It is sad when people in the twilight years of their lives turn bitter. Disappointment may be the result of dreams not realized with slight hope of achieving those goals. Others may become bitter because life today is not like the “good old days.” They remember when there seemed to be less political turmoil, when people filled the churches, when public violence was scarce and freedom more idyllic. Their previous positive energies have now turned bitter and they see little for which to be thankful.
As we know, change is inevitable. Getting used to new ways can be upsetting to those who are comfortable with the way things were. Some comment, “They don’t make cars like they used to.” That statement is true no matter which way you look at it. They don’t make 57’Cheves and 59’Cadillacs as they used to, and they don’t make cars that are likely to need their engines rebuilt at ninety thousand miles. Some people are glad they don’t make cars like they used to.
The nostalgia one might have for the past is fine in memory, but turning bitter about the present because things have changed is a choice. Those who live their lives with a spirit of thanksgiving can continue to give thanks for the good things of life, the relationships that remain dear, and focus on the changes that have benefited society in recent years. We may have thought there was more freedom in the United States 50 years ago, but that wasn’t true for African Americans, women, and gay and lesbians. We may wish that young people were flocking to our churches as in the past, but we can be grateful that the weariness of many traditional denominations has motivated young people to seek new ways to be “spiritual but not religious,” as they say. Just as old fashioned country clubs are loosing their appeal and closing, so are traditional churches losing their social and religious appeal. As a leaf must fall and a new bud appear in the spring, so it is with the spiritual cycle of birth, life, death, and re-birth. We may grieve the winter of our lives when all is bare and cold, but spring will come for the young who can rejoice in the life they have been given to enjoy.
The past, present, and future all have their problems and blessings in the rhythm of life. The changing seasons of our lives may bring disappointments, but the good news of Jesus is that we are forgiven and loved by God at any age. The message is not, “Ain’t it awful.” There is no good news in tireless complaining. Jesus did not come to reiterate how bad we are in order to scare us into salvation through fear, but rather to lure us with love to new life and hope. That is certainly something for which to be thankful, not bitter.