“The prospect of the righteous is joy.”
Proverbs 10:28 (NIV)
As we entered church several years ago, on the first Sunday in January, our friend and deacon, Richard, asked me and Cheryl, “If this could be the first Sunday of any year you’ve lived so far, which year would that be?”
Needless to say, I was taken off guard by his unusual inquiry and so I tossed out a suitably off-the-cuff reply along the lines of, “Well, Richard, I haven’t quite put the finishing touches on my time machine yet, but when it’s up and running I’ll let you know what I decide.” Without seeming to hear, he walked slowly over to me, put his hand on my shoulder and said, softly but insistently, “I’ll tell you this, if it were up to me, today would be the first Sunday of 1956.” I could see the longing in his eyes.
As he and I began to converse more frequently, I came to learn that his answer was spurred by the fond, deep-seated childhood memories of the music and culture of the era he liked to call “a simpler, better time.” I could certainly relate to his answer. As a child growing up in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, I have likewise warm memories of the friends I knew, the fun I had and the music I listened to during my own “glory days.”
That said, as tempting as it is for some of us to want to live in the past, Richard was quick to point to the words of Solomon, who tells us in Proverbs 10:28 that the ultimate source of joy for the righteous – that is, those who have trusted that their sins are forgiven and washed away by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross – lies not in their past, but in their future. This should be a source of comfort for all Christians, even those whose hearts are weighed down by heartbreak, illness or loss. Indeed, no matter how hard our lives become, as believers we can look forward to that glorious day when God will wipe every tear away and forever end our pain.
In the meantime, we can also find great comfort and encouragement here in the present, where our Lord promises to take every hurt, weakness and disappointment we experience and work all of them together for our ultimate good. So, let each of us who belong to Christ look back fondly at our past, but let us also keep our hearts and minds firmly fixed on those things which lie ahead of us. And may we be faithful in the here and now to share with others this joy that comes from knowing the One in whose hands our past, present and future so securely rest.