I’m not one to pick on old people (hi Dad!) but I’ve been noticing a common refrain coming out of the 60 and older crowd (There, that’s my marker for old… old ain’t bad but it is… old).
It goes something like this,
“Things sure have changed. Back in my day, life was simpler. Back in my day, there was a right and wrong and we all knew the difference. The way this world is going… it makes me shudder.”
Lest I pick on the all you old ones, I see my generation grabbing this outlook and running with it. Where do we get this? Overly rosy history books? Stories from our grandparents about the “good ‘ol days?”. Perhaps it is the constant news telling us that marriage is in ruins, young people just want to smoke weed and play video games and terrorists are hiding in bushes.
The contrast to the present world circumstances is the shiny and rosy past. Things were just better back then. The present, however, is dark and out of control. The future, we only speak of in whispers because it is unthinkably bad.
Fear grips us. Pessimism reigns supreme. Exasperated sighs can be heard across the land. What are we to do when the present is bad and the future is fear-inducing?
If you find yourself in that place, here’s a few thoughts to consider:
The past wasn’t so rosy.
I was recently in the United States for an extended visit. People were constantly warning me of how far America has fallen. I heard comments along these lines often.
I bit my tongue but wanted to say,
“Were those good ‘ol days when Rosa Parks couldn’t sit in the front of the bus because she was black? Was it when children worked in factories or when women couldn’t vote? Perhaps it was when we bought and sold slaves? When, precisely, were the good ‘ol days?”
My heart was not be snarky… but truly, we idealise the past. Let us remind ourselves that the past was not as rosy as we want to believe. Every single generation has had it’s challenges and mountains to climb. Every generation. Our current generation is no different.
In fact, if you read your history books (including the Bible) you will see that often, the past was much, much worse than how events are unfolding today. This perspective should re-assure us that our situation is not unique.
The fear can be real.
Even with this reminder, the fear can be real. The challenges can be intimidating. It’s ok to acknowledge that.
I think to be more accurate, though, I should say “I’m intimidated by the challenges today”. That is more in line with reality and empowering. I can’t change the situations but I can grow in my peace and trust in God. This gives hope and joy in the midst of trials.
We should not claim that, “I have a right to be trapped by fear because these world events are unprecedented!”. It is both a false statement and a dis-empowering one. My life and future is not controlled by circumstances “out there”. The reality is that God is sovereign and he can work in my life for peace and goodness. God can give us the wisdom to face our mountains.
The only response is light.
Today has challenges and so will tomorrow. What is our response? All the more to trust God, continue to flourish, and stand against it by living lives that plan for a hope filled future. We should not stop having children (a very real consideration of many). We should not stop reaching out. We should not stop building towards the future.
Jesus revealed to us that the only way for darkness to flourish is the absence of light. As for me and my family, when we see darkness, I want our first response to be… let’s light a match! Not, it’s never been darker, run for the hills!
Hey, old people, help us out!
To those who are older and wiser: you do damage when you constantly paint the past as some utopia of flowers and daisies. Past generations, you got some things very right. Well done and thank you! You also faced challenges and often didn’t respond well. This isn’t being negative, this is actually being encouraging.
We need your stories of success and failure. It does not give us hope to hear that you had it all figured out and we are stuck with a society falling apart for the first time. It’s not true anyways, right? (see above for confirmation of this). Doesn’t scripture show us to not shrink back from telling both the victories and failures personally and corporately?
Here is what you can say,
“These days we are facing a lot of challenges. But, you know what? My generation faced a lot of challenges too. God has the wisdom and strength for you to lead us forward.”
Say that. Or something like it. Just please don’t say, “I long for the good ‘ol days when everything was perfect… too bad for you and those like you that messed it all up.” Definitely don’t say that.
What about you? Are you scared of the current state of the world? How could your perspective shift?