“We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!” (Numbers 11:5,6).
SPIRITUALLY SPEAKING, WE CAN’T GO FORWARD WHILE WE’RE STILL IN REVERSE. A better tomorrow can only be ours if we’re willing to let go of today, and if today has been pretty good, we may be reluctant to do that. That growth and progress always involve some loss is a hard truth to accept. But it’s true: we can’t grow without letting go. Things can’t change for the better without changing.
So would you say that it’s good for a person to be nostalgic? Well, nostalgia has a good side, obviously. Looking back and remembering past blessings can be a strengthening experience.
But it should be equally obvious that nostalgia can have a bad side. We may spend so much time thinking about the past that we don’t do the work today that would move us forward. But even worse than that, we may look at the past from such a crooked perspective that it makes us want to go backward rather than forward. In the wilderness, the people of Israel found themselves remembering Egypt in such a way: “We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!” The wilderness didn’t seem like a good place to go forward into. They thought they would rather go back to the “good life” they had in Egypt.
Sometimes, going forward does move us into a more difficult set of circumstances, at least for a while. And if our main priority in life is ease or comfort, then progress won’t be very appealing to us. But surely we can set our sights on some higher things, can’t we? There are some destinations worth traveling to no matter how hard the road may be, and heaven is certainly one of them.
So it’s not wrong to indulge in nostalgia, but we must be careful not to overindulge. “Do not say, ‘Why were the former days better than these?’ For you do not inquire wisely concerning this” (Ecclesiastes 7:10). Life in Christ is about progress. It is for those who want to go forward — beyond even the best days of the past.
“It is of no use to pray for the old days; stand square where you are and make the present better than any past has been” (Oswald Chambers).