Meditations for Troubled Times
“Say not, ‘Why were the former days better than these? For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.’” (Ecclesiastes 7:10)
“What will life be like after COVID-19?” It is a question many have asked, and the answer is somewhat evasive. We simply don’t know. Perhaps wearing face masks will become standard wear or handshakes and hugs will be less common. It could be that various businesses disappear, and certain universities are forced to close their doors. Maybe the ministry of the church, in some of its particulars, will change. Whatever materializes post-Corona, we likely will find ourselves saying, “Things aren’t like they used to be. Pre-pandemic was better.” Of course, we think this way about many things—our younger years, the early days of marriage, our children when they were small, and life before declining health. We believe, “Those were the days. If I could just go back to that time, things would be better!”
However, Ecclesiastes 7:10 warns us against such thinking. Why? In part, because it is a failure to come to grips with God’s control over all things. He is the one who moved us forward on history’s timeline. It was his will to bring this sickness. Wanting to teleport backwards to “less-troubling times” is to question his sovereignty. Additionally, it forgets that the Lord is present now. He is with us now, just like he was previously. He is doing good things, even as you read this devotional, and he will continue to do so in the future. God’s benevolence was present BV (before virus) and will be AV (after virus). Solomon also says this kind of longing is unwise. If we actually could go back to “the glory days,” we would remember that they were not all that glorious. They, too, were filled with difficulties.
This was the problem in Ezra 3. After the temple was rebuilt, the younger of the returned exiles were ecstatic. Many of the older exiles, however, were able to recall the structure that was destroyed in 586 BC. They had vivid memories of the beauty and majesty of Solomon’s Temple. This rebuilt one paled in comparison and only stirred up reminiscent feelings. So, instead of praising God, they wept and wished for a bygone era. But their longing was without knowledge. If they had gone back, they would have revisited the sin and false worship that had them banished to Babylon in the first place. Their nostalgic desires duped them.
In the months ahead, we will be tempted to wish for 2019 or earlier. As this occurs, do not be ignorant of what is really happening. We are being fooled. The truth is that our longings are not for the past, but for the future. C.S. Lewis notes that feelings of nostalgia “are like the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a far country we have not yet visited.” Another author comments, “They are like tiny pinpricks of that eternal home breaking through into our present life.”
Thus, rather than aching for a time labelled ‘ere-epidemic,’ perhaps we just should be thankful. Maybe we as Christians should recognize these longings for what they are—yearnings for the better country that Christ has won for us.
 Both quotes are found in David Gibson's book, Living Life Backwards (Wheaton: Crossway, 2017), p. 103.