tragedy

Remember the "Good Old Days"?

Photo credit: lightstock.com
Photo credit: lightstock.com

Most all of us have selective memory. Some people look back to an earlier time of life and yearn for the "good old days." Others get fixated on missed opportunities or tragic events.

Selective memory skews our perspective. We either filter out unpleasant experiences or dwell on them. Either way, we're not seeing things accurately, and this impairs our judgment and impacts our emotions and thinking.

Sometimes we need to reflect on some of the not-so-good experiences in life, so we have a more sober view of life. On the other hand, we need to let go of some things and leave them behind us.

Scripture

It is better to have respect than good perfume. The day of death is better than the day of birth.It is better to go to a funeral than to a party. We all must die, and everyone living should think about this. Sorrow is better than laughter, and sadness has a good influence on you. [vss 1-3]

A wise person thinks about death, but a fool thinks only about having a good time. It is better to be criticized by a wise person than to be praised by a fool.The laughter of fools is like the crackling of thorns in a cooking fire. Both are useless.Even wise people are fools if they let money change their thinking. [vss 4-7]

It is better to finish something than to start it. It is better to be patient than to be proud. Don’t become angry quickly, because getting angry is foolish. Don’t ask, “Why was life better in the ‘good old days’?” It is not wise to ask such questions. [vss 8-10]

(Ecclesiastes 7:1-10 GW) [Context– Ecclesiastes 7]

Key phrase—Don’t ask, “Why was life better in the ‘good old days’?”

[bctt tweet="Don’t ask, “Why was life better in the ‘good old days’?”"]

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

What are the things deemed "better" than their counterparts?

How could sorrow be better than laughter, or going to a funeral rather than a banquet?

Why would it be better to hear a wise reprimand than to hear someone praise us?

What things said in these verses indicate selective memory?

Reflection...

The death of someone we know should cause us to pause and take stock of our own life. Why? Death has a way of reminding us how fragile life is, and how temporary it is. When someone passes from this life, it's too late to tell them something you wish you'd told them earlier.

Things like pride, regret, unforgiveness, and bitterness are not worth holding onto. These things eat at and destroy us from the inside. Nostalgia tends to delude us. It's like summing up a person's life by their birth and death dates. Their life is the dash in-between the dates.

It's fine to remember the highlights of our life, but remember what takes place in-between the highlights. Those are when character is formed, and this makes the highlights more valuable.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

Do you allow yourself time to reflect on what and who are important to your life?

Do you have people in your life who will be honest with you, and even rebuke when needed?

What do you have a hard time letting go of? Do these things dominate your thinking?

How can a person keep a good perspective in life, rather than fall into nostalgia or regret?

Why Do We Bother?

Photo credit: lightstock.com

Optical illusions are fascinating. From the illusionary designs of MC Escher to those squiggly line prints with some hidden image. Illusions can also be frustrating. You look and look and look, but just can't figure it out.

How about the classic lost in the desert movie? Someone with tattered clothing and dying of thirst crawls through the sand towards a mirage thinking it's water. Of course, it's only heat waves that appear as rippling water.

The endless cycle of everyday life can seem illusory. As if, no hope exists of any break or improvement in the monotony of the mundane. That's when we need to see beyond the illusion.

Scripture

There is a tragedy that I have seen under the sun. It is a terrible one for mortals. God gives one person riches, wealth, and honor so that he doesn’t lack anything he wants. Yet, God doesn’t give him the power to enjoy any of them. Instead, a stranger enjoys them. This is pointless and is a painful tragedy. [vss 1-2]

Suppose a rich person wasn’t satisfied with good things [while he was alive] and didn’t even get an honorable burial [after he died]. Suppose he had a hundred children and lived for many years. No matter how long he would have lived, it [still] would have been better for him to have been born dead. A stillborn baby arrives in a pointless birth and goes out into the darkness. The darkness then hides its name. Though it has never seen the sun or known anything, the baby finds more rest than the rich person. Even if the rich person lives two thousand years without experiencing anything good—don’t we all go to the same place? [vss 3-6]

Everything that people work so hard for goes into their mouths, but their appetite is never satisfied. What advantage does a wise person have over a fool? What advantage does a poor person have in knowing how to face life? It is better to look at what is in front of you than to go looking for what you want. Even this is pointless. [It’s like] trying to catch the wind. [vss 7-9]

Whatever has happened [in the past] already has a name. Mortals are already known for what they are. Mortals cannot argue with the one who is stronger than they. The more words there are, the more pointless they become. What advantage do mortals gain from this? Who knows what may be good for mortals while they are alive, during the brief, pointless days they live? Mortals pass by like a shadow. Who will tell them about their future under the sun? [vss 10-12]

(Ecclesiastes 6:1-12 GW) [Context– Ecclesiastes 6]

Key phrase— Better to look at what is in front of you than... looking for what you want

[bctt tweet="Better to look at what is in front of you than... looking for what you want"]

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

What is seen and lamented upon as a tragedy?

What common pursuit seems to elude people living on the earth?

What seems to be like "trying to catch the wind"? Why do you think this expression is used so often in Ecclesiastes?

In all that's said about "pointless" talk, who do you think is stronger than us "mortals"?

Reflection...

One of the difficulties in reading through Ecclesiastes is how it reinforces a sense of hopelessness to life. Many people throughout the world struggle with hopelessness. Some take their own lives because they lack hope.

Yet, throughout refugee camps and impoverished or oppressed areas people can be found who hang tenaciously on a hope that things will get better. These are people who have little to nothing to hold in their hands, and who don't know if they will eat much in a given day.

It is often affluent people who struggle most with depression and suicidal thoughts. Why?

Every person wants meaning in life, even those most cynical among us. We need hope more than things. We want significance in life rather than fame and fortune.

When we find ourselves lost in the illusion of hopelessness, it's time to look to the One above it all—God.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again to consider and answer the following questions

What one thing seems to lead to a sense of hopelessness in your life?

How do you cope with the routine of life? Do you like it or struggle with it?

What are ways you find solace and hope within the mundane routines in life?

How do you see beyond hopelessness and cynicism, or are you able to do so?