in my thoughts. I cannot stop thinking about your mighty works. O God, your ways are holy. Is there any god as mighty as you? You are the God of great wonders! You demonstrate your awesome power among the nations.” And that is all Asaph needed to do. He remembered himself into a place where he knew God would “do it again”. In faith we too can reach out to God, reminding Him of His grace and mercy in years past and asking Him to help us again. God never changes. He is the same, yesterday, today and forever. If He helped us through a crisis a year ago, He will do so again. And He delights in answering the prayers of His children.
The Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippian church, “No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” (Philippians 3:13-14). Our lives today can’t be tougher than Paul’s. But nothing was going to deter him from finishing well in the race of life. Let’s press on together.