The Way We Once Were!

It is difficult not to think of how things used to be.

A year ago, at mid-term, we were away together with our daughters, their husbands and our grandchildren. We paid visits to museums, and cafes and sites of interest.

This time, we are under the strictest confinement instructions in the UK. So, we stay at home (mostly), wear masks, don’t travel too much, and we keep away from our own family as we do from other people.

A strange world!

It’s not a new thing to look back fondly to the past. Remember the Israelites after they had escaped from slavery in Egypt:
 … the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost – also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!”

(Number 11:4-6, NIV)

In fact, despite all the restrictions, we are very well off, even though present conditions are particularly hard for some people.

If you look at the history of plagues in Europe, times in the past were really awful.

For example in Venice in 1576-77 about 50,000 people died of plague – a third of the population. In 1645 half the population of Edinburgh died of plague, and more than half of the population of Leith. That would mean that you lost half of your friends, and half of your family (on average). No anaesthetics, no hospitals, no medicines. Grim times.

So the measures to protect us and our families and friends are worth it, by comparison.

For many people, nevertheless, life is much harder now than it used to be.

I expect Abraham felt the same when he moved to an unknown country, but he did so in faith:

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.  By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

(Hebrews 11:8-10, NIV)

I am sure our Iranian brothers and sisters (here in Edinburgh and in the rest of the UK) must have mixed feelings. They left families and comfortable homes, and have had to escape as refugees.

Life is different and difficult here.

But they, like Abraham, like ourselves, are all in reality
“foreigners and strangers on earth” (Hebrews 11:13). Our lives are limited, and as Paul said:

… we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

(2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

Meanwhile, let us enjoy new things in new ways. By Zoom, emails, telephone we can contact people we might not otherwise speak to very much. Let us do our best to look after each other, and to care for those who are finding things grievously difficult. Let us be grateful that we live in a world where for all its faults, our government seeks to save lives and help people to come through the present pandemic.

Paul said:

I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him [Christ] who gives me strength.

(Philippians 4:13)


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